Technology Aims to Store Photos, Data Long-Term

Friday, 27 February, 2015

by Bill Gephardt

SALT LAKE CITY — For years, people have been taking digital photos with everything from big DSLR-style cameras to smartphones for quick snapshots.

Those memories used to be preserved on film, and if treated right, they would seemingly last a lifetime. But what happens now that everything is digital? Can we just hand off our hard drives, or burn DVD copies of our photos for our children or grandchildren and expect them to last?

“You’re in for a really, really big disappointment,” said Paul Brockbank, CEO of Milleniata.

The disappointment stems from what’s called data rot, he said.

Over time, things like humidity, light, and temperature could make the photos, documents and whatever else was burned onto a CD or DVD disc very difficult to read.

“What happens with the typical DVD is that it’s made of organic material,” he said. “It enables it to read and write. The organic materials — it’s not meant to be an archival medium.”

Brockbank said the longest to expect a DVD to last is around 15 years, but between five and 12 years is typical. He said a hard drive will probably break down well before that.

“Hard drives, solid state, DVD/CD, they’re all fragile. None of them are designed for archival or long life,” he said.

Brockbank said that’s why his company, Millenniata, develop the M-Disc. These DVD and Blu-Ray discs are engineered to store photos and data for lifetimes.

“Our data, we put it in these ovens. It will actually last more than 1,000 years,” he said.

What makes the M-Disc different, he said, is that the information is etched into several layers of synthetic stone. Those layers don’t decompose like organic or dye layers in other media, he said. They’re much like rock.

“That’s really how one of the founders … got the idea. He was looking at some petroglyphs and realized, ‘Why am I looking at this 5,000-year-old message?’ It was because it was engraved in stone,” Brockbank said.

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