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Obituary: HD DVD 2002-2008

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(Almost) Forgotten Tech Toshiba's decision to end its production of HD DVD players and recorders effectively marks the death of the optical disc format once touted as the natural successor to the phenomenally popular DVD.

HD DVD was born in 2002 out of the apparent unwillingness of Toshiba and a number of other DVD Forum members to back a blue-laser disc format developed by Sony and Pioneer that would that year become known as Blu-ray Disc.

Work on the precursor to Blu-ray stretches back to 2000, with the first prototype players being demo'd in public in October that year at Japan's CEATEC show. By February 2002, the physical spec had been nailed down as a 12cm disc capable of holding up to 27GB of data on a single-layer disc and 50GB on a dual-layer version.


Sony's PDD: Blu-ray in disguise

Nine companies - Sony, Philips, Samsung, LG, Thomson, Hitachi, Pioneer, Matsushita and Sharp - formed the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) to promote the format.

What worried Toshiba and others was Blu-ray's need for a protective disc caddy, rightly considered to a turn-off for consumers. The BDA's response was to state it would move toward a caddy-free system, but the DVD Forum decided to pursue an alternative technology, thereby declaring the format war.

The Forum's announcement came in April 2002 - by August, Toshiba and NEC announced they were working on the technology they hoped would be accepted by the Forum. In May 2003, Toshiba revealed its technology would result in discs that could be manufactured using modified DVD production lines and didn't require a caddy. If forecast a capacity of at least 36GB.

Sony's BDZ-S77 Blu-Ray video recorder
Sony's BDZ-S77 Blu-Ray video recorder

By November of that year, Toshiba's format had been selected by the DVD Forum. The previous summer Sony launched Blu-ray recording in Japan, albeit aimed at data-storage applications rather than consumer uses. It called the format Professional Disc for Data (PDD) and the $3300 recorder unit the BW-F101. It offered both recordable and rewriteable PDDs for $45 and $50, respectively. They could hold 23.3GB of information.

The BW-F101 began shipping in December 2003. Some three months later, Sony began touting second-generation, 50GB disc recorders, this time pitched at consumers and to be launched to tie in with the Olympics.

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