300 Year Archival Life, 9 Bits/Pit, And Other Strange Optical Disk News - InformationWeek

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7/5/2008
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Howard Marks
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300 Year Archival Life, 9 Bits/Pit, And Other Strange Optical Disk News

For some reason my desk today seems to be covered with press releases announcing cool breakthroughs in optical disk technology. In reality, it's covered with 4 disk drives, empty Chinese food containers, my daughter's sick laptop, beer bottles, cigar stubs, and the TARDIS USB hub, but I did see a bunch of optical disk news that ranged from "cool" to "and why would I buy that" to just unbelievable.

For some reason my desk today seems to be covered with press releases announcing cool breakthroughs in optical disk technology. In reality, it's covered with 4 disk drives, empty Chinese food containers, my daughter's sick laptop, beer bottles, cigar stubs, and the TARDIS USB hub, but I did see a bunch of optical disk news that ranged from "cool" to "and why would I buy that" to just unbelievable.On the cool front, a group of researchers from Tohoku University figured out that if they put a 90-degree V notch in the bottom of each pit on a DVD and used a polarized laser to read it, they could encode up to 9 bits in each pit by rotating the notch and reading the angle of the reflection. These V-shaped pits can be stamped out just like the round pits so disks with this enhanced capacity can be high-speed duplicated cheaply. Of course, even if they use the same mechanical specs as a DVD, the disks could only be readable on new equipment. The press release didn't mention recordability and that looks really hard to me.

Under "and how would we know," Delkin, a California vendor of digital photo accessories from memory cards and readers to camera skins and optical media, announced that its archival Blu-ray disks have a 200 year archival lifetime. Delkin's archival CD-R and DVD-R disks appear to be OEM versions of MAM-A's archival products, which are generally considered to the most stable disks you can buy. Truth is, some time long before the 200 years are up you'll have to copy the data because Blu-ray drives are getting hard to find. Well, they don't cost a lot more than other 4X BD-Rs, so why not.

Japan's NHK announced a flexible optical disk that rotates at 15,000 RPM to provide data rates of 250 MB/s that are required for use as broadcast HD storage. More info here. Conventional DVDs and CDs can only be spun up to 10,000 RPM before they fly apart.

Finally, ProAction Media's pitching its Flex-Lite disk as green because it uses half the expensive petrochemical product polycarbonate as a normal disk.

There it is, believe it or not, the good, the bad, and the forgettable. Now I guess I have to figure out which is which.

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