For mathematical usages, see Disk (mathematics).

Before the computer revolution, the term disc frequently referenced an analogue disc record: a flat vinyl recorded audio storage device, designed for playback on a gramophone (phonograph in American English). Compact discs have largely rendered the technology obsolete, except amongst audiophiles who specialise in using various sound technologies. And the term disc is also common for other flat, circular things, such as the Frisbee flying disc.

Early BBC technicians differenciated between disks (in-house transcription records) and discs (the colloquial term for commercial gramophone records, or what the BBC dubbed CGRs).

In the minutiae of computer jargon, there also exists a distinction in spelling between what is called a disk and what is called a disc.

Simply put, disks are any storage media which utilize electromagnetic platters to store data. They are susceptible to data loss when placed near magnets, and comprise the following family of storage media:

  • Floppy disks
  • Hard disks

Discs are storage media which use the patterns of light bouncing off a pitted surface to store data. They comprise the following family of media:
  • Compact discs
  • DVDs
  • WORMs

A special kind of disk is the RAM disk

One reason for the distinction is perhaps that the compact disc was invented by Philips, a European company (hence using the British English spelling, disc), whereas the hard disk was invented by IBM, an American company (using the American English spelling, disk). The distinction is mostly found in hardware documentation and is rarely maintained in software documentation for users, where disk is almost always preferred in the interest of consistency.

Another reason, explained in more detail in the external link, is that the audio field typically uses disc, whereas computer circles prefer disk. The CD was originally used solely for its audio applications. After the rise of the CD, some audiophiles began calling phonograph records black discs.

External link