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Your Old CD Collection Is Dying 329

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Adrienne LaFrance reports at the Atlantic that if you've tried listening to any of the old CDs lately from your carefully assembled collection from the 1980's or 1990's you may have noticed that many of them won't play. 'While most of the studio-manufactured albums I bought still play, there's really no telling how much longer they will. My once-treasured CD collection — so carefully assembled over the course of about a decade beginning in 1994 — isn't just aging; it's dying. And so is yours.'

Fenella France, chief of preservation research and testing at the Library of Congress is trying to figure out how CDs age so that we can better understand how to save them. But it's a tricky business, in large part because manufacturers have changed their processes over the years and even CDs made by the same company in the same year and wrapped in identical packaging might have totally different lifespans. 'We're trying to predict, in terms of collections, which of the types of CDs are the discs most at risk,' says France. 'The problem is, different manufacturers have different formulations so it's quite complex in trying to figure out what exactly is happening because they've changed the formulation along the way and it's proprietary information.' There are all kinds of forces that accelerate CD aging in real time. Eventually, many discs show signs of edge rot, which happens as oxygen seeps through a disc's layers. Some CDs begin a deterioration process called bronzing, which is corrosion that worsens with exposure to various pollutants. The lasers in devices used to burn or even play a CD can also affect its longevity. 'The ubiquity of a once dominant media is again receding. Like most of the technology we leave behind, CDs are are being forgotten slowly,' concludes LaFrance. 'We stop using old formats little by little. They stop working. We stop replacing them. And, before long, they're gone.'"
You can donate CDs to be tested for aging characteristics by emailing the Center for the Library's Analytical Science Samples. I haven't had much trouble ripping discs that were pressed in the 80s (and acquired from used CD stores with who knows how many previous owners), but I'm starting to get nervous about not having flac rips of most of my discs.
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Your Old CD Collection Is Dying

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  • Grammar (Score:4, Informative)

    by alta ( 1263 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:28AM (#46999419) Homepage Journal

    Please proof read proof read!

    "you may have noticed that many of them won't play won't play."

  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:32AM (#46999481) Homepage Journal

    sure if you don't actually listen to them.

    just rip the friggin cd or burn a backup and tape it to the case, if you really think you can't find the song online afterwards... then it's not really gone and you have the item token to show off if you want.

  • by thunderbird32 ( 1138071 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:42AM (#46999609)
    They do, but the laser record players are very expensive. Also, IIRC the record has to be very clean because any dirt is much more noticeable than it would be on a traditional turntable.
  • Re:Grammar (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:52AM (#46999717)

    Oxidation will eventually render them useless. Rust never sleeps.

    Aluminum doesn't rust. When exposed to oxygen, it forms a permanent single layer of a oxide, and then the oxidation stops. I have never had a single pressed CD fail, other than from physical damage. Most should still work a century from now if stored properly. CD-Rs are, of course, completely different technology, and will only last about a decade.

  • by xorsyst ( 1279232 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:56AM (#46999761) Journal

    Rip to single-track flac with (embedded) cuesheet, and build individual-track mp3s from that however you like. That's what I do (well, I use wavpack and ogg, but the same applies)

  • Re:Grammar (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:02PM (#46999835)

    Metals oxidize, if all a bit differently. Rust and oxidation are essentially synonymous terms

    Sort of. Rust is iron oxide. Iron has the unusual property that given the presence of oxygen and water, a solid block of iron will eventually turn entirely to rust. Most metals do not do that, and only the surface will oxidize.

  • by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:08PM (#46999891) Homepage

    I don't believe that vinyl is a superior medium compared to CD or MP3/FLAC, but in many cases there's a huge difference between the masters produced for vinyl and for digital media.

    Yeah, I hear you. For R.E.M.'s Accelerate and Rush's Clockwork Angels albums a few years back, I bought the CDs to support the artists, but I put them on only to discover that the CDs were compressed to hell. The vinyl, however, had been mastered with the preference of more audiophile-y people in mind. So, I just went to a torrent community and downloaded a high-quality vinyl rip to FLAC, and now I play exclusively this.

    It's sad that in order to get real dynamic range and avoid the loudness-wars sludge, one has to resort to this workaround. Even if these vinyl rip uploaders are using the highest-quality rig, some fidelity is inevitably lost in the process.

  • by Rakarra ( 112805 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:23PM (#47000049)

    I've even heard it surmised (possibly here) that putting a computer program in memory for execution is technically a copyright violation. It will never be tried in court as it goes way beyond the idea of common sense (even in today's corporate controlled courts), but it could be true.

    But it was tried in court (sortof) in the Federal case Mai v. Peak []. The court ruled that according to the rules of copyright, technically loading a program into RAM for execution does violate copyright, partially because RAM can be easily copyable (Anything that places a program in storage that is trivially copyable is a copyright violation).

    The US Congress, Orrin Hatch in particular, thought this was silly, and amended the copyright code. Section 117 of the Copyright code [] currently reads:

    "(a) Making of Additional Copy or Adaptation by Owner of Copy.— Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, it is not an infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of that computer program provided:
    (1) that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner, or
    (2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the computer program should cease to be rightful."

    #2 is your backup copy provision, #1 means you can run a program without infringing it, as long as you're just running it (and not decompiling it or something else of that nature).

  • by sudon't ( 580652 ) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @02:42PM (#47001611)

    Except the act of actually playing it *once* physically destroys the media. Vinyl is like driving a new car off the lot: the value drops by about 20% the first time you drive it. Then each additional time you drive it, the value drops by an additional amount. If you play vinyl about 15 times, you have lost more than 50% of the original material. The stylus ploughing through (relatively) soft plastic is like a steel plough going through (relatively) soft soil. At some point all you have is a smooth "shhhhhhhhhh" sound with very faint sounding something that used to be music. You do make a point though "Vinyl is still fairly superior for physical archiving" long as you never play it.

    I'm sorry, that's complete hogwash. I don't know if you've ever owned records, but I've been buying them since the mid-sixties. I'm sure I have many records that are older than you are. If you only get fifteen plays out of an album, you are doing something seriously wrong. I'm a little shocked at how many slashdotters seem to believe this nonsense, but I guess many people have now grown up without any exposure to vinyl. Now, if you're not here to cut the grass, please get off my lawn.

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