Slippery Discs

In my entry on “disc/disk” (p. 85) I mention that the inventors of the compact disc chose the “C” spelling, so it makes sense to follow them. The invention was developed by Philips and Sony, and the logo they designed has appeared on millions of recordings. Its frequent appearance in this form made publications which adhered to the “disk” spelling seem arbitrarily stodgy.

The New York Times used “compact disk” for decades, but finally caved in. I noticed in a recent issue of The New Yorker that the magazine, famous for its adherence to older traditions in spelling and punctuation, is still using the spelling “disk.”

Discussions of the SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) format often refer to its having become obsolete with the decline in its use, but those of us who still collect classical music on European labels know better. There are many recording companies using the format for new releases, and a few release all their recordings as SACDs.

For a while CD player manufacturers failed to support the format, but the higher-end ones have now realized that SACD is very much alive. I bought my current Oppo player partly because it plays SACDs in full high-resolution surround-sound mode.

The manufacturers of high-resolution video discs chose the awkward spelling “Blu-ray Disc” with “ray” treated as if it were part of a hyphenated word instead of the second word in a hyphenated phrase: with a lower-case “r.” The official abbreviation for this format is “BD” but I’ve never heard that form in speech.

Some predict the premature death of BDs because high-def streaming over the Internet is now available from sources like Netflix and Amazon, but for critical viewers with high-end equipment, Blu-ray delivers noticeably superior image quality. It can also deliver true surround sound, which streamed recordings often do not. However some studios have begun pressing special Blu-rays for the rental market which lack surround sound and some of the extras one gets on a direct-to-consumer discs. Very annoying.

Truly cutting-edge videophiles are looking forward to the arrival of super high-definition 4K Blu-ray Discs. Even experts debate whether the improvement provided is truly visible; but whether or not the new format catches on you can be sure the recordings will still be “discs,” not “disks.”

No comments: