Millennial Disc

It’s called the Millennial Disc, and it is being marketed as a 1,000 year storage for digital information.

Before we run out and buy a stack of these for our archives, I would simply ask:

How many years before some aspect of this technology – the 5″ 12cm digital storage disc, the disc formatting, the communication channel between the drive and the computer – becomes obsolete?

This is not meant to be a snarky or rhetorical question.  The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project has been dealing with those very issues:  extracting an obsolete data format from an obsolete storage media using restored obsolete equipment.  If the team didn’t have a couple of original machines, and a technician who understood how they worked, the images would be incredibly difficult (approaching impossible) to recover.  And this is going back only 43 years.

I used to use CD-ROM, CD-RW, and later the DVD variants, for most of my data exchange.  Now it is cheaper, easier, and faster to simply use a USB flash drive.  I don’t expect the 5″ 12cm disk to be around longer than 5 or 10 years.  Neither should libraries.

Any archival storage should utilize high-quality, durable storage material.  There should be a regular, ongoing evaluation as to when the storage media should be replaced.  Always keep some old equipment (with old software) around to ensure your ability to convert.

found via LISNews

This entry was posted in Archival, History, Libraries, Photography, Software, Space and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Millennial Disc

  1. While I agree that it’s improbable that enabling elements of the “millennium disc” will be around in a millennium, I’d disagree on the probable future lifespan of 12cm (*not* 5″) optical media. I’d bet 12cm optical discs will be actively published for another 15 years and “around” (playable) for at least another 15-20 years.

    (Really? It’s cheaper to use a flash drive to send someone 4GB of your stuff than it is to burn a $0.25 DVD-R? Where do you buy your flash drives?)

  2. Rick Mason says:

    Thanks for the correction on the disc size, Walt!

    It will be interesting to see how long the discs will remain current. I suspect that online-accessible storage and media downloads might shorten that time span (but I could easily be wrong, as well).

    Re-thinking the cost factor… my sweet spot for flash drives is $20-$25, usually on sale. I am picky about brand and design, as I have no patience for drives that break or bend easily. My current carry-around drive (SanDisk Cruiser) is nearly two years old and has gotten a tremendous amount of use.

    Whether I would have spent less or more on disc media depends on several factors. If I were to use them as much as my USB-based storage drive I suspect the cost would be greater.

    The added work of using disc media (software, +/- dvd compatability, etc), combined with the non-pocketable-ness would drive the actual use downward for me.

    I still have a large number of CD-Rs from a few years ago that I used in a similar way to my flash drive use today, and they did seem to accumulate fairly quickly. Would I go through 100 of them in the same time span as the flash drive? I am not sure.

  3. Rick,

    I’m inclined to take a longer view of physical media partly because of how media change has played out over the last century–and partly because I think lots of us, including a few million younger folk, still like to own things. And, as Amazon has recently demonstrated once again, you may or may not own a download…

    Admission: I’ve only burned one or two CD-Rs on my latest PC–and, so far, have yet to burn a DVD on it. I do indeed use a name-brand flash drive for backup. I mostly believe that pressed/published DVDs (and, as a result, CDs) will be around for a long time to come…and, of course, could always be wrong. (Actually, DVD-Rs will also be around quite a while, because that’s how publish-on-demand works for video, and we’re starting to see more of that. Similarly, lots of startup bands produce CD-Rs rather than trying to get CDs pressed…)

Comments are closed.