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Startup crafts DVD-Rs for the 31st century

1,000-year storage

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Readable by what?

Thousand-year readability is all well and good, but such a claim immediately begs the question, "Readable by what?"

Information preserved on the granodiorite of the Rosetta Stone and basalt of the Code of Hammurabi have one tremendous advantage over digitally stored information: They are designed to be read by the human eye.

And we can safely surmise that one-thousand years from now, the human eye will work pretty much as it does today.

That's not true with optical media. Case in point: In honor of the 900th anniversary of the 11th-century English census known as the Domesday Book - written on parchment in 1086 and still readable today - the BBC launched The Domesday Project to detail life in England in the 80s.

Unfortunately, the Domesday Project chose to use a specially produced laser videodisc player, the Phillips VD415 LV-ROM, dubbed the Domesday Player. When the VD415 and its support systems were no longer produced, the Domesday Project was domed...uh, doomed.

Millenniata's O'Connell is aware of this conundrum - a "chicken and egg" problem, as he describes it. However, the Domesday Project was a one-off effort, while optical media is in widespread use in archiving systems.

O'Connell said that he recently spoken with data archivists at JP Morgan Chase, who told him that the company currently stores 26.4 petabytes of data. O'Connell was stunned and asked "When do you expect that to double?" The answer: 14 to 18 months.

"There are collections that number in hundreds of millions of discs," he told us, referring to his conversations with the US Department of Defense, the Library of Congress, the British Archives, and many others. "If we abandon them, we're losing information that we can't afford to lose." The rapid increase in digital media "Is a flood at our doors."

However, the manufacturers of DVD readers and developers of the software that control them will need to continue to help manage that flood. "We're one part of the puzzle," O'Connell says. "We're one element in the data strategy. What we're doing is giving options that didn't exist before."

If the the Millennial Disc Series works as promised, it will solve the data-rot problem, and slam the ball firmly back into the hardware and software providers' court. The market is there - M-ARC Discs can be read by standard DVD players - it's up to the reader manufacturers to take advantage of it.

While the 1,000-year claim can be dismissed as mere marketing hype, the need for non-degrading optical archiving material is quite real. And we'll find out just how real Millenniata's contribution is when the Millennial Disc Series makes its debut in Washington DC on September 1st. ®

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