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The Grouse: Where is My Mind?

273993080_3ff0dedc0c Welcome to the inaugural posting of The Grouse, where once a week I’ll be ranting (and very occasionally raving) about tech, gadgets and the like that I find to be frustrating, or lacking, or stupid, or offensive, or even downright criminal (and maybe all of the above). And because misery loves company, I welcome your personal complaints for exploration in future grousings, as well as more positive comments, of course, which I will summarily dismiss if they bug me for whatever reason. That’s how I roll.

This week, I’m giving the stinkeye to an entire industry: the big bunch of liars who, for a couple decades now, have conned us into believing that optical media (CDs and DVDs) are an easy, reliable, stable method for long-term archiving of data. See, when burnable CDs and PC drives became common in the late ’90s, they were billed as having life spans of 75 to even 200 years. But although independent sources like the Council on Library and Information Resources sort of confirmed it, saying that under optimal conditions optical media can last at least a few decades, the rub is that it really applies only to high-quality, factory-pressed CDs stored under very specific conditions—which is to say, not that stack of 20-cent CD-Rs burned at 42x and then crammed into the back of your desk drawer.

At least one IBM researcher has recently found that using typical cheap, low-quality bulk CD-Rs and DVDs (which can fail for a host of reasons), we can expect our data to be reliable for, oh, more like a piddling two to five years, or about the same life span as a hard drive. In my book, this constitutes not only fraud but gross negligence on the part of manufacturers. I’m making the prediction now that in the next five or so years, a real humdinger of a class-action lawsuit is going to come out when millions (or billions) of us discover that all those backups of irreplaceable family photos, music and home movies, as well as financial records, letters and e-mails that we’ve carefully burned to disc will simply be gone—poof!—like Keyser Soze. Or perhaps more aptly, we’ll all be like a bunch of Marty McFlys in Back to the Future, watching our memories fade away before our eyes. Fortunately, there is a  remedy (after the jump, of course).

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