Personally I didn’t get my hands on a CD-RW drive (aka CD burner) until the year 2001 with the purchase of a new AMD Duron PC. Priced around $100 AUD at the time, they were affordable by that stage, though back then it was common to buy yet another drive, i.e. a DVD-R drive, in order to view DVD discs. Initially the software of choice was Nero Burning ROM 5.0 with Windows 98, but as the decade progressed I used it less. While the actual Nero Burning ROM application has always been rather solid, the overall package felt increasingly bloated with other utilities thrown in that I wouldn’t use. These days I use the free version of BurnAware, which so far has avoided the same fate and suits my needs.
Throughout most of the 1990s, the ability to create your own CDs was a costly exercise. Not only was the CD-R drive itself expensive, easily ranging upwards of four figure sums, the specialised software and the need for a SCSI adapter also needed to be considered. It was common for a PC to have only two IDE (Parallel ATA) connectors, dedicated to hard disks. Using SCSI at the time also seemed a logical choice for the increased bandwidth of transferring data across onto CD, reducing the risk of creating coffee cup coasters. By around 1998-99 the gradual rise of IDE CD-R drives coming available made them cheaper, and motherboards offered four IDE connectors as standard.
With that in mind, I wasn’t particularly aware of the ability to create CDs under Windows 3.1. Nero Burning ROM and other similar software that I was familiar with, just didn’t exist. This is where Corel’s CD Creator comes in.
Here I’m looking at version 1.02, released in 1996 with both 16- and 32-bit versions available for Windows 3.1 and 95 respectively. The software didn’t get past version 2.x due to an acquisition made by Adaptec, who paid Corel $12 million US in the later half of 1996.
Priced originally for $249 US, system requirements were a PC with at least a 486 33Mhz processor, 8 MB RAM, SCSI host adapter, 16-bit sound card, a SCSI CD-R drive obviously, and a digital audio CD-ROM drive for recording from audio CDs. Realistically a PC with a 486 DX2/66 and 16 MB RAM were viewed as the minimum for recording onto CDs, regardless of the software chosen. Given a CD or two held about the same capacity as a hard disk, a second hard disk also made sense.
The software was also available via OEM. This particular copy I found originally was combined with the Pinnacle RCD1000 and RCD5020 SCSI drives. In the retail package, a greater number of drives were supported such as the Kodak PCD225, Pioneer DWS114X, and the Sony CDU920S for instance.
Loading up Corel CD Creator provides the option to use either a wizard, or continue on your own. Known as the Disc Wizard, you select whether it’s to be a new data or audio disc, provide a title that will be used on the jewel case insert, and save the file/audio track layout for future use if need be. Alternatively adding content is done hitting the ‘plus’ button’ on the toolbar, which will either bring up the Add Data Items or Add Tracks dialog box depending on the selected tab. For data, it’s a simple affair sourcing both complete directories and individual files in preparation.
Similar with the adding of audio tracks, one can easily add between an inserted audio CD, WAV files, or the music cache. The music cache is where recently recorded tracks from a CD are stored; I believe for when you wish to create an audio CD with tracks from multiple discs. This needs to be manually enabled, including setting the maximum cache size and location from CD Creator’s preferences.
Here I’ve just dragged the WAV files that originally came with Windows for Workgroups 3.11, to resemble audio tracks. Only WAV files were supported here; this was before the time creating audio CDs from a bunch of MP3 or FLAC files.
Once it’s time to place the content onto a CD, the CD Creation Setup dialog box is where it takes place. Running the software in a virtual machine environment means most of the options are disabled, from not detecting a compatible SCSI CD-R drive as shown below. Nevertheless it gives an indication that writing speeds were limited up to 6X, or 900 KB per second, typical for the time. CD Creator provides a wordy warning that you’re not meant to be using the software to create 20 copies of Adobe Photoshop for your mates.
Under Disc Properties, there was an option to set a specific time and date stamp for all the files to be written on the CD. Entering a date after 1999 would be problematic, with CD Creator stating the date was invalid.
Also included with CD Creator is PCD Creator for the creation of photo discs, CD Browser for creating a database on audio tracks, and Wave Edit developed by Voyetra for basic WAV file editing.
One noticeable shortcoming was that there’s no support for creating CD images in the ISO file format and the like. Overall however the software received positive reviews for its simplicity and ease of use.
Recording CDs was a hot topic back in 1995-96. Here’s a few snippets from magazines relating to Corel CD Creator:
InfoWorld’s July 1995 issue had a product comparison of CD-R software – this is a snippet of the overall results. While Corel CD Creator was reviewed favourably, Elektroson’s Gear 3.2 and Incat System’s Easy-CD Pro MM 3.0 scored higher.