The first patent granted to a digital to optical storage system was issued to James T Russell on 30 Nov, 1971. Russell was senior scientist at the Pacific Northwest Laboratory at the time, and had started the project 1965. His original idea was to have a disc that fit into a shirt pocket but ended up being the size of phonograph record.
"The subject matter of the present invention relates generally to the storage and retrieval of digital information at extremely high densities, and in particular to a photographic record of digital information formed by optically recording an electrical input signal as a single track of digital information spots and playback apparatus for optically playing back the recorded digital information with a fixed light detector means which is scanned across the fixed record by a light deflection means such as a moving mirror optical scanner..."
Russell was born in Bremerton, Washington in 1931. At age six, he invented a remote-control battleship, with a storage chamber for his lunch. Russell went on to earn a BA in Physics from Reed College in Portland in 1953.
By 1985, Russell had earned 26 patents for CD-ROM technology. He then founded his own consulting firm, where he has continued to create and patent improvements in optical storage systems, along with bar code scanners, liquid crystal shutters, and other industrial optical instruments. His most revolutionary recent invention is a high-speed optical data recorder / player that has no moving parts. Russell earned another 11 patents for this "Optical Random Access Memory" device, which is currently being refined for the market.