What is Recordable Media?

John Lister

Recordable media is a name given to products such as compact discs and DVDs which the user can record content onto and then play back. This can be either audio/video content to be used in a player, or data to be read by a computer. Discs can be a single-use format or designed to be used multiple times.

DVDs and Blu-ray disks are a form of recordable media.
DVDs and Blu-ray disks are a form of recordable media.

Technically speaking, older formats such as VHS videotapes and audio cassettes can be described as recordable media. However, the term is mainly used for media which can be recorded to by a computer. Products such as USB memory sticks are generally not referred to as recordable media as they are primarily used for data purposes.

Boom boxes were a popular form of cassette player in the 1980s and 1990s.
Boom boxes were a popular form of cassette player in the 1980s and 1990s.

There are two main types of recordable media. One is a single-use disc, while the other is rewritable. As disc prices continue to drop, there is less demand for rewritable media. Some computers use single-use discs through a system which allows the user to write data to it on multiple occasions. However, in this system, each physical section of the disc can still only be used once, meaning that when the disc is full to capacity, no more data can be written to it.

A standard audio cassette.
A standard audio cassette.

There are three main options for recording data to a disc. One is to create a disc containing either audio content or video content for playback on a CD player or DVD player. This requires the data to be encoded and organized in a specific format such that the player sees the disc as if it were a commercially-created CD album or DVD movie.

A second option is to use the disc for data storage only, meaning it must be read by a computer. The third option is to store audio or video files on the disc without creating it in specific CD or DVD format, and then play the files on a compatible player. Not all players can do this, and those which can may only work with specific audio or video file formats. Where this works, a disc can store considerably more content as the files may be much smaller. The picture or sound quality may not be as good as a standard CD album or DVD movie, but this may not be noticeable, depending on the content and the TV screen used.

CDs and DVDs are a types of recordable media.
CDs and DVDs are a types of recordable media.

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