Storage And The Da Vinci Code

By Edward Cone  |  Posted Wednesday, August 17, 2011 17:08 PM

By Tim Moran

Preserving information for the long haul turns out to be a major challenge of the digital age, and we've covered a couple of perpetual storage concepts in recent posts.

Now comes Millenniata, which appears to be a solid technical solution to keeping data available for a very, very long time. Its product, not available until September of this year, is the 4.7-GB M-Disc. The company explains that the M-Disc, unlike normal DVDs, can secure data for hundreds of years because it is intrinsically different from regular DVDs, which burn data into an organic dye layer.

Says Millenniata, "Organic dyes start to degrade and fade as soon as they are written. This leads to a condition called 'data rot.' This problem is so severe that the National Archives warns that the shelf life of a regular DVD is 2-5 years."

According to the company, the M-Disc, instead, is composed of rock-like materials known to last for centuries into which the information is "etched, creating a permanent physical data record that is immune to data rot."

In order to use the M-Disc, you will need to add the M-Ready drive to your system. The drive, currently only manufactured by LG, etches the M-Disc using a format that is said to be readable by most high-quality DVD drives. Since the disc is meant to be archival, there is no changing or erasing the data once it's etched--it cannot be altered in any way.

Of course, perpetual information storage is not a new problem.

Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times recently discussed the struggle to preserve Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper." Barely 20 years after it was painted, the masterpiece had already begun to flake. It's undergone reconstruction a couple of times, the last taking place about 20 years ago.

The result: "An altogether different painting appeared. . . . The work looked ghostly, like breath on glass. Nostalgists fumed, naturally, but the patient was at least stable...Modernized in its new climate- and crowd-control environment, one of the most familiar pictures in the history of art suddenly seemed alien, like vacuum-packed heirloom tomatoes and no-smoking parks."

If Leonardo had had the Millenniata technology, I wager--man of invention and science that he was--he would have taken high-def pictures of the original the day it was completed and etched them onto an M-Disc. Some things really should last forever.