Death Of Internal Optical Drives
I remember when I got my first PC back in the 90s and it came with a box of floppy disks. That was back when programs were still in the size of kilobytes. Soon enough games started improving in quality and computers started getting more powerful. Which in return generated more data and required bigger storage.
So that’s when we started seeing CDs. At first my computer only had a disc player as burners weren’t really available for consumers. But then later on DVDs appeared and I remember getting an internal optical drive that could also burn discs as well. And I wasn’t alone as the piracy market was really popular back then.
Well now the opposite is happening. Computers are having less and less internal accessories. Mostly to make them smaller but I’m guessing that it’s also a way to save money. Especially since desktop PCs don’t have them either now. Instead you have to buy external DVD drives to access the data on your optical discs. Plus most data has been moved to cloud servers instead. So here are some of the factors why it’s hard to find an internal optical drive nowadays.
Modern day laptops aren’t necessarily the smallest but they are definitely the thinnest they have ever been. That means that optical discs are pretty large in size when you put them next to a laptop for example. You also have to take in consideration that drives are also bigger than the actual discs as well. And even though they have definitely decreased in size, it’s still a lot of real estate wasted. Especially since thinner laptops require more space for airflow as well.
Now for PCs however, my guess is that the main reason is physical appearance. Gaming PCs are all about looking sleek and clean. People spend hours working on cable management so that nothing would look out of space. Now imagine a large ugly rectangular block at the front of a beautiful PC. It just doesn’t fit.
Back when CD discs were first released, the standard 650 MB capacity was more than enough for games and programs. Then the amount of data kept on increasing and soon enough DVDs appeared with 4.7 GB of storage. Which again was enough for a while. And now we have Blu-ray discs that can even fit up too 200 GB of data.
And here’s the problem. Hard drives are nowadays available in terabytes and most people have more storage on their computer than they will ever need. For now at least. Which makes the discs obsolete. In addition to that, USB drives have also increased in storage size and they are physically much smaller. Which again makes them much more useful as every device has a USB port anyways. And they are much less likely to break as well.
Smartphones and music services have completely destroyed both MP3 players and CDs. No longer do you actually need to own music. Which means that you don’t need physical media to listen to it either. People used to buy album CDs and listen to it from their players. But now you just log onto a service and you have all the music available there.
The exact same situation has also happened with DVDs as well. I remember when DVD players replaced VHS and people were even renting movies. Now you have streaming services like Netflix. Again you just log onto your account and have a wide range of movies and TV shows available. No need to actually purchase a physical DVD disc. And that’s also the case with Blu-ray as well, despite offering better image quality.
And finally software. Optical discs used to be the main way how you could buy and install programs. But now those are also available digitally. You just download them and either log on or insert a key that’s sent via email. Platforms like Steam host an incredible amount of games that you can install by just one click. No need to search for it at a store.
So since everything is now available digitally, there’s really no need for a physical drive or a disc.
New Formats, New Devices
And last but not least, there has also been an issue with different formats. There used to be a thing called HD-DVD, which was meant to compete with Blu-ray. That competition most definitely did not make it easier for the average consumer. And while Blu-ray eventually won, the situation hasn’t really improved either. Mostly because Blu-ray discs are still expensive and there are problems with regional limitations.
The other issue is that despite Blu-ray winning, what we have now isn’t the same as the original. There have been countless of iterations of the format to battle piracy and copying. As a result of that, some of the older Blu-ray players unfortunately can’t play some of the newer discs. And you won’t know that until you actually buy the disc and try to play it. Which means buying a newer player yet again. And not only is that pretty stupid but also expensive as well.