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DVD-RW media are one of the many rewritable formats available on the market today that threaten to confuse consumers and fragment the market into competing standards and specifications.

It’s probably one of those things which you see around you all the time but never thought to really get to know, like a classic of American literature such as Tom Sawyer which is much revered but not much read, actually. Or like how we all use modern technology without any understanding at all as to how they do what they do.

DVD-RW media is one such case. How well do we as consumers really know this technology? Are our drives capable of writing in that format? Such considerations turn off the typical user who simply wants to get on with his or her project.

DVDs have been around for well over a decade now but even from the very beginning there was some confusion surrounding them, starting with their name: some claimed the acronym stood for Digital Versatile Disc, as any kind of information can be encoded on it, while others believed it meant Digital Video Disc, since that’s been the only real application of theirs, as a video format. Confusion, unfortunately, continues to this day, what with the introduction of extensions to the format such as Blu-ray DVD. This article will provide a general overview of the DVD that will serve to introduce further installments in the series.

Called an optical disc media storage format, DVDs have been used since their debut in 1995 as a vehicle for mass data, in particular video. Though they are of the same exact dimensions as Compact Discs (CDs), DVDs can store over six time more data. Actually, the latest DVD formats, like the aforementioned Blu-ray format, can store many times more than the original DVD format.

There are many different DVD formats available today, almost two decades after their initial availability in the consumer electronics marketplace. Their names reflect their purpose, which is in turn related to the way data is organized: DVD-ROM (Read-Only Memory) allows only for playback; DVD-R and DVD+R, for Recordable, allow data to be written only once; DVD-RW media, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM (for Re-Writable and Random Access Memory, respectively) offer the option of erasing data to make room for new data. The history of DVD technology also includes some uncommon formats, such as DVD-Audio, and even esoteric ones, such as the now-long-defunct DIVX (not to be confused with DivX, the computer video codec). DVD-Audio was a short-lived attempt at replacing the familiar audio CD with multi-channel surround sound. It never had a chance, as consumers were reluctant to not only replace their existing collections but also investing in the necessary new hardware. If that idea doesn’t sound bad enough, wait until you hear about DIVX, or Digital Video Express, one of the worst technological turkeys of all time – and the subject of another article.