back to article This optical disc will keep your gumble safe for 2,000 YEARS

It’s been a long time coming, but then it will be a long time staying. 1,000 years, if the engineers are right. Millenniata’s 100GB Blu-ray disc will hold data for that long and more. We first wrote about the M-DISC technology and its laser-burnt surface pits back in August 2011. Now Verbatim and Millenniata have a 100GB M- …

  1. Anthony Hegedus Silver badge

    And in 50 years, where are we going to find a device that'll be able to read that disc?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      overrated concern.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Beat me to it. Given the average life expectancy of even enterprise IT kit seems to be in the 5-10 year range better make sure some of that 1000 year lifetime is devoted to our post-apocalypse descendants/alien archeologists re-inventing Blu-Ray-XL players.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Even without the dedicated Blu-ray player, the future archaeologists would be able to read the raw patterns (albeit laboriously) with a microscope of some description.... the tricky part would be decrypting that data and working out how it is ordered. Maybe. And then they discover that it is a Rick Astley video. Maybe they will have developed a useful quantum computer by the year 4000 A.D.

        "What are these circular objects? We seem to find them in almost every former building in this stratum. The hole in the middle suggests that they are not plates. The tolerances to which they are made suggest they were made to physically interface with another object of some kind..."

        1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

          After watching many episodes of timeteam, it is apparent that any object found with no obvious purpose is instantly cataloged under the global moniker of "object for religious offering or deity veneration"

          Saying that, in some cases they may not be too far from the ballpark

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            As the child of an anthropologist, that's the only conclusion I could draw. Humans: the only creature that brands itself.

        2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: @Dave126

          "And then they discover that it is a Rick Astley video"

          well played. Now I must order a replacement box of screen cleaning wipes

          1. Steve Crook
            Coat

            Re: @Dave126

            By that time Astley will have been recognised for the cultural deity that he truly is and and the discovery will be celebrated around the globe with barbecues and drinking vintage Brawndo...

      2. Meerkatjie

        Considering the ancient tech sitting in my local library I would say libraries could still probably read it in a 1000 years,

    3. Joe Cooper

      Given sufficient reason (i.e. money) you could fabricate a drive at any point in the future either from a company's existing schematics or from the specifications of the medium itself.

      If you don't have sufficient reason than you don't have a problem ;)

    4. ravenviz
      Boffin

      Well they managed to read this one, but it did take nearly 100 years to figure it out (I suspect this was because they didn't have the box).

      1. ravenviz
        Headmaster

        Looks like they did have the box after all, obviously the instructions were intelligible.

    5. Rol Silver badge

      If 3D laser scanners continue to develop I foresee a time when the entire disc could be placed face up on your coffee table and scanned in one pulse. Also if you are a canny user you will refuse to upgrade from windows 2184 and take advantage of the sheeple skipping their 100Terrapixel to the inch ghost quark scanners that no longer work with Win2185, because some things will never change.

    6. SolidSquid

      This kind of thing would be more likely used for storing master disks of films or data at the British Library, Library of Congress or a similar archive of knowledge, accompanied by information on how to read the data. Having to replace hundreds of thousands of books printed on paper would make archiving for the (distant) future prohibitively expensive. Having to preserve a single book which has instructions on how to decode a disk which stores all that data is less so.

      Will it work? Who knows, might end up there's some kind of bacteria which develops and can eat the disks, much like the one that developed that can eat plastic bags. Considering how much work goes into learning about groups like the Romans takes though it seems worth the attempt so future generations know more of their past

  2. hplasm Silver badge
    Terminator

    Finally-

    Something for the NSA and chums to store all our (meta)data on for the forseeable future...

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Finally-

      and this is just the declassified version! The classified version of the disc is solar powered, self-reading and auto backs up to secure storage on the moon. (the moon landings were real but were a smokescreen to cover the installation of the data centre.)

  3. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    Let see you keep that warranty

    hmmm, 2000 years. I have trouble getting some companies to meet there 1 year guarantee obligations.

    It will be intresting to see someone try it in 4013 if it turns out not to work.

  4. Charles 9 Silver badge

    I don't care about 2,000 years at this point. If it can keep the archives for the better part of ten years and not break the bank in so doing, perhaps we can (at least for the medium term) use something that doesn't have to rely on spinning rust for consumer backup.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      However, I get the feeling the markup (at least at this point) isn't going to be very comfortable. Doing a little price hunting, I find the standard BD-R M-Disc commands over a double markup vs. a traditional BD-R (ex. a spindle of 15 25GB M-Discs costs more than a spindle of 30 standard BD-Rs). Given that a single BDXL 100GB discs run anywhere from $15-40 a piece depending on where you look, I'm willing to bet the initial MSRP for a 100GB M-Disc is about $60. Any bets? Higher, lower, or spot on?

      1. Gartal

        Cost

        I bought my first CD/R drive way back when. At the time the drive cost AU$5,000.00 wholesale. A single writable disk cost AU$180.00 wholesale. The rubbish bin to insert the first and subsequent failed $180.00 disks in cost nothing.

        They will be expensive to start with and not so further down the track.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: Cost

          They will be expensive to start with and not so further down the track.

          I wouldn't count on it. I've been using DVD-RAM for perhaps the last ten years for archival and blank media still costs perhaps 5x similar DVD+/-RW.

          When I built this new workstation I'm using now a couple of months ago I did pay over the odds for an M-DISC capable bluray drive with the single layer discs in mind, but when I looked at the cost of media I decided that I'll stick with DVD-RAM for the time being. It doesn't help that there seems to be a pitiful lack of competition at the distributor and retail level so the most attractive cost/disc prices have ridiculous shipping fees attached to them.

          The savings come with volume and it seems there is little mass market interest in long term integrity - you can see some of that even here, with all the attention focusing on the potential problems of reading in centuries time, but completely failing to grasp that 99% of the archival market is more bothered with readability after perhaps 20-30 years, 50 at the outside.

          1. SolidSquid

            Re: Cost

            As far as I'm aware though, DVD-RAM disks' main advantage is the durability and the ability to read/write multiple times. These actually have a difference to blueray which the general public would make use of, 4x the storage capacity. Might not be used by general consumers, but that's certainly going to be grabbed by companies making 8K movies now those TVs are coming out, or games companies looking for more storage for the next gen consoles which will use them

            Honestly, while the long life span is nice, it's really a bonus over the storage increase

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Looking at the accretion of data here, one disc a year should do it. Then again, I don't do video save the odd BBC production (which probably explains why I spend most of my time on British sites). I can live with that. Hell, I could afford one disc a month forgoing multiple (encrypted) backup providers.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    How do they work this out? Or have they got a DeLorean time machine that they haven't told us about?

  6. Jon Massey
    Facepalm

    That graph...

    What a load of guff! No units on the y-axis, arbitrary threshold - FAIL indeed!

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: That graph...

      What a load of guff! No units on the y-axis, arbitrary threshold - FAIL indeed!

      In this case a failure in basic comprehension. The article explicitly specifies this is according to ISO/IEC 16963 which defines what it means for a medium to have failed when determining storage lifetimes - that is the scale. If that isn't good enough for you obviously you have much greater insight into this area than that international panel of experts who spent years considering the issue.

  7. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    A positive step

    My personal feeling is that if the media is rated for that long, there will be some effort made to make sure that, at least in the medium term, that the media can be read.

    Couple this with the fact that it is piggy-backing on a consumer level technology, and should be able to be read on any BD-XL drive means that there is a higher chance that devices will continue to be made into the near future (decades) that will read it. I know that it is not really a good comparison, but CDs are still readable in current generation BluRay readers, so that shows that a medium with sufficient market penetration can still be readable nearly four decades later.

    I know that this is not anything like the 1000 years specified for this media, but it is suitable for medium term (decades) archive of financial data in a way that current generations of disk/tape technology is not.

    I'm not going to suggest that we should stop using durable physical media for the intelectual riches of our society, however, because when the technology fall happens, anything that is not readable by eye will be useless anyway!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reminds me

    of that problem they had over in, was it Sweden? Where they were building the sub-subterranean nuclear waste storage facility.

    The plan was to fill it in and hide it forever, but the concern was, how do we let people know in 10,000 years time that hey, don't fucking dig here or you'll die horribly?

    The concept was that in 10,000 years time the human language may have changed so much as to be unrecognisable to what we have today, so a few signs wouldn't work nor last the time span.

    They were trying to think of monuments they could build that would last and would clearly indicate, regardless of language, 'danger'.

    Maybe that's what stonehenge was? A big storage dump for nasty shit and those were meant to keep us out. Would explain why so many of the hippies that go there are fucking nutjobs.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Reminds me

      "They were trying to think of monuments they could build that would last and would clearly indicate, regardless of language, 'danger'."

      They must've realized that, no matter what you do, human curiosity will get the better of any concept of danger sign you or anyone else could imagine. Why? Because Forbidden Fruit is the ultimate temptation. As Terry Pratchett once put it, “Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying 'End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH', the paint wouldn't even have time to dry.” And he's right. I bet when the archaeologists raided King Tut's tomb, they were thinking, "I ain't afraid of no curse."

      IOW, put a massive pile of death somewhere, anywhere, and sooner or later, someone else will stumble upon and start a cycle of death. Guaranteed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me

      Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Pretty awesome intro on this page. I think the sign at the top should be required on every data center. Especially one holding Facebook posts.

      Short version:

      http://www.wipp.energy.gov/picsprog/articles/wipp%20exhibit%20message%20to%2012,000%20a_d.htm

      Long version: http://prod.sandia.gov/techlib/access-control.cgi/1992/921382.pdf

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reminds me

      "They were trying to think of monuments they could build that would last and would clearly indicate, regardless of language, 'danger'."

      Maybe they should try a different approach - build a fake RadioShack store on it. No one seems to be interested in those.

    4. toxicdragon

      Re: Reminds me

      My favorite idea is to let 3 year olds design the danger sign, whatever they could come up with should be fairly universal.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Reminds me

        They should just put up a plaque: "MORTAL DANGER. DO NOT DIG HERE. Put up in 2014, if older than a century or message sounds funny, update in current language equivalent and update date. Thanks!" ...Idiots...

        1. ravenviz
          Joke

          Re: Reminds me

          Language evolves quickly:

          1980: tidy = really good

          1990: bad = really good

          2000: sick = really good

          2100: MORTAL DANGER. DO NOT DIG HERE = really good

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Reminds me

            "2000: sick = really good"

            Some people are well behind the time. "Evil" and "sick" were in use to mean "really good" in some circles in the 1980s.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Reminds me

            "1980: tidy = really good"

            I'm happy to report that one hasn't changed in Wales.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Re. Reminds me

    Sounds like what happened a while back in goiana with the radiotherapy machine that got dismantled for scrap and the pretty glowing death crystals of what turned out to be 137Cs... then got melted down and ended up in concrete rebars in people's homes.

  10. DJV Silver badge

    Verbatim? Shudder...

    Had some 5.25" floppies from them when I had a CBM Pet + 2031 disk drive back in the early 80s. They all failed after not very long. In the late 90s, a place I worked for had some Verbatim 3.5" disks. They were well dodgy as well. So, unless their attention to quality has vastly improved recently, I wouldn't place any bets on their 100Gb stuff lasting more than 10 years at best.

    YMMV

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Verbatim? Shudder...

      I think 5.25" floppy disk was a flawed media anyway.

      You relied on the disk remaining flexible enough to spin in the case which was not flat, stiff enough to not crease while it was being spun up and moved over the heads, and for the glue to remain stable enough to keep the rust particles attached to the disk while it was scoured by the disk head and the 'soft' material on the inside of the case. And you also have the problem of the way that the clamp on the drive grabbed the plastic of the disk itself, and over time damaged the edge of the hole.

      From my experience, all 8" and 5.25" floppies ware now of questionable use, regardless of manufacturer. Certainly, I have Verbatim disks that still read, and BASF, Nashua and 3M disks that don't.

      The 3.5" and 3" disks were slightly better because at least the case was rigid, and was less likely to rub the surface of the disk while it rotated.

      Optical disks are much less likely to suffer, because there is significantly less physical contact (ideally none) anywhere on the disk except where the clamp grabs the disk. I have 30 year old audio CDs that still play, and some CD-R disks that I recorded before the millennium that still can be read.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Verbatim? Shudder...

        "I have 30 year old audio CDs that still play, and some CD-R disks that I recorded before the millennium that still can be read."

        The CD-R's recovery reliability depends mainly on the quality of the material used in the medium, usually some kind of dye. Cheapo ones, based on my personal experience, start to fade over time even if you keep them under wraps. I once did a migration from CD-Rs and DVD-Rs that resulted in more than a few gaps in the recovery. That's one reason I'm interested in the M-Disc since that sets a nice, high bar for medium reliability. Combined with a little parity data per disc, one should be able to store it someplace safe and still count on it to be readable a decade or two later if necessary.

        I just wish there was something bigger on the consumer level. 100GB is still a bit small for today's packrat level of data accumulation.

    2. Zacherynuk

      Re: Verbatim? Shudder...

      10 years is fine.... if we can drill a hole in them to turn them into 200GB disks!

    3. ravenviz
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Verbatim? Shudder...

      I've got a 3.5" Verbatim floppy on my desk, it works just fine (as a coaster)!

  11. Robert Harrison

    It's just unfortunate...

    ...That the designs for building a replica drive to read one of these discs, 2000 years from now, were written with Microsoft Office 2013.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: It's just unfortunate...

      ...and stored on recordable optical media for longevity!

  12. Shambles

    Keep your gumble safe

    I misread this as "keep your grumble safe". Further checks show they may both be applicable.

  13. Teiwaz Silver badge

    Keep your grumble safe

    So did I actually.

    And I'm not even sure what either is.

    (and too afraid to look it up in case I get a 'visit' at 6 a.m tomorrow).

  14. petec

    Well, in a few hundred years, you might not have a player for these disks, but at least they will still be going strong as cool and retro, by hanging from your rear view space ship screen thingy.

  15. cambsukguy

    Yes, but in 10 years or 20

    There will be a gazillion byte long term storage device that will allow you to use a auto feeding reader for the old rubbish 100GB discs that you have to all be transferred to one new one.

    Then, you or your children can make the next transfer 10 years later so that that photo you took at a party no-one is even alive to remember can be preserved for the future anthropologists to ponder why people carried devices on sticks to point at themselves in the first place.

    What data is required to be kept a millennium?, we have very few, like the Magna Carta, but they are still only of historical interest - losing them wouldn't remove the rights they didn't give us (I am not a Baron).

    However, 30/40/50 years without having to be re-recorded to ensure integrity, very useful. The British library and, no doubt, the future Youtube will care.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Yes, but in 10 years or 20

      "What data is required to be kept a millennium?"

      How long ago did Sun Tzu live?

      1. cambsukguy

        Re: Yes, but in 10 years or 20

        > How long ago did Sun Tzu live?

        Quite, as I said, the British Library will be keen.

  16. VeganVegan

    The very few things worth preserving for 2000 years

    can be chiseled onto a bunch of rocks.

    The rest of it, just be glad our descendants do not see them. Otherwise, they'd be that much more ashamed of us.

  17. Gartal

    One word

    Bullshit.

  18. foxyshadis

    What happens...

    ...when you scratch it in twenty years' time, or snap disk 2 of 5 after a century?

    Look at the condition of pretty much everything in existence that's more than a few decades old, and it should be obvious that even cryogenic vaults of these disks aren't going to make it long.

  19. proud2bgrumpy

    The Paperless Office

    The promise of the paperless office pretty much guarantees that despite all the masses of ?useless? data we create, the history of the last few generations may be completely lost in a few hundred years time. I wonder what the clay tablet scribes thought of the new-fangled papyrus scrolls when they first saw them? Probably "that'll never last" :-)

  20. dieseltaylor

    For those who think long term

    I really don't understand the short-termism evident here. I can back-up my entire music collection onto a 50GB disk and then forget about worrying about dead drives for the next 30 years.

    I took 25,000 photos last year so that also would seem suitable for some permanent storage so I can be worry free. I have copied my daughters photos from 2005 when she was touring in South America onto an Mdisc and feel happy she will be able to look at them in 50 years time when she is in her dotage.

    And I think there could be a business case for storing them in a vault with my will : ) in case the house burns down.

    I already have an external M-writer so I can use it with any of my machines

  21. XNOR

    Future readability

    Some people want a storage medium that is entirely passive and does not include electronics. The number of available options for meet this requirement is surprisingly small - and most of them come in the form of a 12cm shiny disc.

    This physical format has been commercially available since 1982. Yes, 33 years. An eternity in technology. Whenever the format has been upgraded the physical form remained the same and any new readers are compatible with all previous formats sharing this shape. I see little reason for any future passive storage media to break this long continuity and change to a different form factor.

    While these readers are no longer as ubiquitous as they used to be because networking has made them less important, I don't foresee any real problem obtaining them for a long time to come.

    1. Looper
      Stop

      Re: Future readability...

      "This physical format has been commercially available since 1982. Yes, 33 years. An eternity in technology. Whenever the format has been upgraded the physical form remained the same and any new readers are compatible with all previous formats sharing this shape. I see little reason for any future passive storage media to break this long continuity and change to a different form factor."

      The polyvinyl chloride disc has been commercially available since 1931. Yes. 84 years. An eternity in technology.

      However, there were no widely accepted material, size, speed or format standards until the 1950s. Anything pre the microgroove and vinyl era will not play back on any of today's turntables, which are now themselves also effectively specialist audio equipment. The era of that technology's material, size, speeds, format, wide acceptance and use lasted effectively from mid-1950s until mid 1980s. About 30 years. That format, material, disc sizes and speeds are incompatible with any widely used current (and probably future) technology.

      I see little reason to expect optical standards to remain backwards compatible if a better medium, format, size provides the market and profit for the propagators, and also offers must have advantages to consumers (price, capacity, longevity, speed).

      Your optimism about standards is enormously misplaced. The likes of Sony, Apple, Phillips etc. would create a new proprietary standard at the drop of a hat. Backwards compatibility just does not factor into the mindset of these profit seeking vultures.

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