Living in the future, if one thing is clear, it’s that digital media is king. In the gaming world, it is becoming much more common to buy games digitally than to buy physical copies. This has been true in PC gaming for years with the success of Steam, like shared SSDs. (opens in a new tab), and new consoles now releasing without disc drives. While some companies are seeing an increase in optical disc sales (opens in a new tab)generally the days of the DVD disc are well and truly over—but what to do with those leftover discs?
DVD discs in particular aren’t much use to anyone. Streaming services will often offer better quality versions of the same movies in digital format. Plus, if you’re a big physical media person, you’ve probably upgraded to Bluray or gone a completely different direction with your VHS collection. So it’s time to ditch those DVD players in favor of something actually useful, like a laser scanning microscope.
Kuriuzu recently posted a neat build to hackaday (opens in a new tab) which involves turning two DVD discs into microscopes. Fair warning, although this project is described as simple, it also requires some soldering and could be confusing if you are new to this type of work.
An analog Discovery instrument was used for this build, so follow this guide (opens in a new tab). This will do a lot of heavy lifting, although these devices are not cheap. It can be done without one but you will have a lot more problems. However, if you have the parts lying around, it’s a great cheap one to try that should give a really great result.
You will need two discs so that you can take the DVD pickups from them. In this example, Kuriuzu uses HOP-150X pickups, which are also available for purchase online, although that’s not as much fun as reusing your old records. They also recommend using Analogue Discovery 2, although say the original should still work. Apart from these all you need are some resistors and some cables. You can get the complete detailed list of parts from the project website (opens in a new tab).
Once built you should have a nice looking laser scanning microscope. These work by scanning lasers both horizontally and vertically across an object, and use the light reflected to build an image. Typically these will give a high contrast and very detailed scan of an image, often used to get details that other scanners cannot. Of course, it may or may not do so, depending on how well you followed the steps. PC Gamer has no responsibility for failed DIY projects.
The pictures Kuriuzu posted of his scanner at work are pretty cool, especially when you consider its humble beginnings. Even if they might not be very useful for imaging data, they’re still fascinating to look at and could make for some wild custom artwork.
Whatever these end up doing, it’s probably far more useful than being a DVD in 2022.