CD longevity

  Biggles no more 14:31 31 Mar 2003

My life's hobby and interest has been classical and jazz music and I started to collect 78s in 1948. In 1955 I bought my first vinyl LP and over the years I collected a very large quantity of LPs until the collection became just too large for our small house. Therefore, I welcomed the advent of the CD in the 1980s, because of its advertised compact size, enduring quality and much heralded "indestructability". I have since learned that CDs are probably easier to damage than LPs, that they can have faults not readily apparent and do not always play on every player.

However, what has alarnmed me has been the constant references in the Letters page of recent PCA magazines to an "average life of 10/15 years". Compact Discs were sold on the grounds that they would last "forever" which was clearly not true, but there was no suggestion that they had such a limited lifespan compared to vinyl. Whilst I understand that many (mainly the purchasers of pop music) regard their purchases as emphemeral, there is a large body of collectors who are building a library and regard their collection as timeless. I have LPs over 40 years old that have been treated with respect and played on good quality equipment, and still play perfectly. As some of my early CD purchases are coming up to 15 years old, should I now expect them to start to fail?

  eccomputers 15:14 31 Mar 2003

It depends on the metal used in the cd. The gold ones last much longer for example.
There is also another factor, the slower you burn audio the more robust the recording will be. I have burned audio at 40X and tried to play it in the car and it skipped all over the place. I record at 2X max now and it plays on anything. Why not get a huge hard drive and burn all your albums to that and then burn them to cds. If a cd gets damaged, simply burn it again from the database on the hard drive.
If your collection means that much, you could also get a tape backup and backup your hard drive to that, or another hard drive. The options are endless really.

  lemon2 15:28 31 Mar 2003

Hopefully you',ve still retained your LP collection on vinyl, and your CDs are just back ups for the car and general listening. CDs are not long term archiving media, although as you say, they were sold as such, in the early days. I can remember, on BBC TV's "Tomorrows World" when Phillips had just developed them, the presenter pouring lighter fuel on thid CD and setting it on fire, and gouging with a chisel. Saying that this was the new indestructible media for sound recordings! The manufacturers and developers may not have thoroughly tested the long suitability then, But like so many things were heralded as indestructible, before anyone had had them long enough to find out.

The same has been found to be the case with video tape, as opposed to film and acetate. Disney Corporation among others transferred a lot of their old acetates to video. In the then belief it was stable and suitable for long term archiving. They now find video images degrade and by twenty years most are unreadable. Many early films have now been lost, as the original film had been discarded.

CDs are far more delicate than many people imagine too, and the "printed" side is the more vulnerable one, the "gold" side is at least sort of protected by a layer of lacquer. The read track is actually beneath the printed side with protective coating.

Ironically, paper at present seems to be the most stable archiving media. And those old punched cards that we had in the 60's, the most stable for storing programs and software. But an archive is only as good, if you have the means to read it, and how many of us still have punched card reader/writers attached to our PCs.

I'm getting slightly off your original question. I've had CDs from the early eighties fail, which I had previously attributed to being "worn out" but since reading up on long term archiving, I believe now to have failed due to age. But then again, I've had may be ten failures out of a collection of thousands. And none are over twenty years yet. Whereas, my LPs like yours play perfectly. If you've taken as much care with your CDs as you have your LPs, then you should be able to extend their life. CDs played and kept in the car generally fail quite quickly, but that is more due to lack care. They certainly aren't indestructible. You can expect a longer life from a "professionally" stamped CD than from a burnt CD because of the process involved in it's manufacture.

Sorry to have confirm what you fear, but until we've had our CD's for 50+ years we won't know for sure what is the mean rate failure compared to LP's. If I were you I'd make sure that you have all your recordings on LP as well.

  Mango Grummit 15:29 31 Mar 2003

A well informed whisper never goes as far as a shoot from the hip shout.

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  neffie 15:41 31 Mar 2003

I was advised by Public Records Office archivists that documents stored on CD magnetic media including CDR/RW was likely to last no more than 25 years and would therefore require constant re-copying to ensure long term survival....

  lemon2 15:50 31 Mar 2003

Anyone got a commercial walk in freezer and about a ton of Arm and Hammer.

  Goldcroft 16:09 31 Mar 2003

The same goes for photographs and graphics of course. And printed digital images also have a short lifespan. Not much good for those timeless family photographs. For that, it would seem, it's back to traditional photography and the back up negative.

  Goldcroft 16:13 31 Mar 2003

Another problem is going to be hardware. Try finding a machine to play your old beta tapes. Suspect in a relatively short period of time your treasured video tapes will be unplayable and CD players part of history.

  lemon2 16:14 31 Mar 2003

I seem to recall that jpg's lose information each time they are reopened and closed and at some point they are unreadable. Couldn't comment on their actual life though.

  lemon2 16:16 31 Mar 2003

The same would apply to DVD's as the techology is essentially the same as CD

  watchful 16:37 31 Mar 2003

Makes you wonder whether we've progressed at all really doesn't it?

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