I hope this new recordable DVD format catches on

In October, LG and its startup partner Millenniata plan to release a new type of DVD, which they claim will last forever. The Navy doesn’t come right out and say it lasts forever, but it does say in its tests that these discs, called M-Discs, do last considerably longer than the traditional DVD-R and DVD+R discs on the market today.

I hope this catches on, but it’s possible it won’t. Why? Cost.

The M-Discs aren’t prohibitively expensive, but they cost $3 per disc when a DVD-R or +R costs 20 cents per disc. And I remember in the early days of CD-Rs, if you wanted your discs to last a long time, you bought Kodak discs. I have Kodak discs I wrote in 1997-98 that still read perfectly. I’ve seen lesser discs fail within months. The problem was that the Kodak discs were more expensive, so they didn’t last long on the market. People weren’t willing to pay extra for them.

I don’t know if people have learned their lesson or not. When people ask me what they should transfer their VHS movies to, I actually tell them to hang on to the VHS tapes, because the chances of being able to view them in 5 years are greater than their chances of being able to view the DVD-Rs they’d transfer them to. When optical discs cost less than the cases we put them in, you don’t get a lot of quality control or longevity.

I’ve been using flash media for archival storage. It’s rated to last 10 years, but gives a good ratio of capacity to longevity without being prohibitively expensive.

I’m certainly willing to give M-Discs a try. At 4.7 GB initially, they’re not much less expensive than flash memory, aren’t as fast, and aren’t as large. But as far as I’m concerned, if they last 20-25 years, they’re worth it. I don’t mind copying archives off to new media occasionally. I just want it to be occasional.

Worth it? I think so. My cousin still has home movies that my great aunt and uncle shot in the 1950s. They still play. Mom has photographs taken when my great grandparents were still living. Yet the home movies and photographs our society has taken in the last five years are in grave danger because they’re residing on hard drives and/or cheap optical media.

We should be willing to pay a little more for longevity.

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2 thoughts on “I hope this new recordable DVD format catches on

  • August 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I really believe that most of the media we have (home videos and pictures) will be lost in 10 years. Easily. I would guess 80% of all the pics people take and videos will be down the memory hole by 2022.

    This begs the question: Does it matter?

    This is part of the reason I play it fast and loose and lossily transform my pix to 1600×1600 max dimensions at around 250 KB per image. Because I don’t care and neither do others. I just want to be able to see something.

    Easier to backup, easier to view on any low-end cpu, easier to transfer across the network. Just easier. The 3 MB images are a pain in every sense of the word.

    I’m not an archivist. Leave that to others.

    Your opinion?

    • August 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Depends on the person. 250K images might be good enough for some people and that’s better than saving nothing. I’d say I probably qualify as an archivist. I have one friend who shoots in RAW, and he’ll argue that it’s worth it, even for the small number of images he shoots that he ends up really needing every bit of resolution and color fidelity he could get. And sometimes he doesn’t know for a decade or more if the photograph is going to be important.

      The trouble is, if you want to be an archivist and store everything digitally, right now you don’t have a lot of options. Hopefully that’s about to change.

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