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Can CDs go Away Please?

Look, it's a convenient coffee holder!

It is no secret that discs are slowly going the way of the dinosaurs. With services like Hulu and Netflix offering the ability to stream movies and TV shows, Steam offering downloadable games, and Apple and Microsoft even offering things like Windows, Office, and OS X as downloadable content, why can’t discs go away any faster?

In fact, for the die hard physical media lovers, the solution is already here in a very surreptitious fashion: USB flash drives. Seriously, if important software like OS X and Windows can already be put on flash drives and installed from them, why can’t less complicated software also be put on low-cost flash drives? Six GB flash drives, which hold more than an average DVD, cost $10 each, and probably just a few dollars when bulk purchased. Instead of large CD archives, people could just have a group of flash drives.

There is another reason I think discs need to die sooner. Tablets are becoming the norm, as are ultrabooks, laptops that are super thin, light, and lack CD drives. Some things they do have, however, are a few USB ports, which are increasingly high-speed. Instead of carrying said CD collection and an external drive (which would connect to USB anyway), flash drives would take up far less room and be a direct connection rather than having a slow and noisy drive read a disc then send that information to the computer.

Also, in the age of super protective cases like Otterboxes and such, flash drives are far more resilient to our destructive habits. They don’t scratch, nor can they be destroyed by shaking them the way that discs can if the optical drive is jostled. You can’t crack a flash drive (without seriously wanting to), and less moving parts means lower power consumption and faster read times because it is sent through flash, not physically spinning a platter to find various bits and pieces.

By Simon Wu, Technology Editor ’12


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