Put a well printed book on the shelf for 500 years. Then take it down, open it and you'll be able to read it.
Put your most valuable data on a disk drive, or a DVD, or a thumb drive. Wait five years and then try to read it. Maybe you'll be lucky, maybe you won't.
Is that any way to run a digital civilization? Clearly, we need something better. A lot better.
The 1000 year DVD
That something better may be here. It is a DVD, and soon to be a Blu-ray disc, disc, with a claimed life of 1000 years. From a company called M-DISC.
Update: The Life Cycle and Environmental Engineering Branch of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake did a review of the M-DISC and other "archival" media and concluded:
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 analyzer.
Of course, the Navy's requirements are probably tougher than yours. But if you can get the best for no more than other archival media, why not? End update.
How does it work?
The key is a writable layer that, unlike existing writable DVDs, uses an inorganic mineral layer to store the data. The laser hits that layer and burns a physical hole in it.
Because it is physically burnt into that inorganic mineral layer of the DVD media, it cannot and will not shift or change over time. The layer will last as long as the disc's tough polycarbonate plastic.
What you need to know
These discs cost about three dollars apiece. The Blu-ray versions will cost about three times that. The DVDs are available now, with the Blu-ray versions expected this summer. Both are from Ridata, a large manufacturer of optical and other media.
Not every DVD burner is warranteed to successfully burn these desks. Current LG burners are, with more vendors to follow. Stay tuned for more vendor announcements
However, virtually every Blu-ray burner will be able to burn both the DVD and Blu-ray M-discs. With a recent notebook or desktop computer with a Blu-ray burner, or purchased an external Blu-ray burner, you are set up to start preserving your critical data for decades if not centuries to come.
But will you be able to read it?
Will anyone be able to read your thousand year DVD it even 50 years? Good question.
The LP record – LP stands for long play – is 65 years old this year. Even though the CD began replacing the LP beginning 30 years ago you can still buy turntables LPs.
Optical technology is both simple enough and common enough to be re-created 50 years from now. Given the billions of pieces of optical media now in existence, there will be a small but vibrant market for optical media players for the next several decades at least.
The Storage Bits take
I was extremely skeptical of this technology when I first heard about it. And why not? Optical is been on the way out for years.
But now that I've given a closer look and a respected manufacturer of optical media and started shipping the product, I am a believer.
The M-disc they not be the last word in optical media but it is certainly the best news for digital denizens who hope to preserve their data for more than five years.
Comments welcome of course. What would you like to save for 100 or a thousand years?