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Startup crafts DVD-Rs for the 31st century

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A US startup has developed a new DVD-R technology that it claims will be readable for 1,000 years.

Millenniata's tag line is "Write Once, Read Forever" - and if forever can be defined as 40 generations, that's exactly what its Millennial Disc Series promises.

Millenniata president and CEO Henry O'Connell told The Reg that the Millennial Disc Series is designed to eliminate the need for governments, financial institutions, libraries, and others to regularly refresh and rotate their digital-data collections.

"At the present time there is no digital media that can preserve data for more than a few years," said O'Connell.

The problem with current optical technology is that it uses a chemical system to write the data-carrying pits into DVD media. Such a chemical system inevitably results in what's known as "data rot." Chemically based media degrades after a few years, even when the media is stored in light-proof, temperature-controlled - and quite expensive - vaults.

Data rot isn't important for that DVD you burn to share your vacation videos, but it's a nightmare for archivists devoted to preserving the increasingly digital store of the world's information. The expense of refreshing large data collections - both the replacement media itself as well as the labor involved in constant data rotation - is considerable.

Millenniata's solution to the inevitable data rot experienced by optical and other storage media is to etch the data-carrying pits of a DVD into what O'Connell referred to as a "carbon layer with the hardness of a diamond" on the Millennial Disc Series' M-ARC Disc, resulting in information that will last "as long as you'd have information on a granite stone," he said.

You won't, however, be able to pop an M-ARC Disc into your existing DVD-R drive. Writing to it requires Millenniata's M-Writer Drive, which lists for $2,500. The M-ARC Discs themselves currently cost $12, but O'Connell claims that "there's no reason" why that price won't drop significantly in the near term.

Although that $2,500 M-Writer Drive DVD-R drive, manufactured by Pioneer, may sound pricey, the cost savings over time and the peace of mind that total data survival would afford should both be quite significant.

The Millennial Disc Series's data etching is not the first optical system that promises extended longevity. The anti-corrosive properties of gold are the basis of the current crop of archival DVDs and CDs, such as Verbatim's UltraLife Gold Archival Grade DVD-R, Memorex's Pro Gold Archival CD-R, and Delkin's Archival Gold DVD-R. Gold-based discs, however, are rated for "only" 100-to-300 years.

While that may sound like a long time, the Rosetta Stone and the Code of Hammurabi beat gold-based discs hands down. And O'Connell claims that his company's M-ARC Discs will have the same degree of longevity because they are, in effect, also etched in stone.

M-ARC Discs are stable from minus 100° to plus 200° centigrade. "We dunk them in liquid nitrogen as part of our testing," says O'Connell. Light doesn't effect the M-ARC Disc. Neither do electromagnetic pulses. "There are no environmental concerns we've identified at this point," he said.

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