CDs Are Dying— And So Is Our Data

NPR: Miracle of the 1990s not lasting as long as we thought

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2014 12:31 PM CDT

(Newser) – Remember those shiny discs that played music before your iPod came along? Well, future generations may miss out on the classic '90s tunes they hold—and a whole lot more. It turns out CDs are literally rotting away, especially those stored in boxes where, "by increasing the relative humidity and temperature, you're increasing the rate of chemical reaction occurring," a preservation expert explains to NPR. It isn't just your vintage boy-band albums in danger. There's a wealth of information stored on compact discs around the world, including data transferred from microfilm, as CDs were once seen as the way of the future.

Experts know about "CD rot" and a "bronzing" process that occurs when a disc's coating rubs off and the silver beneath begins to tarnish. But as CDs were made to different standards in different parts of the world, they can't answer the seemingly simple question, "How long should a CD last?" That's a problem, because changing over to another storage type is expensive. "There is no average, because there is no average disc," says a preservation specialist at the Library of Congress. "We're trying to induce what might potentially happen down the road." A warning: The worst thing you can do is leave your favorite CD in your car for the summer, say the experts. Click for the full NPR story. (Perhaps preservationists can make use of this disc, designed to last 1,000 years.)

  (Shutterstock)
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