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When Was the DVD Invented?

By Christian Roemer

DVDs were the bees knees when they came out. They were so much better, so much clearer, and so much more technology-er than VHS tapes. It honestly felt like they came from another planet. In addition to not needing to rewind, DVDs also came with cool extras like deleted scenes, interviews with actors and actresses, and even music videos. DVDs were like the Fonz, while VHSs were like Steve Urkel.

I remember when DVDs first started making it big, because Blockbuster would get about 2 DVD copies of the newest movies, and they were always sold out. That means, even after VHS tapes were old news, I still couldn’t watch DVDs because they were always sold or rented out.

But where exactly did DVDs come from? They obviously didn’t materialize out of thin air.

It turns out that the history of DVDs is a bit more interesting--and older--than you might realize. Here’s a quick timeline of major events:


Two guys named David Paul Gregg (three first names, really?!) and James Russell (two first names?!) invented an optical recording technology. David figured out the video encoding part, and James figured out the recording part. With their powers combined, they made the first laser storage discs.


A strange format called LaserDisc was released in Atlanta, Georgia. It used large discs--about 2.5x larger than a DVD--and required expensive equipment to play videos. While this format never really took off, it was an important stepping stone to the invention of the DVDs that we know and love today.


The first CD-ROMs started making it into computers. I know my computer back in the late 80s didn’t have a CD disc reader. It took floppy discs.


CD Video is released to the public. What makes this development notable is that it established the standard size of what CDs and DVDs would be moving forward. The problem with CD Video was that they were still recorded in analog, so storage space was an issue.


VCD, which sort of sounds like something you would learn about in sex education in middle school, was the first disc format that encoded video digitally. That’s important, because encoding video digitally greatly increases storage capacity.


Two competing technologies fought to be the go-to laser video disc format: MMCD and SD. Interestingly, there was a really reasonable meeting between the creators of the two formats, and they each compromised and adopted aspects of each other’s technology to create DVDs. Isn’t cooperation cool?


Exactly smack dab in the middle of the glorious 90s, DVDs burst onto the scene. Blockbusters were king, I watched Power Rangers basically every day, and loud patterns were the white t-shirts of the day. While you might think that DVD stands for digital video disc, it actually stands for Digital Versatile Disk. The more you know.


The first widely distributed movie was released on the DVD format to coincide with the 69th Academy Awards. The immature middle school boy inside of me is chuckling at that coincidence.


Sony released its first ever handheld DVD camcorders. The device could write DVDs at the same time as recording, removing the need for tapes completely.

That’s it, really! In the 2010s, BluRay and HDDVD also started filling the shelves in technology stores, but BluRay eventually won that format war. DVDs are still everywhere, and it’s actually one of the options that you can choose when receiving your digitized memories from Southtree!

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