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Why Optical Drives Are Becoming a Thing of the Past

It seems as if it were only yesterday I was placing my Microsoft Office DVD into my ThinkPad’s DVD RW drive to commence installation.  Or burning a few of my favorite songs onto a CD to listen to in the car.  But as we all know, technology marches on and as any technician will tell you, times are always a changin’.  I’m sure many of you have witnessed the almost exponential upsurge in growth of laptops and desktops coming out that no longer seem to feature optical drives.  But, why is this?  Are optical drives really becoming a thing of the past?

Well, the short answer is – yes, optical drives are being phased out, but not necessarily for the reasons you’re probably thinking of.  Now before you sound the alarm, fire off the questions, or lose yourself in confusion – let me try and explain why.  Let’s start by examining why we commonly use optical drives.

We have historically used them to do things like:  play movies, install software, and burn music (for listening to in the car) or files (for storing later).  But, if we peer deeper into how we really perform these types of tasks today, we see that much of what was once common place has changed quite a bit.  For instance, nowadays many of us stream our movies from third-party services, listen to music in our cars digitally (either through iPods or satellite radio), back up our files to external hard drives, USB drives, or the cloud, and install new software through internet downloads or via USB flash drives.  Since all of these tasks can be performed without the aid of an optical drive, many manufacturers have decided that they are best left out of the mix.

But, of course, there is one other major reason for the soon to be disappearance of optical drives – to save space and greatly reduce computers’ weight.  And in order for manufacturers to continue to develop ever better, slimmer, lighter, and sleeker mobile machines for us, they need to shave off those unnecessary extra pounds by removing the optical drive.  After all, not many people desire lugging around a brick of a laptop anymore, let alone like to be seen with a 10-pound monster of a machine at their local coffee shop.

So, although the optical drive, much like its predecessor, the floppy drive, is on its way to being safely guided to extinction, those who have fear can rest easy knowing that we likely won’t be missing them when they’re finally gone.  But, at least until then, for those rare instances where we find we need to read or write to a disc, we can always just pull out and hook up our good old trusty USB external optical drive and get the job done.

By:  Jonathan Saulter

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