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Lasting Forever: The New Standard of Digital Storage?

UncategorizedHawksM20 August 2011

Are you the type of person who sits around and wonders what future humans or aliens will think of our society hundreds of thousands of years from now, the way present archaeologists ponder over pottery shards from ancient cultures now wiped out by the dust? Or do you just prefer to make sure your belongings are safe and sound for the time span of your life, and possibly your children’s?

Well, if you are either of those types, you may be interested in the Milleniata Millenial Archival Disc, or M-Disc for short. It’s fairly new to the market of writeable storage discs, and in fact isn’t quite released yet, but with a tagline of “Write Once, Read Forever,” the Milleniata company is touting the M-disc as a storage disc that will last until eternity ends – or, at least for the next 1,000 years.

The M-Disc looks roughly about the same as a regular DVD, except that it is transparent, and it holds about the same as a typical DVD – 4.7 GB. Yet, unlike a regular DVD whereby information is “burned” onto the surface of the disc, an M-Disc uses a “synthetic, rock-like” layer onto which data is “etched” rather than “burned.”

Milleniata claims that the M-disc is not prone to natural decay or corruption like other DVDs or CDs. The reason for this is because most DVDs use organic dyes and lasers to burn data onto the surface, while M-discs supposedly create “pits,” or holes that are permanently embedded into the physical layers of the disc, thus the etching. The Naval Air Warfare Center conducted some tests on M-Disc resiliency, in which the M-Disc was subjected to conditions much like being at sea or in combat, including 85 degree Celsius heat and high humidity with penetrating sunlight, and throughout all these trials, the data stored on the disc was generally preserved without damage.

The best metaphor for the M-Disc is the idea of carving words and images into stone, much like our ancestors once did. Whether early humans intended their carvings to be preserved for millennia for the pleasure of current-day scientists may never be known, but Milleniata is hoping that you have this intention – or that you wish to preserve your data for more than the average 5-10 year life span of most CDs, DVDs or USB sticks.

But what about if or when data disc storage goes the way of floppy discs? Well, I guess we’ll just have to keep up with the times and hope that at least one rogue DVD player makes it into the distant future for the next generation of humans to discover, supposing the M-Disc craze catches on.

Next question: how much is it, and do you really want your files to last forever? One M-Disc is estimated to be about $7, more than an average CD-R or DVD-R. In order to etch data onto an M-Disc, you will need an LG-Super-Multi Drive or an M-Writer, which costs around $145. However, once you have a disc with information on it, it can be played on any DVD or Blu-Ray player. As for whether you want your files to be stored in literal permanence, well, that’s up to you. And large companies or government databases, the ones most likely to want long-lasting storage, would need a whole lot of these little guys.

Last week we talked about GE’s holographic disc and its potential capacity to store 500 GB information deep in its 3-D crevices. Now how about if the indestructible M-Disc mates with the HVD to create a super-invincible mega-storage disc?

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