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Company makes stone-like optical discs that last forever

Company makes stone-like optical discs that last forever

CDs and DVDs are potentially limited to lifespans of just five or 10 years.

Millenniata and Hitachi-LG Data Storage are working on a new type of optical disk they claim lasts forever.

According to Computerworld the new disc, called the M-Disc, is made from a stone-like natural substance, which is highly resistant to punishment and data rot. Millenniata CEO Scott Shumway stated that the latter occurs with all types of disc storage, however, while the M-Disc platters are made up of multiple layers, there's no reflective or die layer.

A laser simply etches pits into the substrate material that are permanent and far tougher than the methods used with CDs and DVDs. The company went as far as saying that the discs could be dipped in liquid nitrogen and then into boiling water, without any damage being evident.

Despite the new material and manufacturing technique, the discs will be compatible with current DVD players, with just a firmware upgrade required. Millenniata also plans Blu-ray format discs in the future too, although it's still limited by slow write speeds with DVDs of 4x or 5.28MB/sec.

CDs and DVDs suffer from oxidation due to de-lamination of the layers of polycarbonate used in their construction, and the dye layer can also break down over time - both factors hastening the point at which a disc would become unreadable. According to the article, the DVD industry claims lifespans of 50-100 years. In the worst scenario, though, such as prolonged exposure to heat or just direct sunlight, the life expectancy can be reduced to just a few years.

The M-disc was pitched against other media in a 2009 test undertaken by the US Defense Department's Naval Air Warfare Weapon's Division facility in California. The report states:

'None of the Millenniata media suffered any data degradation at all. Every other brand tested showed large increases in data errors after the stress period. Many of the discs were so damaged that they could not be recognized as DVDs by the disc analyser'

The M-Disc will be marketed at consumers first, but should prove popular with corporate archives looking for ways to store data for long periods of time. There's no word on pricing yet though.

Do you worry about your CDs and DVD becoming unreadable in the years to come? Would you be interested in the M-Disc? Let us know in the forum.

20 Comments

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murraynt 11th August 2011, 12:34 Quote
Will the DVD/CD driver just die..Its so slow.
Jaffo 11th August 2011, 12:36 Quote
They'd better make a player from the same stuff then so there's a way to access them. I was in the school year that did the BBC Doomsday project that was rather short-sightedly put onto laserdisc!
Parge 11th August 2011, 12:46 Quote
Optical media is pretty much irrelevant to me, my DVD drive isn't even plugged in!
DriftCarl 11th August 2011, 13:13 Quote
I havn't used optical media for ages either at home. Last time I used it was probably to install windows 7. All my games are digital download via steam mostly.
[USRF]Obiwan 11th August 2011, 13:14 Quote
I remember as a child in 1982 I was one of the visitors with my father at the Firato introduction of the Compact Disc presentation by Philips. I was around 10 years old. We manage to get into the private presentation booth, the CD was made of a whole different material then what we know now, it was in fact, a lot more robust then the flimsy plastic it is made of now. As demonstrated by the presenter jumping up and down on the disc that was laying on the ground. And put into the CD player afterwards. While the presenter was saying that this was the 7th presentation where he was abusing the CD this way.

I also remember one of the later Firato's, I believe 1988 where Philips presented the First plasma screen. It truly was a Wow factor and my father wanted to buy one but after the presenter mentioned the price, around 60.000 guldens (30.000 euro), my father said 'well it was a try...' The plasma screen was accompanied by a big black box (the size of modern high-end amplifiers) that houses all the electronics to power the plasma screen behind the wall.

Remembering the enthusiastic response from my father in 88, I bought a 42" plasma screen in 2002 and delivered to my parents house as a present for my father. It still is in use today.
tonyd223 11th August 2011, 13:38 Quote
Laserdisc - I remember Dixons stocking those... the players were enormous. Interested to know what people use for long term backup if they're not using CD/DVD's. I use hard drives, and copy all the data to new drives about once every 2 years or so. With HDD getting cheaper per terabyte and the speed of copying data compared to DVD it works for me.
Tattysnuc 11th August 2011, 13:47 Quote
I remember the demos on Tomorrow World where they put the CD in a pot of Jam or something, removed it, washed it and all was rosey - what came to market certainly wasn't that robust, so the proof of concept would have to have something over the conventional CD. After all, does it work on a standard CD/DVD player etc?

As for whether it's useful, that depends on the data density and write speed for my money. Times have moved on since the optical disc was the medium of choice, and so have requirements - we are now at the the point where there is no way to put all your data onto a single portable media - EXCEPT via a hard drive or an enterprise marketed solution such as a tape drive. Storage and portable storage has been lagging advances significantly. Look at the USB drive,and the price of high density/capacity units....
SMIFFYDUDE 11th August 2011, 13:53 Quote
Logo on disc looks like that of the sega dreamcast
The Bodger 11th August 2011, 14:14 Quote
@ Tattysnuc: The data density is the same as a standard single layer DVD, ie about 4.7 Gb. There is an FAQ document here: primera.eu/millenniata/FAQ-100416-EN.pdf And while it cannot be written by a standard writer, it *can* be read by a standard reader.

It's all well and good saying "just copy your data to new media every 2 years", but there are a lot of people out there, myself included, who are not necessarily diligent enough to do so, or don't have the money to regularly invest in new equipment.

I am very interested in any storage medium which is likely to still be robust enough to survive if I leave it face - up in the sun, leave a magnet on top of it or forget about it in a cupboard for 10 years. Hard drives get wiped by magnets, or can seize up if left on a shelf unused for years, home - written CDs / DVDs degrade over time and are wiped by sunlight. It is a nice thought that the "last resort" backup provided by such technology should be robust enough to be trustworthy should every other copy fail.
Arghnews 11th August 2011, 19:24 Quote
Maybe as mass backup/storage for huge amounts of data as an alternative to tapes, but otherwise, in the consumer market, the CD is becoming near obselete, with digital downloads and blu-ray becoming the norm. Maybe if this technology had been a few years earlier...
sotu1 11th August 2011, 19:49 Quote
But will it blend?
PingCrosby 11th August 2011, 23:39 Quote
Forever, but what if it doesn't, will I be able to take it back?
Tyinsar 12th August 2011, 00:26 Quote
And (as others have said) we've heard all this before. CDs were supposed to last "forever". They don't wear like tapes and vinyl bet I'll bet you will still find old vinyl records that could be played long after your CDs degrade. - for that matter I hear that there are still old wax cylinders out there that can be played. Additionally, anything that replaces, or aims to replace, CDs & DVDs needs higher capacity.
Mentai 12th August 2011, 00:57 Quote
I know some people are uncomfortable with this idea, but I think that backing up to cloud storage is the way to go. I don't have much use for physical media these days, and 4.7gb capacity is too small to bother with imo.
LordPyrinc 12th August 2011, 04:09 Quote
I have DVDs from over 10 years ago that still work just as well as when I bought them, mainly because they aren't scratched up. So should I expect those DVDs to turn to sand in the next 10 years or so?

Yeah, Im not buying that pile of B.S. in case there was any doubt.
Zurechial 12th August 2011, 05:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by LordPyrinc
So should I expect those DVDs to turn to sand in the next 10 years or so?

That depends, actually - Primarily on the type of optical disc. The claims in the article about degradation align with everything I've been told about writable disc media before.
Optical Discs pressed from a glass master (ie; movies, games, music albums, etc.) last for ages.
Some writable Optical Discs have a relatively short shelf-life due to the fact that a lot of CD-Rs use a laser-activated dye layer in the disc instead of physical pits in the disc surface as their storage method; and that dye degrades over time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD-R#Expected_lifespan
Quote:
Originally Posted by murraynt
Will the DVD/CD drive just die..Its so slow.

This!
I've always hated optical drives & media. Having to carefully handle optical discs always felt like such a pain after years of using floppy disks. I'd prefer if CDs and DVDs had MiniDisc-like plastic casing around them to make them more robust, but that would've made the media far more expensive.
fluxtatic 12th August 2011, 08:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurechial

I've always hated optical drives & media. Having to carefully handle optical discs always felt like such a pain after years of using floppy disks. I'd prefer if CDs and DVDs had MiniDisc-like plastic casing around them to make them more robust, but that would've made the media far more expensive.

No, this! :p

I always thought MD would be a good idea for computer backups. Of course, nowadays you'd have to increase the capacity significantly for me to care. Moot point, though, it isn't coming back, and it was owned by Sony, so I wouldn't buy it if it did.
outlawaol 12th August 2011, 09:57 Quote
Good to know someone is taking on a better alternative to the cd/dvd issue. At the current rate photolabs are pumping out discs with the claim of 'archive cd/dvd' there will be a huge influx of people with rotting discs that didnt know any better. This also reminds me of the true gold cd-r's. They used a gold layer rather than a dye, but they were still made on polycarb. I like the idea, but it needs more proof of its genuine reliability. And not some BS stage show, but real examples and numbers to back it.
ssj12 14th August 2011, 19:15 Quote
wait... modern CD/DVDs will last about 15 - 20. Blu-ray Discs last like 25.
ryan498 14th August 2011, 19:25 Quote
Nice breakthrough but will we still be using optical disks forever? I mostly only ever use a flash drive now
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