Will Your Photos Last a Thousand Years?
Would you be surprised to learn that standard CD and DVD discs have an expected lifespan of just 3 to 5 years? If your precious memories are backed up on optical discs, you might want to go looking for a medium that will protect your documents and photos a bit longer. How about a solution that promises 1000 years? Read on...
Long-Term File Storage
Do you have photos, videos or other important files that you'd like to preserve for 50 years, 100 years, or longer? Yesterday I was looking at a photo of my great-great-grandparents, which was taken in about 1870. I scanned it and saved a digital copy on my computer's hard drive, then copied it and some other family photos to a CDROM disc. But neither of those digital copies is likely to survive as long as that 150-year-old original photo has.
Wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of computer-readable storage medium that would last for generations? Milleniata, developer of the M-DISC storage technology, LLC, sure thinks so. On a website featuring the sad stories of people who lost precious photos, the virtues of M-DISC optical discs are extolled from every angle. Here is how M-DISC works:
Standard CD/DVD technology uses a laser beam to heat a layer of organic dye that is sandwiched between polycarbonate sheets. The heated point, which can be very tiny, first swells like a bubble and finally collapses into a pit in the dye layer. A pattern of pit/no-pit areas on the disc’s surface constitute binary code that can be read by the same laser that wrote it. That is, the pattern can be read as long as the laser-burnt pits last.
It takes 3-5 years for the organic dye to degrade naturally; that is the maximum life expectancy of CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray discs that use dye technology. Milleniata claims to vastly exceed this life expectancy by replacing degradable organic dye with an immutable mineral compound that is melted by the writing laser beam.
For $8 a month, M-DISC will pull content you've stored in a Google Photos account, and send you an archive disc that should last for hundreds of years. You can also burn your own M-DISCs at home, with a compatible DVD or Blu-ray drive.
All DVD drives are capable of reading the M-Disc DVD, but it takes more power to melt “stone” than it does to boil dye. Not every optical drive contains a laser powerful enough to write M-DISC discs. LG Electronics, Samsung, Hitachi, and Pioneer offer optical drives touted as M-ready. And they don’t seem to be any more expensive than regular drives. The LG Electronics Ultra Slim DVD Writer is an internal drive that sells for $32 on Amazon. The external LG Electronics Blu-ray DVD Writer goes for $149. You can find dozens of other M-DISC-compatible drives here.
Minerals, Vitamins, and Baked Lasagna
The mineral compound makes M-DISC discs longer-lived, but it does not make them indestructible as the many preposterous demonstrations conducted by Millienata suggest. I don’t care if an M-DISC baked in lasagna remains readable. How does it do after I drop it face down on a sidewalk and step on it?
M-DISC’s added value lies in its stability under archival conditions: a safe deposit box, or perhaps an attic or basement. Attics may get hot enough to degrade organic dye prematurely while minerals remain intact. But a disc made with either is still vulnerable to physical destruction if it’s carried from place to place routinely.
Still, for important personal or commercial digital artifacts such as family photos, tax returns, unpublished novels, etc., at least one M-DISC may be worth having. The largest Blu-ray M-DISC capacity is about 100 GB, so more than a handful shouldn’t be necessary for most consumers, unless you have extensive collections of photos, music or videos that you want to preserve for 1000 years. Businesses and other institutional users may need more M-DISCs.
A 5-pack of 50GB M-DISCs costs $47 at the M-Disc Store. You can also purchase M-DISC compatible drives and discs in other quantities or capacities there.
M-DISCs are pricey compared to regular DVD or Blu-ray discs, but if you're looking for a backup solution that avoids the problem of the relatively short lifespan of consumer-grade hard drives and CD/DVD discs, as well as the privacy concerns of cloud storage, a couple of M-DISCs and a fireproof safe bolted to a concrete floor might be the best you can do right now. I'll bet Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner have already gotten theirs.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 1 Nov 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Will Your Photos Last a Thousand Years? (Posted: 1 Nov 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved