David Gregg and the Optical Disk

History of the Optical Disk

Drawing from optical disk patent.

An optical disk is a plastic-coated disk that stores digital data. Tiny pits are etched into the disk surface that are read with a laser scanning the surface. The technology behind the optical disk is the foundation for similiar formats including CDs and DVDs.

David Gregg

David Paul Gregg first envisioned the optical disk (or VIDEODISK as he named it) in 1958 and patented the technology in 1961 and 1969.
Gregg's company Gauss Electrophysics was acquired by MCA in the early 1960s. MCA also bought the patent rights for the optical disk which included a the process for making a video record disc and other optical disk technology. In 1978, MCA Discovision released the first consumer Optical disk player in Atlanta, Georgia.

The optical disk is an analog video optical disk format. The original format provided full bandwidth composite video and two analog audio tracks (digital audio tracks were added later). The optical disk (commonly known as the laser disc as trademarked by Pioneer) was replaced in popularity by the introduction of DVD in 1997.

David Gregg Speaks on the Invention of the Optical Disk

"The Inspiration" for the optical disk was an illustration in a technical news magazine which passed across my desk at Westrex Corp., Hollywood, in the late 1950s...

...By "dumbing down" an electron beam to visible wavelengths, modulating it to the standard PWM video frequency, and reducing the power to photoresistive requirements, an e-beam optical videodisk mastering system was practical and commercially available in the late 50s.

However, this simple and practical means of mastering was abandoned by others in favor of more costly and time delaying technology: the laser, the supreme toy of the moment for techies."

Impact of David Gregg's Patents

  • Digital Versatile Disc or DVD and LaserDisc from Pioneer
  • MiniDisc from Sony
  • Compact Disc or CD from Philips the 3M Company
    The above are among the several companies who have licensed Gregg patents and used the technology to make new formats.

    List of Patents for Optical Disk Technology

    David Gregg's U.S. patents include: #4,500,484, #4,615,753, #4,819,223, and #4,893,297 all updates from the 1969 patent # 3,430,966.

    Continue > Extract from Optical Disk Patent

    Special thanks goes to Tom Peterson for providing information for this page including the words of David Gregg. David Gregg was Tom's father by adoption.

    A transparent plastic disc is described in the Copending Application Ser. No. 627,701, now U.S. Pat. No. 3,430,966, issued March 4, 1969, in which picture information in the form of video signals is recorded on one or both sides of the disc. The recorded picture information on the disc is intended to be reproduced, for example, through a television receiver, by playing the disc on a turntable and by directing a light beam through the disc, as described in the Copending Application Ser.

    No. 507,474 now, abandoned, and its continuation-in-part application, now U.S. Pat. No. 3,530,258. The light beam is modulated by the video recordings on the disc, and a pick-up head is provided which responds to the resulting light signals to transform them into corresponding electrical video or picture signals for playback purposes.

    The present invention is concerned with such a video disc record, and with a duplication process by which a multiplicity of such records may be mass-produced from a master record die. The material of the disc record surface is made such to be appropriate for embossing and to enable, under suitable temperature conditions, a slight force pressing the disc surface against a master die to cause the impressions on the surface of the die to be embossed into the surface of the disc. With such an embossing process, there is no transverse flow of the disc material, as occurs in the usual prior art stamping or molding processes, as are presently being used in the production of phonograph sound records, for example, and by which the actual surface of the record is raised above its melting point.

    The stamping techniques presently being used in the manufacture of phonograph records are not suitable for the extraordinarily fine microgrooves and patterns required by video frequency recordings of picture information. Such stamping techniques as are presently being used in the production of phonograph sound records require that the master record die be heated to a temperature above the melting point of the vinyl or other plastic material used in the phonograph record.

    In the prior art phonograph record duplicating process, a "biscuit" of the vinyl or other plastic material is placed in a "stamper", and the heated master record die is brought down onto one or both surfaces of the biscuit. The plastic of the biscuit surface is melted and caused to flow radially into the spaces defined by the impressions on the master die surface. As mentioned above, this stamping technique by present day standards appears to be unsuited for the extremely fine micro-spiral grooves required for video frequency recordings.

    As an alternative to the present day practice, and as will be described, a video disc record blank of laminated transparent plastic construction may be provided, the laminated record having a surface layer of relatively soft transparent plastic of any suitable known type, and which can be readily embossed; and a supporting base of a rigid plastic, such as an acrylic resin or polyvinyl chloride. As a first step in the alternate approach, the laminated disc record blank is heated to a point at which the surface tension of the surface material causes the surface to be smooth and regular. This temperature is the critical temperature at which embossed impressions may be formed on the disc surface, and it is below the melting point of the surface material.

    The embossing die(s) is(are) heated to a temperature slightly above the critical temperature, and it(they) and the record blank are brought together with a slight pressure. As the die(s) and the record blank are brought together, the die(s) is(are) cooled to the aforesaid critical temperature, and its (their) surface impressions are embossed into the surface(s) of the record. Obviously, if two "sides" are being embossed, two embossing dies are required. The supporting structure would require modification, but such modification is well within the skill of the art.

    After the disc record has been embossed, as described above, an opaque mask is deposited into the portions of its surface around the resulting embossed micro-grooves. This latter mask may be formed on the disc by using a vacuum deposition technique, as will be described.

    The aforesaid disc record, when laminated in accordance with the aforesaid alternate approach, is used in order to present the desired surface characteristics for optimum embossing capabilities, and yet so that the record itself may be rugged and suitable for rough usage. The laminated structure of the record comprises reasonably tough and dimensionally stable clear plastic for the main body of the disc; and a plastic material on one or both surfaces of the disc which is most suited for embossing. The combination provides a video record disc which is useful, which can take on appropriate amount of handling, and which still can be embossed easily and effectively.