CD Inventor Unspools Optical Tape

A new technological challenge to the compact disc has been announced from an unlikely source.

David Paul Gregg, commonly acknowledged as the originator of the basic patents for the laser disc, compact audio disc and muchballyhooed digital videodisc, has announced that newly applied-for patents will bring a new medium to the commercial and professional audio-video field: optical tape.

Unlike existing magnetic tape, which is read electronically and is subject to degradation in quality, the new medium is read by a laser and, according to engineers knowledgeable in the field, is capable of carrying vast amounts of information without losing quality.

“There is no question that optical tape is an excellent archival medium,” said Dan Fogel, an independent technology analyst. “The problems are fast access and the fact that it is tape.”

Previous developers of optical tape experienced problems in finding a way to access data quickly. Gregg told Variety that his patents, which will take 12 to 18 months to be awarded, specifically address the fast-access problem. Details, however, were unavailable.

The increased capacity, Gregg said, also would allow movies to be transferred to optical tape directly without the extra step of video compression necessary for the DVD. Studios thereby would be able to transfer thousands of films to tape faster than to the DVD.

The first adopters of optical tape could be in the post-production field, where existing tape recording and playback machinery could be retooled for the new tape medium.

But optical tape will not be adopted soon, industry experts observed, due to the long process of establishing technological standards and rolling out commercially viable hardware to consumers.

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