Price cuts make CD recorders an option

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 May, 1998, 12:00am

So, you have mulled over buying an MO drive, studied Syquest, jawed about Jazz, cooed for Clicks, talked about tape - I'm not sure what you did about Zips.

So often the homely little CD recorder gets left behind. And why not? If you would have asked me about buying a CD recorder a year ago, I would have laughed. Now I own one.

The price of CD recorders, like everything else in the computer business, has fallen a long way since their introduction.

About 18 months ago, a CD-R would have cost you about $5,000. Now they can be had for as little as $2,000. But what really makes the CD-R attractive is the cost of blank disks.

While the price of drives has dropped about 60 per cent, the price of blank disks has gone from $50-$60 each two years ago to less than $10 today. That is only $10 for 650 megabytes of storage.

CDs have not caught on in a big way for reasons other than their cost. One of the primary reasons is that they are write-once disks, meaning that once you write a file to a disk, it is there forever and cannot be altered.

That may or may not be a disadvantage, depending on what you need the drive for. If you plan to archive files or use your disks for some other type of long-term storage, CDs are the perfect choice.

Unlike Zips or MOs, or even floppies and hard disks, CDs do not wear out. You do not have to worry about your priceless archive files suddenly becoming unreadable.

However, even if archiving is the reason you need a removable media drive, it is seldom the only reason.

There is now an answer to the problem of re-recording disks: the CD-RW. These machines can accept more expensive rewritable disks, about $130 each, as well as standard CDs.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of CD recorders is compatibility. If you need to exchange disks with clients, having the right kind of drive is important.

A removable media drive will not allow you to exchange files with your client if you have an MO drive and he has a Zip. But everyone has a CD drive.

Those are the advantages - now comes the downside. Firstly, CDs are slow. To record a full 650 MB using a 2X recorder will take about 30-45 minutes.

Secondly, in order to make a really well recorded disk, one that will mount and read quickly, you basically need a spare 650 MB on your hard disk.

CDs record data. They make an exact copy of the disk they are recording, such that the CD will open with the icons exactly as you left them on the original.

While that is what is required to make a well recorded disk, you do not actually need a blank 650 MB disk just to make a CD, thanks to new software.

The latest version of a software called Toast from Adaptec can record individual files and folders from your hard disk. It can also record multiple sessions, meaning you can write, say, 100 MB to the disk now, 250 later and then finish the disk off in a third or fourth recording session.

The down side is that more than one recording session will make the disk slower to mount.

All in all, CDs are not the ultimate in removable storage. With all of the hassles of recording and multi-session recording, the biggest drawback remains speed.

If you can get around that, who cares about the rest! If you only have 50 megs of data to record, just waste the rest of the disk. At only $10 a pop, it is still much cheaper than any other type of removable media disk, even if you do not record the entire CD.