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Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:10

CDs are dying

Written by Nick Farrell



So much for lasting forever

When CDs first came out, the digital sound was marketed as “lasting forever” and in someways, compared to vinyl that was true. The sound never was altered by scratches, dust or dodgy needles. What CDs did do however was not work at all or skip but if you looked after them you were usually OK. 

According to The Atlantic owners of old CDs from the 1990s are starting to find that the discs are not playing any more. The first to go are the mixed burn mixes that people used to make, but now it seems the studio manufactured CDs are starting to die too. Fenella France, chief of preservation research and testing at the Library of Congress warned that all modern formats weren't really made to last a long period of time and they were really more developed for mass production. France and her colleagues are trying to figure out how CDs age so that we can better understand how to save them. It is tricky because although the basic format for CD is the same, different manufacturers had different techniques. 

Even CDs made by the same company in the same year and wrapped in identical packaging might have totally different lifespans. There are all kinds of forces that accelerate CD aging, many discs show signs of edge rot, which happens as oxygen seeps through a disc's layers. Some CDs begin a deterioration process called bronzing, which is corrosion that worsens with exposure to various pollutants. The lasers in devices used to burn or even play a CD can also affect its longevity. 

The best way to destroy a CD is leave it in your car – unless it is a Céline Dion or Justine Bieber CD and then leaving it next to me for longer than five minutes will result in it mysteriously breaking into a million pieces. Recordable CD sare made from organic dyes that break down faster. At least CDs tend to be more stable than DVDs, mostly just because DVDs hold more data, so there's more to lose, France said.

Nick Farrell

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