First there were CD-ROM discs, then DVD discs. Now a new technology hit the stores this year: Blu-ray discs. These discs are the same size as CD and DVD discs but store more data. A lot more. The Blu-ray discs for sale in computer stores now will store about 25 gigabytes of data. Several manufacturers claim they will soon be shipping Blu-ray disc drives capable of storing 100 gigabytes. That's approximately the same storage capacity as 167 CD-ROM discs or 71,428 floppy disks.
The Blu-ray Disc Association that developed this new format is a group of the world's leading consumer electronics, personal computer, and media manufacturers. Its membership includes Apple, Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK and Thomson. It already has the support of leading computer and gaming manufacturers, as well as seven of the eight major movie studios, so its succession to the storage media crown is fairly guaranteed.
You may ask, "How can a disc hold so much data?" Basically, the new format carries CD/DVD formats to the next level. Both DVD discs and the new Blu-ray, or "BD", discs employ optical technology, which uses a laser to read and write the data. While DVDs use a red laser, BDs use a blue-violet laser - hence the name. The blue violet laser's shorter wavelength focuses the laser spot with much more precision than a red laser. This packs the data more tightly, fitting much more data on discs that are no bigger than their CD/DVD predecessors. These disks look like CD-ROM disks but are different internally. The Blu-ray disks also cost significantly more money today than do CD-ROM or DVD-ROM disks, but the price should drop once the Blu-ray discs move to mass production.
What's more, CD-ROM and DVD discs are believed to reliably store data for only a few years. Panasonic says that its new 4-layer, 100-gigabyte Blu-ray discs are so durable that you'll be able to retrieve the data in 100 years' time. Of course, this assumes that someone will still own a Blu-ray drive 100 years from now.
Genealogists, historians, archivists, and others often worry about the life expectancy of storage media. Panasonic claims its new discs will last longer than today's acid-based paper.
Panasonic's 100-gigabyte Blu-Ray disc uses Te-O-Pd, a tellurium suboxide, palladium-doped, phase-change recording film. The film is said to have a high transmittance and crystallization rate, which allows the disc to last a long time without losing data quality. I am not sure what all those words mean, but they sure sound impressive!
Panasonic has tested the new discs by using "artificial aging acceleration tests." This testing process tests the effects of humidity and temperature on discs over time. I wonder what will happen when people start handling, storing, and possibly scratching the discs. Even though their hard-coating protection is supposed to be much better than today's DVDs, the claimed "100-year durability" of the discs may seem a bit far-fetched.
I'll believe it when I see it, 100 years from now.