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FW: Communication breakdown: CDs aren't forever after all

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  • Judith Rempel
    Another interesting item. Bear in mind that the article below generally is referring to professionally pressed discs. For copies .... the life will be much
    Message 1 of 3 , Jul 27, 2004
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      Another interesting item.  Bear in mind that the article below generally is referring to professionally pressed discs.  For copies .... the life will be much shorter and gen. data is much more vulnerable than music.
       

      In Kinship,
      Judith Rempel
      judith@...

      and

      1906@...
      1906 Census Transcription Centre
      http://www.afhs.ab.ca/data/census/1906/
      Alberta Family Histories Society

      -----Original Message-----
      From: owner-arcan-l@... [mailto:owner-arcan-l@...]On Behalf Of Ralph Coram
      Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2004 6:32 PM
      To: arcan-l@...
      Cc: AAOLIST@...
      Subject: Communication breakdown: CDs aren't forever after all

      Hang on to your vinyl!!    RRC
      --------------------------------------------

      Communication breakdown: CDs aren't forever after all

      This close-up image of a CD's surface, taken with a Thermo Nicolet Continuum microscope, shows severe blistering on the reflective layer wherever it was in contact with the silver paint on the label.
      This close-up image of a CD's surface, taken with a Thermo Nicolet Continuum microscope, shows severe blistering on the reflective layer wherever it was in contact with the silver paint on the label.

      By MARY NERSESSIAN
      From Monday's Globe and Mail
      UPDATED AT 10:37 PM EDTSunday, Jul 25, 2004

      When compact discs first appeared in the 1980s, they were hailed as the medium guaranteed to provide "a lifetime of listening enjoyment."

      But recent evidence suggests that CD owners may outlive their music collection.

      CD deterioration may start with a smattering of pinpricks or what appears to be rust creeping inwards from the edge of the disc. Certain tracks jump or emit clicking noises. Eventually, the CD loses all data and is better used as a shiny coaster.

      Dan Koster first noticed signs of deterioration in his CD collection in 1997. The rot manifested itself as brownish patchy areas and a smattering of pinholes.

      "When you hold a CD up to the light, you see the area where the light shines through," said Koster, web-content manager at Queen's University of Charlotte in North Carolina. He estimates that 10 to 15 per cent of his almost 3,000-CD collection - both major and independent labels - show signs of deterioration.

      "Even as recently as this year, I have taken off the plastic wrap and seen rotting," he said.

      Koster says he kept his CDs properly stored, away from direct light and in a cool environment free of humidity. He backed up the CDs that began deteriorating a few years ago. They are now completely unplayable, he says.

      "On a few of them, the damage is so severe the aluminum can be rubbed off with your finger," he says.

      The poorest-quality CDs will last less than 10 years and the best will last 50 or more, according to U.S. Library of Congress preservation specialist Michele Youket, who contacted Koster when she read about his CDs in an Associated Press article.

      She is leading a four-year study that will help determine whether to transfer the library's CD data onto "a more stable medium."

      When Youket put Koster's CDs under the microscope, she saw "black swirly areas, almost like cumulus clouds . . . it looks like something is being eaten away."

      Library of Congress researchers have completed the testing process during which discs were "soaked" in varying temperature and humidity levels in an accelerated aging process. Youket was unable to confirm how many years of aging the testing amounts to.

      Although the testing is over, the scientists have not yet completed the data analysis. The impending results could prove to be significant for record companies and music aficionados worldwide.

      But Youket says, "All media will degrade over time if they are made from organic materials."

      CD rot may be caused by air sneaking under improperly sealed edges or incorrectly applied lacquer. Air and moisture oxidize the aluminum layer, which creates the appearance of rust, Youket explains.

      "We've been seeing that, in general, the discs do hold up quite well. The problems are in the older discs where they don't seal the edges very well," Youket said from her office in Washington.

      She has seen the aluminum layer on some compact discs become completely transparent after undergoing the testing process. CDs that have had a low number of errors after the accelerated aging include Conjecture's 1992 album Eyes and Ears, Tommy Castro's 1997 Can't Keep a Good Man Down and Stratton's 1995 Check out the Beat Side.

      CDs with a high number of errors after testing include the Jordanaires' 1997 The Jordanaires Sing Elvis' Favorite Gospel Songs and the Jets' 1998 Then and Now, which was completely unplayable due to the blistering of the aluminum layer under the silver paint.

      Music lovers may need to haul their dusty record players out of retirement. It seems records really do keep spinning right round, baby.

      John Fodi, the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music technical librarian, says more than 50,000 of the library's 78 rpm records are in playable condition - and some of them are more than 100 years old.

      "If they've been well taken care of, some are better than CDs. I do have some albums that sound better on vinyl," he said.

      Although both CDs and records are stored at carefully monitored temperatures, "I'll tell you [records] seem to last much better. You don't even need special equipment," Fodi said.

      He explains that vinyl records can be played even without a record player or electricity. All it would take is a horn of paper with a needle on the end, and a pencil in the record's hole to keep it spinning, Fodi said.

      "It's a simpler technology," he said.

      He can tell CDs are deteriorating when "the last tracks slowly but surely begin bronzing, and as you get to the end of the CD you hear little clicks. The longer they sit on the shelf the more information disappears."

      The library replaced 900 CDs after discovering they were corroding because of the paper booklets, which were high in sulphur. They were produced in Britain in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the manufacturers replaced them for free.

      When asked about the best medium for preservation, Youket says "paper," without skipping a beat. "Good-quality paper will last for a very long period of time, in good storage conditions."

      You might not be able to hear the music, but you can keep a record of the composition on paper, she explains.

      Even thousands of years?

      "Easily."


      Ralph R. Coram
      Historic Places Initiative Policy Advisor
      Heritage Policy and Program Development Unit
      Ministry of Culture
      email: ralph.coram@...
      phone (416) 314-7158
      fax      (416) 314-7175
      "Ensuring the past ~ Enlightening the present ~ Enriching the future"


    • owner dist gen
      Please remember that your reply will go to everyone on the list and the original sender so please stay on topic or ensure you delete the list Address I read
      Message 2 of 3 , Jul 28, 2004
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        Please remember that your reply will go to everyone on the list and
        the original sender so please stay on topic or ensure you delete
        the list Address

        I read the article and this
        one:http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2004-07-26-longevity_x.htm which
        is more general and slighlty more optimistic about the life of tech
        products.

        I find it interesting, but think that something else must have happened
        to those commercial cds. most of mine were bought in 1986 (with a
        cheque from the insurance company after a break in) and I have no
        trouble playing any and the few I looked at yesterday appeared fine.
        Any one with older ones?
        This is not to say that we should not be remembering to upgrade
        anything we store, and making sure that things important to us exist in
        multiple formats in multiple locations!

        Mary Arthur


        On 27-Jul-04, at 22:40, Judith Rempel wrote:

        > Another interesting item.  Bear in mind that the article below
        > generally is referring to professionally pressed discs.  For copies
        > .... the life will be much shorter and gen. data is much more
        > vulnerable than music.
        http://www.afhs.ab.ca

        http://www.family-roots.ca
      • Bill Boogaart
        Please remember that your reply will go to everyone on the list and the original sender so please stay on topic or ensure you delete the list Address How could
        Message 3 of 3 , Jul 28, 2004
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          Please remember that your reply will go to everyone on the list and
          the original sender so please stay on topic or ensure you delete
          the list Address

          How could he be rubbing off the aluminum? There is a protective layer of
          plastic over it. The aluminum is not on the surface. I have not experienced
          this problem with any of my CDs, DVDs or Laserdiscs.

          At 10:40 PM 7/27/2004 -0600, you wrote:


          >Koster says he kept his CDs properly stored, away from direct light and in
          >a cool environment free of humidity. He backed up the CDs that began
          >deteriorating a few years ago. They are now completely unplayable, he says.
          >
          >"On a few of them, the damage is so severe the aluminum can be rubbed off
          >with your finger," he says.

          http://www.afhs.ab.ca

          http://www.family-roots.ca
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