Life Without An Optical Drive

Apple loves to feel like it’s innovative, and their way of convincing themselves and their loyal fans that this is true is by removing things. They did it with the floppy drive, FireWire, the optical drive and more recently, every port on the device apart from USB type C and headphone jack (we may see that disappear as well in coming years). The common denominator with these “innovations” is that Apple remove them too early – much earlier than people are ready for. It was years ago when they released the first MacBook without an optical drive, proclaiming, “Who even uses optical media anymore?” Which met a response of many voices, including mine, crying “Me!” It was true. I, at that time was using CDs and DVDs in my computers regularly, perhaps not as regularly as before, but regularly enough that I wouldn’t want a PC without one. Times have changed, however, and I can say that it has been over a year since my last interaction with my optical drive; I simply haven’t had a need for it, it’s just been sitting in my optical drive bay, taking up space. Mine was even a Blu-Ray reader, although that has never been of much use to me, as Blu-Rays are irritatingly encrypted – you can’t just open them in VLC like a DVD. My optical drive is gone now, and I need to accept life without an Optical Drive.

If you’re wondering why I felt I needed to loose the optical drive, I’ll tell you. My PC case is windowed, meaning I can look inside and see all my nice looking components. However, this is impossible without some form of lighting. I was using some terrible whitish, yellowish LEDs which frankly were a disgusting colour and an abomination of mankind. I needed a replacement which looked really cool but didn’t cost me several of my less vital organs in order to acquire. I settled on the NZXT Hue. It sits in the optical drive bay and gives you full RGB colour control, including brightness and various lighting effects. Yes, I ditched my optical drive for purely aesthetic reasons – this is how little value I place in my ability to read optical discs.

Modern day computing is no longer reliant on optical media. Video games, like Fallout 4, bought on disc just install the game through Steam, which just involves downloading the game from Valve’s servers, music is downloaded from the Internet at pretty high quality these days, and films are streamed from services like Netflix. What’s left for poor optical media to be needed for? Well, for people like me who appreciate the high bit rate of Blu-Ray films, optical media is still currently the cheapest way of distributing these massive video files.

Yes, there are alternatives, my favourite being the simple old USB, although SD is more viable due its better protection since SD was originally designed as a replacement for the CD. I think that this would be a much more convenient solution for distributing software and films – in fact, I have seen software being distributed over SD – however, optical media is still a cheaper way of doing it. Personally, I don’t want to see the end of physical media; it’s happening rapidly with many games now not having any kind of physical release on PC, as everyone downloads games on Steam. I have a small collection of games on discs which I enjoy having. I also have some of my favourite albums on CD and my favourite films on Blu-Ray. Like anyone who’s bought an album on vinyl will tell you, it’s just a nice thing to have and look at, they’re not going to actually ever listen to the album on vinyl – or at least very rarely. In the same way, I never actually use any of my disks.

Optical media is dying, like a lot of forms of physical media, and I can’t say I’m that extremely sorry to see it disappear. Like a sick pet, we’re all just waiting for it to die. It’s now only a matter of time before distributing films and music becomes cheaper to do on SD cards or USB flash drives. This may read like the writings of a crazy soothsayer, but you’ll all see. YOU’LL ALL SEE! Or perhaps I’m just plain wrong and physical media basically just dies out entirely. I will hate to see that day come.

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