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

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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.

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  4. 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…)

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