Blu-ray Disc(BD) is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by members of the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA). The format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition (HD) video, as well as storing large amounts of data. It became the sole blue laser optical disc technology in 2008, when the rival format HD-DVD was finally dropped by Toshiba.

In the late 20th Century, optical disc technology developed from the groundbreaking CD (Compact Disk) in the 1980s to the next generation DVD (Digital Versatile Disk) in the early 1990s. Arguably, despite some initial skepticism, the CD had performed well in the market as a medium for music and date storage. However its successor, the DVD, had troubles from the start. Both the data and multimedia applications of DVDs were beset with rows between the major technology developers, leading to consequent compatibility problems for consumers.

On top of that, the emergence of high-definition TV (HDTV), scheduled to debut in terrestrial broadcast systems in the USA during 2003, posed a huge problem for DVD: they were completely unsuitable for storing HD content. They were limited both in their capacity, which could store only minutes of HD content, and data transfer rates, which were not fast and accurate enough to transmit all necessary sound and image data in real time. In effect, early consumers who bought HDTV sets found that though they had airwave content, they could neither record HD content nor even buy HD home movies.

The solution was known, but far easier said than done. Optical drives needed to move from using red to blue lasers, critical because the wavelength of an optical drive’s laser light limits the size of the pit that can be read from the disc. In other words, the blue laser’s smaller wavelength, narrower beam can be more finely focused on a smaller area than that of a red laser. Using blue laser light, several times more data can be stored on a single disk of the same physical size, and also transferred at considerably faster speed.

In the early millennium, two competing blue laser technologies emerged, Blu-ray and HD-DVD. We’ll now take look at the rocky road to Blu-ray becoming the sole blue laser optical disk technology. Providing huge data storage, faster, more accurate data access, and far greater interactivity including live online content, it is a considerable leap from the DVD. However, we’ll see that, like tape video and DVD media before, the competitive wrangles and compatibility issues created uncertainty in the market which considerably slowed Blu-ray’s consumer uptake. Now, even though HD-DVD technology was finally beaten into submission, some pundits suggest that Blu-ray too suffered potentially fatal damage in the fray.

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