DATA ARCHIVING OUTFIT Milleniata has started to take pre-orders for its "1,000 year" optical discs.
Milleniata claims that its proprietary media can withstand severe shock and temperature differences and is a "new line of Optical Disc technology to last the next 1000 years". In order to have this almost ever-lasting media all you have to do is buy a special optical drive that currently will only be produced by LG and hope that in 1,000 years time the drive will still be available.
While Milleniata's claims regarding the physical capabilities of its media might well be true, there is far more to data archiving than the media itself. The fact that Milleniata's discs need a special drive is an obvious problem, but beyond that there is the matter of the interpretation of data once formats are long gone.
For instance, a century from now there will be no guarantee that Microsoft will be using the Word Document format, or even exist as a company, so what happens to the Word Document format? The issue of archiving data for reading in future centuries is a non-trivial research area and it includes not just the metadata required to 're-create' the data but also a universal computer to access it.
The universal computer is in effect a virtual machine that is based on widely agreed standards. The goal is to have a virtual machine that can access data that is being generated today, years from now. Where Milleniata's product falls down is that once the proprietary drives become obsolete there will be a chance that data stored on those discs will be lost forever because nothing will be able to access it.
The problem is highlighted by the BBC's Doomsday project, a digital time capsule that was stored on Laserdisc. Even a few decades after it was created, Laserdisc players are almost impossible to find and the BBC has taken the sensible step of putting the content of the Doomsday discs online as a means to archive the data.
So while Millenniata might improve on the durability of DVDs, to believe that it is the way to store data for 1,000 years is simply naive and will, most likely, end with disappointment for future generations. µ
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