MultiRead standard builds bridge between CD-ROM and DVD-ROM

A new specification called MultiRead will protect agencies' existing CD-ROM investments
as the computer industry starts moving to digital video disk storage.


Most new CD-ROM and DVD-ROM devices will carry the MultiRead logo, which means they can
read any CD-ROM, CD-recordable or CD-rewritable disk. But the reverse is not true: CD
devices will not read the new DVD disks. Until now, DVD devices were not expected to be
compatible with recordable CDs either.


"It's a real victory for the end user," said Craig Hanson, spokesman for the
Optical Storage Technology Association in Santa Barbara, Calif., the industry group that
approved the hardware specification. Hewlett-Packard Co., an OSTA member, will administer
the logo program. The firmware specification, initiated by Philips Electronics Inc. and
Hewlett-Packard, sets the parameters by which optical devices read CD-formatted disks.


"Broad compatibility is key to the whole CD-ROM industry, and they've kept that
momentum going with this final version of the standard," said Jerry McFaul, a
computer scientist at the Geological Survey and president of the Special Interest Group on
CD-ROM Applications and Technology Foundation.


Optical devices that meet the specification, including future DVD-ROM and
DVD-rewritable devices, will read CD-ROMs, CD-Rs and CD-RWs as well as audio CDs and
PhotoCDs.


CD-RW drives will be compatible in the future via MultiRead, Hanson said, and many
CD-ROM and CD-R drives will incorporate multiple reading capabilities. Most future DVD-ROM
and DVD-R devices likely will comply with the specification, too, he said.


McFaul said the MultiRead standard is good for USGS, which has invested in CD-R to
replace magnetic tapes as the agency's archival storage medium.


USGS has moved data on thousands of tapes over to CD-R disks, he said. "It would
be short-sighted to buy [systems with] DVD drives that couldn't read those CD-R disks, but
now that problem has gone away," he said.


The initial MultiRead specification from Philips and Hewlett-Packard lacked forward
compatibility for CD-RW drives. Some Hewlett-Packard and Ricoh Corp. devices based on that
noncompliant specification already are in the marketplace, Hanson said.


Yamaha Corp. of America, a large supplier of 4X recorders, plans to deliver one of the
first MultiRead devices--a 4X CD-R, 2X CD-RW and 6X CD-ROM drive--in September.


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