80 mm CD: Minus size – plus portability | ExtensivelyReviewed

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When using a CD/DVD ROM drive, you may have noticed the 80 mm (in diameter) round, hollow space in the tray that is reserved for the 80 mm CD format. While it may no longer be popular today, that fact that it is still present only proves that the format is still ISO-standard.

The evolution of 80 mm discs into CD-R/RW status happened over a long period of time, and in stages. While information on the product can be found only on a few manufacturer websites like Ritec, variants of the 80 mm CD-R/RW are available from most manufacturers.

This particular CD is also known as the “business card CD” simply because it looks similar to a business card as it typically comes with two cut sides.Depending on how much is cut off, the capacity may range anywhere between 20 and 60 MB.

Comparing a 180 MB CD versus its 650 MB counterpart, the differences are obvious. While the 180 MB type was the standard when it was developed, requirements for higher volumes of data storage came with newer multimedia technologies. Initially, 80 mm disc gave way to its bigger sibling, the 120 mm CD. While the 80 mm can boast of its compact size, it loses out in terms of data volume.


With the trend of miniaturization and hyperintegration prevailing today, the 80 mm disc has a chance to reemerge, although its 180 MB capacity may not be too enticing. Instead, it can offer a compact alternative at a highly competitive price. The 80 mm device can be effectively used in MP3 players, digital cameras, camcorders, PDAs, and other similar devices.

The MP3 and other digital music formats are currently very popular and widespread the world over. In the early days, flash memory was used as the main data carrier for MP3 players. Today, you can see numerous CD players using MP3-format audio discs with the more advanced models having other formats as well.

Digital photo cameras

Flash memory has long dominated the world of digital photo cams. For the longest time, there has been a clamor for a viable alternative to this data carrier that is very expensive. Variants on ZIP, FDD, Click!, and IBM’s micro-HDD have been considered.

Alternative devices, in theory, must offer an affordable and convenient way to handle digital photo cams. The simple shooting process involves inserting shots taken into the camera memory that, when filled up, would require you to transfer them to a PC or replace the card. The cards, however, don’t come cheap and a PC may not always available.

Now, consider using an 80 mm CD-R for your storage device. While a camera isn’t exactly portable, you have the opportunity to take as many shots as possible at maximum resolution. In addition, an 80 mm CD can be used in a PC that will provide instant access to the photos. All these for the low disc price.

Digital camcorder

Shooting digital-format videos is prevalent these days, even when using an amateur camera. However, the data carriers used for recording are stuck in the analog era. Sony has offered an alternative, which is a camcorder that records on MD. Likewise, Hitachi has come up with a camcorder that records on an 80mm DVD-RAM disc. However, it may take time before a cheaper and more convenient technique for recording may be found. The camcorder from Hitachi shows promise.

An 80 mm CD-R will pose a serious challenge to video cassettes. Shot films must be moved to a PC for processing, and you have to buy a simple FireWire board for that. When using 80 mm discs, you can view the video without the need to re-record and convert. While you can’t get videos in MPEG2 format as what can be done in Sony and Hitachi cameras, you can record in MPEG4 easily, especially when you consider the existence of hardware coders and decoders for the format.

You can record a 45-minute video on an 80 mm disc, the cost of which is comparable to a cassette recording. A good portable alternative would be the ability to record data on your cam using FireWire or USB interface, for instance.

PDAs and other devices

Intelligent digital tools like PDAs and mini computers are firmly entrenched in the portable digital device niche. These are typically hooked up with various means of communication like cellphones and GPS devices. In the very near future a single personal assistant/communicator may be equipped with a wide number of features of these individual devices.

The flash memory base is quite expensive, and the 80 mm CD offers a viable alternative. If the ability to read information from discs that have already been written on would be available, such devices would be able to carry specific data bases like detailed cards in GPS devices as well as many required applied software.

Also, if you mount a CD-R/RW device for 80 mm discs in a PDA instead of a mere CD-ROM drive, you can have a very convenient data transmission device. You will, however, need higher capacity batteries for this purpose. This is not a major problem, though, since current CD-R/RW technologies allow for significantly lower power consumption while recording.

To conclude, while the 80 mm CD lives on, only time will tell how long.


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