Which DVD Players and Drives Are Available?

Some manufacturers originally announced that DVD players would be available as early as the middle of 1996. These predictions were woefully optimistic. Delivery was initially held up for “political” reasons, which meant movie studios were demanding copy protection, and it was delayed again by a lack of titles.

The first players appeared in Japan in November of 1996, followed by U.S. players in March of 1997, with distribution limited to only seven major cities for the first six months. Players slowly trickled in to other regions around the world. Prices for the first players in 1997 were $1,000 and up.

By the end of 2000, players were available for under $100 at discount retailers. In 2003, players became available for under $50. Six years after the initial launch, close to 1,000 models were available from over 100 consumer electronics manufacturers.

Fujitsu supposedly released the first DVD-ROM-equipped computer in November 1996 in Japan. In early 1997, Toshiba released a DVD-ROMequipped computer and a DVD-ROM drive in Japan (moved back from December of 1996, which was moved back from November). DVD-ROM drives from Toshiba, Pioneer, Panasonic, Hitachi, and Sony also began appearing as manufacturer samples as early as January 1997, but none were available before May.

The first PC upgrade kits (a combination of DVDROM drive and hardware decoder card) became available from Creative Labs, Hi-Val, and Diamond Multimedia in April and May of 1997. Today, every major PC manufacturer has models that include DVD-ROM drives. The price difference from the same system with a CD-ROM drive ranges from $30 to $200 (laptops have more expensive drives).

Pioneer released the first DVD-Audio players in Japan in late 1999, but they did not play copy-protected discs. Matsushita (under the Panasonic and Technics labels) first released full-fledged players in July 2000 at prices from $700 to $1,200. DVD-Audio players are now also made by Aiwa, JVC, Kenwood, Madrigal, Toshiba, Yamaha, and others.

Sony released the first SACD players in May 1999 for $5,000. Pioneer’s first DVD-Audio players, released in late 1999, also played SACD. SACD players are now also made by Accuphase, Aiwa, Denon, Kenwood, Marantz, Philips, Sharp, and others.

The following web sites provide more information on players and drives: