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DVD Rot…The Horror Story That Won’t Die

By  G.A. “Andy” Marken, president, Marken Communications Inc, andy@markencom.com

Like Frankenstein, Dracula and “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” some horror stories get retold again and again.  Trouble is they don’t get better with age.  They get worse.  They take on a life of their own.

Take the dreaded CD/DVD Rot. 

It did happen once!  In the 1980s -- in one instance -- that has been really documented in Australia.  Some of the very first DVD media from one production company that didn’t know how to make DVD media (they tried to switch from making laser discs which did have that problem to DVD using the old laser disc production techniques). 

The media wasn’t made to the then new DVD Forum spec.  It was made as cheaply as possible.  It was pawned off on some unsuspecting Aussie replicators and a few unsuspecting replicators in the Far East.  None of the recordable media was shipped to media replicators in the Americas or Europe.  Rot developed in the discs eating all the data.

The “fact” swept the globe.  It crept back into its wet, dank cave.  But every 3-4 years it reemerges.  People swear they have discs that have contracted rot.  People get sweaty palms as they check their CDs and DVDs for telltale signs.  The government’s National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) determines they will do an in-depth and exhaustive evaluation of the technologies to set impartial guidelines on how long the media will really last.

Don’t worry that they are still working with 12x CD-R and 1x DVD-R.  They are like the IRS…only there to help you!!!

Set The Record Straight

Fact – CDs and DVDs will not rot !!!

A trusted and very picky researcher, analyst and writer named Don Labriola – spent several months researching the subject recently.  He found the one documented instance.  He talked with media manufacturers and replicators around the globe about the instance and new technologies that have been used and are constantly being improved. 

Brand name firms like Verbatim, Maxell and Mitsubishi Chemical have made so many enhancements in the CD and DVD technology (see cross sections of current technology) we take for granted today that this just won’t happen – assuming you treat your discs with a little, common sense TLC.  Quality media produced over the past 4-5 years should have a data life up to at least 100 years. 

It is true that these firms do make changes in the materials and manufacturing methods they use.  But it is always an advance based on tested and proven improvements, not steps backward.

Cross Section of a DVD -DL discWe can’t say the same for second-tier, no-name products (even though the media might be good) because they “borrow” advances rather than innovate.  But in their case if you’re using 24x CD-R and 1x or 2x DVD-R or +R it is probably pretty good because the processes and procedures are established and routine.

The brand name leaders have already implemented quality and performance enhancements that deliver high quality 52x CD-R, 8x DVD+/-R, 4x DVD-RW and double layer (8.5GB per side) DVDR media (see cross section).  They are already working to deliver 16X DVD+/-R discs.

If a media manufacturer does use cheap adhesives or their stampers (production equipment) don’t sandwich the discs thoroughly, there might be some oxidation on the outer edges…but that isn’t Rot !!  It’s delamination.  In some instances data on the hub or outer edges may be lost with this cheap media but usually it is just aesthetically unattractive and can be arrested by using common sense storage techniques.

Respect Your ContentHow to care for your disc

This isn’t to say that your data can’t be lost or destroyed even with the best media if you don’t treat discs properly.  But using a little common sense your kids and grandkids will be able to enjoy your audio and video contents in 2100 – assuming they can find an antiquated CD or DVD player.

Follow some simple, common sense guidelines (see examples on right):

There are petabytes of data out there – audio, video and documents – you want to capture, save and enjoy.  Good do-it-all burners are really cheap, good CD/DVD media is reasonable and getting better and the audio/video software is almost user friendly. 


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