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Author Topic: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?  (Read 4520 times)

Offline thedoc

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Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« on: 25/09/2012 18:30:42 »
Hi Dr Chris,
 
I am curious to know if the naked scientists think we would be able to read data information on a CD, DVD, or hard-disc etc if we had advanced technology but no historical records of the code or computer language the data is written in.
 
For example if our civilisation had some sort of EMP apocalypse and rendered all our electronics exposed to it useless, or our civilisation regressed and then advanced again but with slightly different technology, or an intelligent alien race found our data would they be able to even recognise it as data storage. With the advent of the electronic book I wonder if we'll lose everything if we don't just print it in a basic form that we can retrieve but also I guess I'm thinking about my backups generally, and redundancy in all kinds of file types!  
 
Cheers

PS love the podcasts!
 
@sjcaffyn
Steve

Asked by Steve Caffyn


                                        Visit the webpage for the podcast in which this question is answered.

 

« Last Edit: 25/09/2012 18:30:42 by _system »


 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #1 on: 26/09/2012 19:43:27 »
Hitachi have announced a long life data storage system

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/09/24/hitachi_glass_storage/
 

Offline RD

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #2 on: 27/09/2012 07:54:31 »
Quote
[if] an intelligent alien race found our data would they be able to even recognise it as data storage

Maybe if they know the aliens who've got the golden record and managed to work out the instructions on how to play it :) ...



« Last Edit: 27/09/2012 08:08:48 by RD »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #3 on: 27/09/2012 08:27:08 »
I'm  not sure that even without a major computer crash that our CD's will be readable in a century.

I'd be hard pressed to find a way to read an 8", 5", or even a 3" floppy.  CDs are all but obsolete now.  Fortunately they are still more or less backwards compatible with the DVD and Blu-Ray devices.  But, what will the next rev bring?  Perhaps a move to all flash & PROM distribution media? 

I suppose given a circular disk shaped media, one would deduce that it would be played in a circle.  I haven't looked at one under a microscope, but perhaps the tracks, sectors, and even bytes would be obvious. 

Of course, dead languages are much more difficult to decipher without the Rosetta stone to guide one's way.
 

Offline RD

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #4 on: 28/09/2012 01:48:12 »
Quote
... our civilisation regressed ... would they be able to even recognise it [CD/DVD] as data storage.

Maybe the CDs will be used as lip plates  :) ...
38;#t=45s  [:0]
« Last Edit: 28/09/2012 01:56:07 by RD »
 

Offline techmind

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #5 on: 28/09/2012 22:35:00 »
Assuming the aluminium layer hasn't been tarnished by moisture seeping in, then the data should still be there.
The question is whether people (smart technology people) could figure out the bit/encoding structure merely by analysing a collection of CDs.
I suspect it's do-able (though not at all easy) for CDs, as the format was devised in the very early 80's and won't be very complicated. That said, it still interleaves data and has error-checking codes built-in, which wouldn't be immediately obvious.

When it comes to the newer standards such as DVDs (with more powerful error-checking and correction) not to mention highly compressed data formats such as MPEG video and MP3 audio I think you'd be very unlikely to 'reverse-engineer' these and reconstruct the sound or movie without some prior knowledge or documentation of the file-formats.

(Edit to add: Ow - I didn't see Dave's answer before writing this, honest!)
« Last Edit: 28/09/2012 22:38:18 by techmind »
 

Offline BioChemSFC

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #6 on: 18/10/2012 02:26:15 »
Surprisingly CD-R or CDRWs are actually not as stable as analog recordings. Be it photo, tape, record or printed paper the expected life of a CD-R is much less than analog media. Production CDs are more stable but can also be chemically degraded over time. Nothing within the CD would be affected by EMF radiation. It could however destroy the reading device by decoding the microchips. But if a EMF pulse destroyed all CD readers you could make another one from a paper schematic. If you did not have a paper copy you'd have to reinvent the CD reader/player but the media would not be changed.   
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #7 on: 15/01/2013 10:29:20 »
Look back just a few decades to what was then the height of technology.

Recordings made on wax cylinders, 78 rmp records and the much newer 45 & 33 1/3 rmp records. Not knowing what they are or how they work, would you spin them around and stick a needle in them? If you answered 'yes' to that question, would you then do the same to a CD? Alternately, would you fire a laser at a wax cylinder? What of Betamax and now even VHS.

Look back further still, about 5 - 9,000 years back. We might still be puzzled by Egyptian hieroglyphs but for discovery of the Roseta Stone.

With hieroglyphics, we could at least read the data, evenif we could not understand it. With modern technology, its a case of reading it first, then translating it into something undestandable. Unless we ensure we leave a Roseta Stone equivalent and the means to access the data, all might be lost.
 

Offline RD

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #8 on: 15/01/2013 12:09:02 »
... Alternately, would you fire a laser at a wax cylinder? .

That could work ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_turntable
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #9 on: 15/01/2013 20:20:21 »
To the human eye, a DVD almost reflects white light - the slight rainbow tinges hint that there is a fine structure there, of roughly the same size as the wavelength of light, but the track structure would be hard to see before the development of the electron microscope, hard to read without a laser, and impossible to decode without powerful electronics. The intentional encryption applied to DVDs would add another layer of complexity.

The DVD is very much a product of our current level of technology, but probably decodeable by someone with a more advanced technology and lots of computing power - providing the information is still intact.

There is a principle in Information Theory that the better you encode some piece of information, the more indistinguishable it is from white noise - and white noise does not carry any information. This measure is called "Entropy" - and encryption maximises entropy.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory#Entropy (a bit mathematical, unfortunately).
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #10 on: 18/01/2013 11:30:57 »
If one of the paper copies of this survives it will help
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Book_(CD_standard)
« Last Edit: 18/01/2013 14:53:24 by CliffordK »
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #11 on: 18/01/2013 14:59:59 »
I fixed your link.
It is a good point that one shouldn't have all copies of a specific technology based on that technology.

There are a lot of CD & DVD drives in the world today.  But, I find it amazing how quickly floppy drives all but vanished, and the optical disk formats (CD, DVD, Blu-Ray), are already showing signs of becoming obsolete, especially with laptop computers.
 

Offline RE.Craig

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #12 on: 11/02/2013 16:22:54 »
I have CD'S bought in the 80's that are no longer playable,not due to over use or bad handling, but due to because the reflective layers have deteriorated. I have heard that this issue has been since rectified but only time will tell. I'm a bit square when it comes to my music and I prefer the analogue sound of LP's and tape. In the 80's I tended to buy tape recordings mostly classical for the simple reason that for the same money you could buy two or three classical recordings on tape for the price of one CD! I have recordings on tape that are approaching fifty years old and play perfectly. I do have some that suffer from drop out but they are a rare exception. The last time I catalogued my tape collection I had over 3000 of them, and yes I do have a listening programme, the nerd that I am, but I do have fun rooting about in second hand and thrift shops looking for tapes and LP's ,as this is the only place you can get them nowadays.   
 

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Re: Will CDs be decodable in years to come?
« Reply #12 on: 11/02/2013 16:22:54 »

 

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