Tech Flashback: Retail Blank Recordable Disc Collection (Part 1)

I suppose it could be foreseeable, given my earlier post about spring cleaning and disposing of optical discs, that I take a step back and remember the (now formally extinct) habit of purchasing optical discs in retail jewel cases, complete with artwork and logo top.

It almost seems amazing to think that, at one stage in time, we had to produce colourful graphics and interesting pattern designs to persuade people to buy brand X of disc over brand Y. And we actually believed some of what they said (e.g. 1-8x, full 24k gold!) in order to make our decisions. And that might only be for a $1-20 single disc.

From there, the ever-increasing need for storage drove demand for blank discs upwards, and users stopped buying their discs in flimsy jewel cases that cracked upon the slightest provocation, and took up room, and instead opted for spindles or bulk sleeved discs instead. This immediately meant a lot less “artwork” – merely the wrap around the spindle and the logo top.

After that, it was only natural that as disc-printing inkjet printers reduced in costs, manufacturers would supply more printable blank-topped discs. The last resort was a small unobtrusive grey text around the inner or outer edges of the printable area, or the branding in the inner clear hub clamping zone. Or just no markings whatsoever, save the burst cutting area codes, which I’m sure, some OEMs were mighty happy about.

I suppose many people were happy – instead of “advertising” the brand and type of disc, you could advertise something else (or more likely, the content). But in some ways, I miss the uniqueness of each manufacturer’s series of discs and the colourful artwork it often resulted in.

So, let us commemorate the passing of buying retail jewel cased optical media with a collection of scans of the inserts and discs of the ones I still have. This will be split into several parts, as there are quite a few (although, I still have memories of some artwork which I no longer have as they were trashed beforehand). In some sense, this is inspired by the collection of audio cassettes at Project C-90 which I have contributed some scans to in the past.

(Note: Some of these discs and inserts were marked, and so retouching work of many different levels was undertaken to try and restore an “as authentic as possible” look to the scans. Please click for larger.)

Kodak Digital Science CD-R 74 min

kodak ds front insert kodak ds front insert rear

Very fond memories of this particular sort of disks. As we’re aware, Kodak (as a brand) has retreated from optical media and then entirely shuttered most of their photographic operations before just becoming “a name”. Back in this era, Kodak was responsible for some of the best quality recordable CD-Rs from the outset (alongside Mitsubishi, Verbatim, Mitsui and Ricoh). Mind you, there are earlier 63 minute CD-R’s which I have seen, but never owned. If anyone likes to donate theirs, please do!

kodak ds rear insert

Reading through all of the product information, we see a few unusual things – Made in Mexico. I still don’t really know what the “PCL” and “INFOGUARD” really did or how they were constructed. I know some of their early discs were bar-coded in the BCA with a barcode from the factory, later ones were not. Interestingly, there was no information about the suggested burn speed.

kodak ds cd-r 74min top kodak ds cd-r 74min underside

And as you can see, this would have been a later disc in 1998/1999 which does not have the BCA barcode cut into it. An early 1998 disc I had did have the barcode but was since junked. This would be an “early” Kodak as well, as their later ones did not feature the green-coloured cyanine dye, instead being a gold/clear combination which was likely phthalocyanine. These included their Kodak Gold, Gold Ultima (Gold+Silver) and Ultima (Silver) series.

The top side has their iconic golden top and black text. If you look at the full size image of the CD-R underside, you will see a unique Kodak marking which is on the outer edge in the top left corner, marked with a laser similar to BCA markings made on the inner edge by other manufacturers. Other Kodak Specific markings include the thin black text which is on the clear plastic hub area which clearly identify the maker and type of disc.

The unique manufacturer information (ATIP) identifies the as 97m27s47f Eastman Kodak Co. Information was available that puts the burn date of this disc in 1999, and the strength of the media is witnessed in the fact that it’s still perfectly readable 14 years later, even though it wasn’t closed.

Verbatim DataLifePlus DVD-R 2x

verbatim dvd-r 2x front insert outer

More memories – one of the earliest quality DVD recordable discs I laid my hands on. The disc was labelled “for general use”, as earlier real-time DVD-Recorders used a different writing wavelength and different media “for authoring”. This was the beginning of the growth of the “general” format which well-outnumbered the authoring format, putting that into obscurity.

verbatim dvd-r 2x front insert inner

The insides of the coloured insert had nicely ruled lines for you to note the disc contents. Those who didn’t see “art” in the disc art would turn the card inside out.

verbatim dvd-r 2x rear insert front verbatim dvd-r 2x rear insert

DVD discs were so newfangled that the rear insert was printed on both sides. This was because the jewel case used a clear plastic tray for the disc in order to allow it to show through. The rear of the insert shows the more modern, circa 2002 imagery that often accompanied Verbatim’s line of recordable discs showing a cutaway of the layers involved in the construction of the disc. Most people weren’t technical enough to fully appreciate it, and for those who were technical, it didn’t really provide that much information either.

verbatim dvd-r 2x disc toprside verbatim dvd-r 2x disc underside

The disc inside is a logo-top variety, with a mostly clear top substrate and monochrome blue print. They interestingly chose to colour the hub ring area blue with their screen printing. This disc was unburnt, and this is definitely a valuable disc on account of the high quality of early DVD-R’s. Unfortunately, more modern burners may no longer have the write strategies in firmware to make a good quality burn with such old media – the BenQ DW1640 is the one I’d trust with it if I ever chose to burn it. The media code is MCC 00RG200.

I suppose it would be prudent to comment on the early state of DVD recording at that stage, as there was two formats (minus and plus) and burners could accommodate either just one or both formats. Compatibility of written discs varied, as the minus format was the official format that the DVD Forum approved of, the plus format was capable of bitsetting/booktyping which modified the identification bits on the disc to appear as a DVD-ROM (pressed) rather than DVD+R to improve compatibility. The mechanism used for disc positioning was also different between formats – and this led to differences in reliability in high speed burning and rewriting especially, with plus format using ATIP wobble similar to CDs, and minus format using Lead-in Pre-Pits.

Verbatim DataLifePlus CD-RW 74 min 2x/4x

verbatim cd-rw 4x front insert

A memorable example of Verbatim’s packaging art before the newer “cross-section” type above, this one even came with an offer for NTI Backup software as a way to try and sell more discs. This was an example of an early CD-RW, those which operated at up to 4x. Back then, one thing we hated was the glacial pace of writing to these discs, although, it was somewhat common to use UDF drag and drop software (such as DirectCD, InCD, etc) to use the disc “like a big floppy drive” after a long formatting process (shortened for those drives with Mount Ranier support).

verbatim cd-rw 4x front insert inside

The inside of the art has one page for your use, and the other page showing handling precautions and your warranty rights.

verbatim cd-rw 4x rear insert

I think this is the blandest rear insert that I’ve seen. Interestingly, it was Made in Singapore.

verbatim cd-rw 4x disc topside verbatim cd-rw 4x disc underside

The top of the disc was very bland, two-toned, but it was specially coated. It wasn’t quite as absorbent as printable coating, but it wasn’t like the coloured silkscreen that was smooth or even slightly rough. This was more sticky than those. The underside wasn’t much surprise as there wasn’t much variety in the colour of rewritable discs, the discs themselves had a ATIP of 97m34s22f Mitsubishi Chemical Corp.

Verbatim DataLifePlus DVD+RW 1-4x

verbatim 4x dvd+rw front insert

Another high quality Verbatim disc, this being a DVD+RW disc of the early low-speed variety as well, 1-4x write speed. Featured is the SERL (Super Eutectic Recording Layer) branding, another “marketing” term from what I can tell.

verbatim 4x dvd+rw front insert inner

Unfolding the front inlay card gives you your two panels of space to make your own notes.

verbatim 4x dvd+rw rear insert front verbatim 4x dvd+rw rear insert

This disc was packaged with another clear jewel case tray, thus the rear inlay card is printed on both sides. The shadow images of uses of the disc remain one of the features of the artwork used in modern Verbatim discs. The rear also has a listing of recording times when used in standalone video recorders, not that it’s determined by the disc really. It is dated 2003.

verbatim 4x dvd+rw disc topside verbatim 4x dvd+rw disc underside

The top is only single-toned white with the clear substrate showing through the gaps. There is only a small lined segment at the bottom for marking (but you could mark all over the disc if you’d like). The disc underside colours are all pretty standard. The mediacode is MKM-A02.

Ricoh DVD+RW 1-4x

ricoh 4x dvd+rw front insert

This is a Japanese branded disc, made in Taiwan. I was quite fond of them for their high quality and rewriting stability. The artwork itself spends a lot of time trying to extoll the superiority of the plus format in terms of rewriting ability compared to the minus format (where, at that time, 1-2x DVD-RW were more prevalent, and low rewrite numbers was a common complaint as drives damaged the discs permanently after a handful of rewrites).

ricoh 4x dvd+rw front insert inner

The inside of the front inlay was printed in a light grey, both panels featuring areas for your annotations.

ricoh 4x dvd+rw rear insert inner ricoh 4x dvd+rw rear insert

In what seems to be common of the DVD-era, the inlay tray was clear and so the rear of the rear inlay was used in decoration. The rear inlay itself served a purpose that was “reversed” from the conventional sense – merely being the logo and not much of information nor barcode.

ricoh 4x dvd+rw disc topside ricoh 4x dvd+rw disc underside

The top of the disc was very clean, no designated area for markings, but with a light hazy surface contrasted by silver (show through) and white areas. The colour of the underside is the same, and there is some hub markings as with most discs. The media code is RICOHJPN-W11.

Stay tuned for the next parthere.

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I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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One Response to Tech Flashback: Retail Blank Recordable Disc Collection (Part 1)

  1. Robbi says:

    Brings back memories when I started CD-R recording in 1995/96. One CD-R, in a jewel case of course, had a price tag around 27 DM (18 AUD not including inflation etc.). Buffer underruns were common and a pricey experience. However the consolidation effect was unrivalled: Entire shelves full of 3,5″ floppies and QICs fit on one CD! But the effort was tremendous: A separate hard disk with its own Windows 3.11 (or 95?) installation stripped down to the minimum, just OS and recording software to avoid any disturbance from background processes. Not networked of course. External SCSI case with the CD-R recorder, put on a cushion to avoid any vibration impact. 1X recording speed, to be on the safe side though 4x was possible. A friend had this setup, I couldn’t afford a recorder. So burning a CD meant to buy the CD-R, copy all data on an (internal of course) IDE drive, bring it over to his place and connect the disk to his machine. Start the burning process, drive to Burger King to invite him, drive back and when we came back back the CD was either ready or failed. No second attempt in the latter case, this had to wait for the next BK dinner…

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