What’s the Difference Between First, Second, and Third Generation DVDs?

This question has no absolute answer, because you’ll get a different response from everyone you ask. The terms second generation, third generation, and so on refer both to DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM drives.

In general, they simply mean newer versions of DVD playback devices. The terms haven’t been used (yet) to refer to DVD products that can record, play video games, and so on. According to some people, second-generation DVD players came out in the fall of 1997, and third-generation players were released at the beginning of 1998.

According to others, the second generation of DVDs will be HD players that won’t come out until 2003 or so. Many conflicting variations occur between these extremes, including the viewpoint that DTS-compatible players, Divx players, progressive-scan players, 10-bit video players, or players that can play The Matrix constitute the second, third, or fourth generation.

Things are a little more clear cut on the PC side, where second generation (DVD II) usually means 2x DVD-ROM drives that can read CD-Rs, and third generation (DVD III) usually means 5x (or sometimes 2x or 4.8x or 6x) DVD-ROM drives, a few of which can read DVD-RAMs, and some of which are RPC2 format. Some people refer to RPC2 drives or 10x drives as fourth generation.

What’s a Hybrid DVD?

Do you really want the answer to this one? Okay, you asked for it . . .

  • It’s a disc that works in both DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM PCs. (More accurately called an enhanced DVD.)
  • It’s a DVD-ROM disc that runs on Windows and Mac OS computers (more accurately called a cross-platform DVD).
  • It’s a DVD-ROM or DVD-Video disc that also contains Web content for connecting to the Internet (more accurately called a WebDVD or enhanced DVD).
  • It’s a disc that contains both DVD-Video and DVD-Audio content (more accurately called a universal or AV DVD.)
  • It’s a disc with two layers, one that can be read in DVD players and one that can be read in CD players (more accurately called a legacy or CD-compatible disc). At least three variations of this hybrid exist (although not all are commercially available).
  • It’s a 0.9 to 1.2 millimeter CD substrate bonded to the back of a 0.6 millimeter DVD substrate. One side can be read by CD players, the other side by DVD players. The resulting disc is 0.6 millimeters thicker than a standard CD or DVD, which can cause problems in players with tight tolerances, such as portables. Sonopress, the first company to announce this type, calls it DVDPlus. It’s colloquially known as a fat disc. It contains a variation in which an 8-centimeter data area is embedded in a 12-centimeter substrate so that a label can be printed on the outer ring.
  • It’s a 0.6-millimeter CD substrate bonded to a semitransparent 0.6-millimeter DVD substrate. Both layers are read from the same side, with the CD player being required to read through the semitransparent DVD layer, causing problems with some CD players used by SACO.
  • It’s a 0.6-millimeter CD substrate, with a special refractive coating that causes a 1.2-millimeter focal depth, bonded to the back of a 0.6-millimeter DVD substrate. One side can be read by CD players, the other side by DVD players.
  • It’s a disc with two layers or two sections, one containing pressed (DVD-ROM) data and one containing rewritable (DVD-RAM and so on) media for recording and rerecording (more accurately called a DVDPROM, mixed-media, or rewritable sandwich disc.).
  • It’s a disc with two layers on one side and one layer on the other (more accurately called a DVD-14).
  • It’s a disc with an embedded memory chip for storing custom usage data and access codes (more accurately called a chipped DVD).