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The "First" in Blu-ray History


Here are the "Firsts" in Blu-ray developing history that you may insterested in.


In the middle of 1990s, commercial HDTV sets were finally starting to appear in a larger market. However, there was no good, cheap way to record or play back HD content. There was no cheap storage medium that could store that amount of data, except JVC's Digital VHS and Sony's HDCAM. Nevertheless, it was well known that using lasers with shorter wavelengths would yield optical storage with higher density. When Shuji Nakamura invented practical blue laser diodes, it was a sensation, although a lengthy patent lawsuit delayed commercial introduction.


Sony started two projects applying the new diodes: UDO (Ultra Density Optical) and DVR Blue (together with Pioneer), a format of rewritable discs which would eventually become Blu-ray (more specifically, BD-RE). The core technologies of the formats are essentially similar.


The first DVR Blue prototypes were unveiled at the CEATEC exhibition in October 2000. Because the Blu-ray Disc standard places the data recording layer close to the surface of the disc, early discs were susceptible to contamination and scratches and had to be enclosed in plastic cartridges for protection. In February 2002, the project was officially announced as Blu-ray, and the Blu-ray Disc Association was founded by the nine initial members.


The first consumer devices were in stores on April 10 the next year. It was the Sony BDZ-S77 a BD-RE recorder that was only made available in Japan. The recommended price was US$3800. However, there was no standard for pre-recorded video (BD-ROM); no movies were released for that player. That standard was still years away, since a new and secure DRM system was needed before Hollywood studios would accept it. Nobody wanted to repeat the failure of the Content Scramble System for DVDs.


In the mean time, Sony spun off Professional Disc for DATA from the Blu-ray project. It was essentially Blu-ray with higher-quality media and components. The devices were too expensive for the consumer mass market. Instead, it was aimed at the professional data storage space market as a replacement for their line of 5.25" MO drives. It was announced in October 2003, with the first devices shipping in December of the same year.


At the end of June 2005, the Blue-ray Association had chosen a Java-based interactivity platform developed by HP, instead of Microsoft's HDi. At the same time, Microsoft and Toshiba jointly announced that they would cooperate in developing high-definition DVD players.

On August 22, 2005, Sony and Toshiba announced that the negotiations to unify their standards had failed. An unnamed partner had pressured Toshiba to stick with HD DVD, in spite of Blu-ray's strong support among Hollywood studios and some analysts saying that HD DVD's days were numbered. In the end of September, Microsoft and Intel jointly announced their support for HD DVD.


The Blu-ray physical specifications were finished in 2004. In January 2005, TDK announced that they had developed a hard coating polymer for Blu-ray discs. The cartridges, no longer necessary, were scrapped. The BD-ROM specifications were finalized in early 2006. The first BD-ROM players were shipped in the middle of June 2006, though HD-DVD players beat them in the race to the market by a few months.


The first Blu-ray disc titles were released on June 20, 2006. The earliest releases used MPEG-2 video compression. This is the compression method used on DVDs. The first releases using the newer VC-1 and AVC codecs were introduced in September 2006. The first movies using dual layer discs (50 GB) were introduced in November 2006.


The first Blu-ray player was perceived as expensive and buggy, and there were few titles available. That changed when PlayStation 3 launched, since every PS3 unit also functioned as a Blu-ray player. In February, 2007, Blu-ray discs had outsold HD DVDs. During the first three quarters of 2007, Blu-ray discs outsold HD DVDs by about two to one.


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