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M-DISC offers up to 1,000 years of data storage on a DVD compatible disc

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August 16, 2011

The structure of a standard DVD (left) and the M-DISC, (right), which claims a lifetime of...

The structure of a standard DVD (left) and the M-DISC, (right), which claims a lifetime of up to 1,000 years

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Despite the widespread belief upon their introduction to the market in the early 1980s that CDs would safely store data encoded on them forever, CDs and DVDs are actually susceptible to damage from both normal use and environmental exposure and have an average lifespan of under 10 years. A new optical disc company based in Salt Lake City called Millenniata is set to deliver a new type of optical disc that can be read on standard DVD drives but will safely store data for up to 1,000 years.

The new disc, called M-DISC, stores data in the same way as CDs and DVDs - as a series of pits - but instead of the pits being burned into organic dyes using a laser as is the case with traditional optical discs, the pits are literally etched into a layer of a "rock-like material" composed of inorganic materials and compounds including metals and metalloids using a higher powered laser. The resultant pits aren't affected by temperature, humidity or sunlight. Millenniata says it expects this layer would actually remain readable for over 10,000 years, however, the polycarbonate layers it is sandwiched between are the weak links and would only be reliable for at least 1,000 years.

The structure of the M-DISC

An accelerated life test performed by the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division tested the M-DISC against five brands of conventional archival discs currently on the market and found that the M-Disc suffered no degradation or data loss, while all the other discs failed. The data stored on an M-DISC will even survive being dipped into a vat of liquid nitrogen at -180°C (-292°F) before being transferred to a container of near boiling water - handy if that's how you treat your DVDs.

M-DISCs are a write-once technology designed as a cheap permanent backup solution that is still backwards compatible with existing DVD drives, including consumer DVD players. Millenniata says its M-DISCs offer comparable performance to standard DVDs and provide the same 4.7 GB storage capacity as a single-sided, single-layer DVD. The company says it is also currently working on a Blu-Ray version of the M-DISC to provide greater storage capacity.

Millenniata has partnered with Hitachi-LG Data Storage, Inc, which will manufacture M-READY DVD drives and sell them under its DVD brands. There's no word on what these devices will sell for, but the M-DISCs will be priced at US$2.99 for a single disc, $13.89 for a pack of five, and $26.59 for a pack of ten when they go on sale through the Millenniata website next month.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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10 Comments

@ $3 a disk a bit pricey...but hey, you can still access your collection after 1000 years!

nehopsa
16th August, 2011 @ 09:40 am PDT

an important apparent item not mentioned, but presumably the disc's need their own burning device; this "higher powered laser" is an important part of the picture that should have been included in the article in more detail.

James Davis
16th August, 2011 @ 11:22 am PDT

" the pits are literally etched into a layer of a 'rock-like material'"....

Great, we've come full circle after a few thousand years of writing and are back to chiseling things onto rocks. :-)

alcalde
16th August, 2011 @ 12:23 pm PDT

They have maybe fixed half the problem. Media durability is only a portion of the problem. There have been 6 different types of floppy drives in use over the past 30 years, more than 6 different digital tape formats, and even now the switch from IDE to eSATA for attaching a drive to a computer, or USB vs. FireWire vs. fiber vs. Ethernet vs. Thunderbolt. The media may be readable in 1000 years but in less than 20 years the devices to read them may no longer be in production and the existing ones may not be able to be attached to computers in production at that time.

The only only permanent archival media for data and for images are still paper and B&W film.

Calson
16th August, 2011 @ 03:38 pm PDT

DVD-RAM already last 100 years, and works in at least half of all existing DVD recorders already.

Sure - that's 900- years less than these, but really, you'll have been dead for half a century before anyone notices the difference, and the probability that something else will have claimed your disk before time does is pretty high anyway (fire/theft/flood/war/argument/stupidity/forgetfulness) - that's assuming anything would exist in 100 years (let along 1000 years) that would still read these things anyhow. Try finding an 8" floppy drive today (and the software to read what was on it, and more software to use whatever format it was in), for example - and that was only 30 years ago.

christopher
16th August, 2011 @ 07:14 pm PDT

How is this different from rewriteable DVDs and Blu-ray discs, which already use an inorganic phase-change material instead of dye?

Gadgeteer
17th August, 2011 @ 05:02 am PDT

I think the main drawback is, look at the thickness of the disk! It seems to be about 1" thick. alcalde, very funny, but true. The main problem is compatibility (christopher) I still have boxes full of 3.5" floppies. My PC has a floppy drive, but it is pointless using it.

Surely SD cards will take the place of DVDs. They are becoming cheaper all the time and the capacity is increasing. Question: Could you use SD card instead of a Blu-ray disc(& player)?

windykites1
17th August, 2011 @ 09:18 am PDT

We also need a dvd player that will last for a thousand years. Then we could store all our culture, art, history, and science on to discs and store them in some monument.

Worst case scenario civilization collapses (it may not look close to collapsing and it isn't, but who is to say we won't be at nuclear war 500 years from now eh? think long term and plan for the worst just in case, total environmental collapse in 500 years is certainly believable). But maybe the descendants of the survivors find the monument and we make it easy enough to use that they're able to rebuild civilization from that stored knowledge. (Or maybe they'd think the monument was possessed by demons, the discs evil, and they'd sacrifice a few people to appease the gods before burning it down)

If it works our history wont be lost either. It would have immense value to future archeologists even if civilization didn't collapse. At the very least it's an incredibly neat and informative time capsule for future humans to ponder.

They say that one layer of the disc, the one with the information would last 10,000 years. But to make it playable even in a non-standard specially made player like that may be impossible at the moment, especially with a player made to last 10,000 years.

But anyways, I think some group of humans should be making it a priority to store knowledge in a permanent means for future generations. A bit of a plan b. Always good to have a plan b.

Samantha Renault
21st August, 2011 @ 07:39 am PDT

@windykites1

the disks are of regular dimensions (not 1" thick). They are (most likely) compatible with the DVD player you already have. For writing you need an "M-writer", which is becoming available as of the time of this writing.

nehopsa
23rd September, 2011 @ 09:13 am PDT

The machine microfiche comes to mind. The ones that is still arround especially in govt. facilities. Still reminding us how painfull the data extraction was, back in the dayyys'.

Probably by then someone will build a similar type of machine or device and make millions. Don't know yet what is the equivalance of $million, 1,000 years from now. 1K plus people arround the world has already made their billions now.

Unless they make the reading device which will stay intact and funcational 1k years.

Should be interesting....

PrasadRon
5th March, 2014 @ 09:06 am PST
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