What Is DVD?

DVD is the latest generation of optical disc storage technology. A DVD is essentially a bigger, faster compact disc (CD) that can hold cinema-like video, better-than-CD audio, still photos, and computer data. DVD aims to encompass home entertainment, computers, and business information with a single digital format.

DVDs have replaced laserdiscs, are well on the way to replacing videotape and video game cartridges, and could eventually replace audio CDs and CD-ROMs. DVD has widespread support from all major electronics companies, computer hardware companies, and movie and music studios. With this unprecedented support, DVDs has become the most successful consumer electronics product of all time in less than three years after arriving on the market.

In 2003, six years after their first appearance, over 250 million DVD playback devices were in operation worldwide, counting DVD players, DVD PCs, and DVD game consoles. This was more than half the number of VCRs, setting DVD up to become the new standard for video publishing.

It’s important to understand the difference between the physical formats, such as DVD-ROM and DVD-R, and the application formats, such as DVDVideo and DVD-Audio. DVD-ROM is the base format that holds data. DVDVideo (often simply called DVD) defines how video programs such as movies are stored on disc and played in a DVD-Video player or a DVD computer. The situation is similar to the differences between CDROMs and audio CDs.

DVD-ROMs include recordable variations: DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD-RAM, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. The application formats include DVD-Video, DVD-Video Recording (DVD-VR), DVD+RW Video Recording (DVD+VR), DVD-Audio Recording (DVD-AR), DVD Stream Recording, DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD (SACD). Also, special application formats are used for game consoles such as Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox.

What Does DVD Stand For?

All of the following phrases have been proposed as the meaning behind DVD:

  • Delayed, very delayed (referring to the many late releases of DVD formats)
  • Diversified, very diversified (referring to the proliferation of recordable formats and other spin-offs)
  • Digital venereal disease (referring to the piracy and copying of DVDs)
  • Dead, very dead (from naysayers who predicted DVD would never take off)
  • Digital video disc (the original meaning proposed by some of the creators)
  • Digital versatile disc (a meaning later proposed by some creators)
  • Nothing

And the official answer is? “Nothing.” The original meaning was digital video disc. Some members of the DVD Forum have pointed out that DVD goes far beyond video and have offered the painfully contorted phrase digital versatile disc as a solution, but this has never been officially accepted by the DVD Forum.

The DVD Forum decreed in 1999 that DVD, as an international standard, is simply three letters. After all, how many people ask what VHS stands for? (Guess what? No one agrees on that one either.)