The 1,000 year DVD is here

The 1,000 year DVD is here

Summary: I heard about the 1,000 year DVD several years ago. I didn't believe it it would ever work, but now I do. Here's why.

TOPICS: Storage

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?

Topic: Storage

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  • Yay! Now all we need is the 1000 year DVD Player!

    So the disc survives for 1,000 years! But what is still going to be able to turn the bits back into recognizable data after so long?

    I once tried to salvage the contents of an old hard drive; I removed the drive with the intention of connecting it to a USB-IDE chassis, only to find that the drive didn't have an IDE connector. In fact, the only thing that could read that old drive was the old motherboard I'd just removed it from! And so I was forced to replace it and transfer the contents one floppy at a time instead. Fortunately, hard drives were a lot smaller back then...
    • The same thing that lets us decipher

      ancient texts in unknown languages. Scientifically derived tools. I mean, seriously, now. If someone one thousand years from now found a DVD, they'd examine it in a lab, determine that it was a disk full of pits, would dig through some other ancient records and historical texts, find out that it was played on a device called a DVD player, and build one.
      • omg

        would they analise fossilized poop deposited in letter-ressembling form?
        Lorenzo Von Matterhorn
      • agree

        all you need is the original (final) DVD spec, which will not change or "degrade" over time. you can sketch it in stone or on the wall of a cave if you're a tin foil hat wearer who thinks it might get lost. heck bury it in a time capsule, written on some material that won't easily degrade.
    • LOL

      i lol'd hard but ye, your right
      Lorenzo Von Matterhorn
  • And presumably these M-DISCS are rewritable either.

    Not a huge problem for something intended as an archive. But aren't the most valuable historical finds the "day-to-day" details? Would anyone burn an expensive and permanent disc for something like that? I guess what we really need is something that won't degrade but can still be erased.
    • Tsk! I mean "not rewritable" of course.

      Edit button, edit button...
      • Two different needs

        You are talking about backup media. Backup media should be rewritable. This is archival media. It's intended to be a permanent, unchangeable record. For example, you don't want somebody to be able to go back 50 years and make changes to previously stored financial data for a company. That would open the door to fraud. Another use would be storing extremely high resolution images of original artwork for future identification of forgeries. For it's intended purpose, the 1,000 year disc is a great solution.
        • Which of us distinguishes between "archiving" and "backing up"?

          I don't know about you, but I don't deliberately burn a CD / DVD with the intention of keeping it for only a certain period. I just burn them and hope they're readable when I finally need them - whenever that may be. And they're probably all just rotting away on my shelves.

          This M-DISC sounds like it's a CD-R with higher capacity and much longer shelf-life. But CD-Rs were replaced by CD-RWs for a reason.
          • archival vs backup

            Backup means exactly that--if the current copy isn't working properly we have a spare copy. Archival is a permanent "snapshot" of the document at a given point in time. An extremely common example of "archiving" is libraries currently digitizing their print collections. The images are not made just in case something happens to the physical book, they are intended for separate use.

            The reason why those are "archival" and not "just" digitization is that readable copies would normally be in the 300 dpi lossy JPEG range, either full color or grayscale depending on the content, whereas "archival" quality is considered along the lines of 600 dpi 24-bit color lossless TIFF.
          • Archive - Backup

            I differentiate between archive and backup. So does most of the technical world. Different needs, different goals. BTW CD-R's were NOT replaced by CD-RW's.
    • Won't degrade? Aye, there's the rub ...

      The Rosetta Stone degraded since it was carved in 196 BCE but was still "readable by humans" in 1799 when it was discovered. Of course, the languages found there were ancient and no longer in use but the stone did indeed provide a context for understanding it.

      Unfortunately, time marches on and entropy takes over. It is irreversible. Everything degrades. It was once declared that CDs would last about 30 years. How many thirty-year-old CD's do you have and use with any regularity?
      M Wagner
      • CD / DVD life expectancy and / or degredation

        As a user of the M-Disc , since their origin as "Diamond-disc", I understand the confusion.
        CDs and DVDs which are manufactured have their 'pits' mechanically pressed into the substrate and therefore could last indefinitely. The consumer grade 'blank' CDs and DVDs are a layered composition that includes a fluid dye layer. It is this dye layer , which manufactured discs do not contain, which is specifically altered by the laser beam of the optical burner drive device. It is this dye layer which has been shown to be highly susceptible to degradation; it is even attacked by some fungi.
        The M-Disc burner drive device has a laser somewhat stronger than your standard optical burner drive. It is this stronger laser which burns an actual physical 'pit' into the M-Disc substrate. You should do research on how the blank M-Disc is manufactured. The M-Disc has NO DYE LAYER! The M-Disc is readable by any standard CD - DVD optical drive.
        I use mine primarily to archive family data, photos, etc.
      • And one day the Sun will explode, consuming its rocky planets.

        "Unfortunately, time marches on and entropy takes over. It is irreversible."

        Yes, entropy will always win. But that still doesn't mean that I want my backup discs to delete themselves. I need them to last as long as someone (probably me) wants to read them.
      • 30 year CDs?

        I have about a hundred music CDs I bought in the mid 80s and I continue to use them. Of course these were "stamped" and not burned, but they still work fine and back in those days they didn't always get the process right.
  • great for digital photography

    Hopefully JPG capable SW will still exist in 30 years from now. Other than that a "1k year" disc is the perfect medium for storing images.
    A simple writable CD/DVD has to be checked about every 5 to 10 years if no read errors arise. Extremely cumbersome.
    • Simple solution

      Store software for displaying the images on the disc with the photos. Then your only worry would be whether anyone is still using Intel chips. In a thousand years, anything could happen. I suppose you could store source code for displaying the images, so they could compile it on the positronic brains of the future. :)
      • File formats are a secondary problem.

        You'd also need to decipher how the disc is encoded in the first place, along with its filesystem and any encryption.

        Hopefully anyone doing this in 1,000 years wouldn't also raise an army of vengeful, spectral lawyers from the graves, screaming about "The Curse of DMCA" ;-) !
  • How is this relevent in 2013?

    Given how long DVD's lasted as a storage medium and the likelihood that solid state will achieve Blu Ray capacity sooner rather than later I have only one question. Why would anyone care?
    • Solid state isn't a long term solution

      Solid state the eletrons in the cells will degrade if not plugged in from time to time.
      So if a flash drive or SSD isn't pluged it the drive will show empty and unformatted.
      Anthony E