What does DVD stand for?

Write about/describe an example of a technique in today’s society. Tell its story and the need for the creation/adoption of this technique and the new techniques that resulted from it? Could we have controlled for this technique? Is there or was there an alternative?

In the mid 90’s several technology companies were working to develop a new type of disc to store video, after dropping competing ideas and joining forces they came up with the DVD.  The DVD was invented to replace the VHS tape, which was mediocre for various reasons.  Over time a VHS tape loses quality, you don’t have the ability to jump to specific areas of the tape and the player for the VHS tape is large and only serves that function – to play and record VHS tapes.

By 1997 the DVD and its players were available in the United States and other countries.  Though the idea took some time to catch on, by 2003 DVD sales were far surpassing VHS sale and by 2005 most retail stores had stopped selling VHS all together.  We know that today you can’t usually walk into a chain movie rental store (aka Blockbuster) and find a VHS on the shelf.

Did you know that according to didyouknow.org the “name of the format is simply ‘DVD’; the letters do not officially stand for anything?”  Thought most of us assume it stands for digital video disc, we wouldn’t be wrong, it’s just not the official name (…or definition of the acronym??).

From the DVD several new techniques have been created, here’s a short list off the top of my head:

  • DVD players
  • compact DVD players
  • game consoles that also play DVDs
  • personal DVD burners
  • recordable DVD media
  • DVD video cameras
  • DVD codec software
  • BluRay*

*I’m not sure how long this will stick around, though I did see that Blockbuster now has a special section for BluRay rentals

There, of course, is an alternative to the DVD and that is the VHS tape or any other movie format I supposed (would watching it on TV or OnDemand count as an alternative?).  However, there are now additional alternatives to the basic DVD (discussed more below).  I think we could have controlled for this technique, but I also feel it was necessary to upgrade from the VHS for storage purposes.  I think the coming about of the DVD was very controlled because of the way all of the major companies came together to create the technology rather than creating their own version.  This is why I’m not sure if Blu-Ray will stick around, yes, you can play a regular DVD on a Blu-Ray player, but it just seems that there is too much added expense.  I suppose it is kind of liek HDTV, is it worth the extra money to upgrade your TV and cable service?  The difference though between Blu-Ray and HDTV is that HDTV is not proprietary format and therefore will probably be a more evolutionary type of technology where if you’re getting a new TV you go with the HD version because the price point isn’t much different.

Information from:



6 responses to “What does DVD stand for?

  1. Interesting choice of technology to discuss; it’s not especially controversial nor is it technology that we depend upon. If the DVD and similar data storage devices were gone, would the world be the same place? Would we survive just a well? Do you feel these are the types of technology Ellul is concerned about?

    I guess this is all a matter of opinion… I know how much I was enjoying watching a movie the other night, even thought it was interrupted by a screaming child and the movie itself was not especially good (in my opinion); I was watching Hancock. I hadn’t watched a movie in a while because of the baby and I missed that pass time.

    One could argue the data storage technology is an extension of original paper technology and paper-based data storage, just the data of the movie is not especially essential as if it were, say, the bible. You just needed to expand your line of technology some.

    BTW, is it BluRay that won’t last or HD DVD? I believe HD DVD is discontinued and Blu Ray is the technology of the future as it allows for true HD from a disc (DVD does not).

    I’m sure you’re glad I started making comments here, now :o)

  2. Were we supposed to pick something controversial? Oops!

    I suppose this probably isn’t the type of technology that Ellul is concerned about. However, he might argue that people now spend too much time at home watching movies and going to the movies. He might even say that our society has allowed movies to have too much importance because of all the other things that go along with movies (sales, awards, extended versions, merchandise, etc.)

    I think Blu-Ray should have been more like the development of the DVD where the companies should have come together to create the HD DVD rather than trying to compete against eachother (Toshiba vs. Sony) and then they might be more likely to catch on (or catch faster).

  3. You were not required to discuss something controversial. What you wrote was fine, my question needs some fine tuning. I expected you to present a technology and a time line that epitomizes Ellul’s theory.

  4. I think the controversy exists between a number of factors: HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray, DVD vs. either of these, DVD vs. VHS. Schools, public libraries, etc. have tons of videos, some educational, sitting around collecting dust, and to “upgrade,” they’ll need to shell out money for new players and videos.

    One interesting note, about companies working together to create a standard, seems like it would be better for society, but as Ellul points out, standardization creates impersonality. But does personality even exist in a format for watching videos?

  5. Just came across this … computer data storage through the ages: http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/computer_data_storage_through_ages . Starts with the IBM punch card, ends with the Blu-Ray … until something new comes out!

    • Ben – cool article, thanks for sending the link. I remember playing computer games on those 5.25 inch floppy disks when I was younger. I think my favorite was Win, Lose, or Draw – too funny. I think that flash drives will be around for a long time, probably longer than people thought they would be. They keep getting cheaper with more storage and they are convenient and can be used across platforms. I also love that DVD players are starting to come with USB ports too.

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