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----- Forwarded by Dick Spottswood/dick/AmericanU on 08/05/2004 10:56 AM 

"Lance Ledbetter" <[log in to unmask]>
08/05/2004 09:46 AM
        To:     "susan" <[log in to unmask]>, "April" 
<[log in to unmask]>, <[log in to unmask]>, "Dick Spottswood" 
<[log in to unmask]>
        Subject:        should we start pressing vinyl?

Is music safe on compact disc?

By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Compact discs were sold as the durable alternative to vinyl - but anyone 
who opens the case of an ageing CD may be in for a nasty

Earlier this year, US web designer Dan Koster found 15% of his 2,000 CDs 
had begun to rot, and were unplayable and worthless as a

Holding his CDs up to the light, he said: "I was shocked to see a 
constellation of pinpricks, little points where the light was
coming through the aluminium layer."

As we increasingly convert CD tracks for use on portable digital players 
and copy songs and photos onto CDs, there is renewed
interest in the format's longevity. What causes CDs to deteriorate, and 
how wide is the problem?

Still vulnerable

Soon after compact discs came onto the market in 1983, owners realised 
that - while they were indeed more durable than vinyl or
cassette tape - the CD was by no means indestructible.

Each CD comprises an aluminium layer which holds its data, sandwiched 
between polycarbonate and a protective lacquer.

The inlay booklet that came with your copy of the first big-selling CD, 
Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms, warned that the disc
remained vulnerable to heat, cold, light, dust, fingerprints and 

Stacking discs horizontally was bad for them, as was any Tomorrow's World 
stunt involving jam, drills or bulldozers. By obeying
these rules, we were promised "a lifetime of listening pleasure".

That claim has since been questioned by CD owners including Jessica Ross, 
editor of Consumer Association magazine Computing Which?

"I have several that are unplayable a few months after buying them," she 
said. "To say they will last for 100 years simply isn't

Yet manufacturers maintain that bad handling is the main cause of problems 
with compact discs.

"Most people believe the underside of the CD is its most vulnerable part, 
when in fact it is the side with the label on," said Roy
Varley, managing director of CD manufacturer Spool Multi Media.

"A slight scratch on the label side can damage the metal and cause the CD 
to skip or become unreadable."

Compact discs were made commercially available in 1983

However, this does not explain why careful CD owners have found discs in a 
worse condition than when they left them.

Eleven years ago thousands of compact discs in the UK became unplayable 
after they changed colour from silver to gold in a process
known as "bronzing".

This was initially blamed on a reaction between the CD's lacquer and 
chemicals within the cardboard cases which housed them at the

But two months later, CD manufacturer PDO said all affected discs had been 
made in the late 1980s at its plant in Blackburn,
Lancashire, which had used a silver coating on its discs instead of the 
standard gold.

Rusting effect

Spool Multi Media said while "most CD manufacturers aim for high 
standards", faults still occasionally develop.

"When the CD is made, protective lacquer is dropped onto each disc, which 
is spun to spread the lacquer to its outer edges," said Mr

"If this is not done properly, the lacquer may not cover the disc, 
enabling air to penetrate and oxidise the aluminium. Over time,
this rusting effect can ruin the CD."

 Millions and millions of compact discs have been made and problems have 
only been found with an absolute minority

Jeannet Harpe, Philips communications manager
Record companies Warner Music, EMI, BMG, Sony and Universal declined to 
comment on the deterioration of compact discs.

Similarly, a spokesperson for CD manufacturer Sonopress would only say: 
"We tend to distance ourselves from being linked with CD

But Philips, which co-developed the compact disc with Sony, said CD 
deterioration was an isolated problem.

"The reason for the huge success of the compact disc is its robustness, 
durability and quality," said communications manager Jeannet

"Millions and millions of compact discs have been made and problems have 
only been found with an absolute minority of them. This can
happen with any product."

Digital duplicates

Philips and Sony list the specifications of audio CDs in a manual known as 
The Red Book, which all compact disc manufacturers are
required to adhere to.

"There is no problem with those specifications," said Ms Harpe. "If they 
are followed when a compact disc is made, it will last a

No matter how remote the threat, the possibility of losing treasured 
albums, singles or digital photos will inspire many to
duplicate their digital information onto a computer hard drive or 
recordable compact disc as a precaution.

"But recording your own CDs is not an exact science because home 
technology is not as sophisticated as professional CD manufacture,"
said Mr Varley.

"Computers can also develop faults - no format is completely 100% 
reliable. With that in mind, the compact disc is still the best
format there is."

We want to hear your stories - have your CDs survived 20 years, or are 
they deteriorating with age?

I have vast collections of tapes and CDs and I like to keep them both - 
there's a very small overlap of these collections. However,
I don't think I'd converting my CDs to another digital format that 
involves high level of compression - like .mp3 or .wmv formats -
I don't like the idea that an algorithm decides what I can or can't listen 
Benjamin S, London, UK

I bought my CD player in 1991. It works as well now as it did then. I've 
got hundreds of CDs and I've never had any problems with
any of them. I'm certainly not prepared to ditch these and buy them again, 
or spend weeks transferring them onto another format (who
has the time to do that?!) No media storage is 100% reliable. For best 
results just buy good equipment to play them on and look
after your discs! Handle them by the edges and don't leave them lying 
around to gather dust or get scratched.
Steve Smith, Nottingham, UK

I have 4 CD players in all, a CD changer in the car, a portable player, a 
Radio/CD player and a Hi Fi unit. What I have found, is
that certain CDs will skip or not play on one of the players but be 
perfect on another. So obviously the qulity of build and
electronics have a dramatic effect. You get what you pay for.
Martin Clarke, Ottershaw, Surrey

I haven't had a serious problem (yet) with any format except reel to reel 
tape. But remembering your article about the
indestructibility of flash memory cards, perhaps that is the way to go? Or 
is that another myth due to be rumbled in the years to
Steve, London

I did feel guilty for ripping off the music business, by downloading music 
free from file-sharing networks. Now I know they had it
Jonathan M, Herts, UK

No, those little silver records don't last very long. Anyway, I never know 
which speed to play them on, and when I put the needle
on, all I get is a funny scratching noise.
PJ, W. Yorks, UK

It may be advisable to keep CDs away from fridges, freezers and laser 
printers - which all produce ozone. Ozone a highly reactive
oxidant and therefore may result in corrosion of CDs. Environmental 
condiions may explain why some people have problems and others
do not. Regarding simple scratches, as to why those who make CD players 
can make them ignore a scratch rather than getting stuck is
a mystery.
Fergus Kane, London

We have a collection of about 2000 CDs dating back to when they first came 
on the market. They have been stored vertically, never
exposed to significant temperature changes and treated with great care. 
The bad ones, about 150, initially turn gold and then become
unplayable. The problem appears to be restricted to a number of older 
discs which were pressed in the United Kingdom. None of the
American imports or the European pressings have shown signs of 
Jane, Dudley, England

There¿s no doubt in my mind that vinyl is the best format for music. Also 
I have 2 copies of PJ Harvey's Stories from the Sea
Stories from the City and both are unplayable. I have noticed that CDs 
seem to be thinner nowadays and both these CDs and others
I've bought recently have scratched more easily. But I do know that the 
quality of the players helps.
Jim Painter, Camden, London

I have stoped borrowing audio books on CD from my local library. 
Invariably one of the CDs gets stuck half way through the story,
with the narrator repeating a phrase over and over again. Makes me quite 
nostalgic for the needle getting stuck in the record
groove. Provided you use up to date Hi Fi equipment with light weight pick 
ups I reckon Vinyl will outlast CDs any day. Not arf, pop
bob butler, chigwell, Uk

A few years ago at a meeting of the Audio Engineering Society there was a 
discussion about what was the best medium for archiving
precious recordings. The answer? Vinyl. The reason being it is the only 
format known to not degrade in storage over 50 years and is
playable on simple equipment. Tape doesn't match this lifespan, and it's 
certainly too early to tell for optical discs: the omens
aren't good, especially with recordable CDs.
James Gray, Aberdeen, Scotland

I have quite a large collection of CDs ranging from 15 - 20 years old, all 
have been stored in the same place, most of them play,
some still look in excellent condition but quite a few are bad to say the 
least. The manufacturing quality seems to vary
Sean, Malvern

CDs having deteriorated after only a few months is absolute rubbish. If 
you were to stick them to the outside of your car tires and
drive for 10 miles, then maybe that would do it.
Anon, Southampton

I now have my entire CD collection loaded into Apple's iTunes. Not only 
does this allow me to compile my own play lists, but if one
of my CDs becomes unplayable due to excessive use in the car, I can just 
burn a replacement copy from iTunes. As I bought the
original copy, this is entirely legal.
Jamie Adam, UK

All of my CDs are fine. It doesn't seem too much to ask for people to put 
them back in the box once they've been played. I borrow
CDs from friends and libraries, and I'm at a loss to know how people 
manage to let them get into the condition they're in.
Damian, Bristol, UK

One scratch and it's all over. That's what I find annoying about CDs. The 
CD can get scratched just from the CD player spinning it
and the movement of the CD going in and out of the player.
Sam Harrison, Grays, England

I bought a copy of Creep by Radiohead; several years later, I noticed that 
there appeared to be an oily film inside the plastic -
the disc was unplayable. Such "concern" by the record companies makes 
their attitude towards bootlegging even more laughable. They
are just waiting for the chance to reissue everything once again on yet 
another expensive format.
Graham, York, UK

I've got CDs that have rotted, no doubt the same will happen to DVDs. I 
think it's just a ploy to ensure that we continually have to
buy the same items again and again and again .... My old records are 
scratched, warped and still play (as do my tapes), even if you
do have to give them the odd jolt you only loose a small percentage of the 
overall recording not all of it and it sounds better than
CD, it's real not digital.
John Pimm, Walsall

I have a large collection of CDs which I have acquired over a 20 year 
period - they are stored vertically on shelves, but with no
particular extra care taken to prevent deterioration. So far I have had no 
trouble at all with any of them, even the cheapest, which
continue to play excellently. I look forward to enjoying them for many 
years to come!
Malcolm Thorning, Corfe Mullen, England

As digital means of storage such as mobile devices and hard disks become 
not only more pervasive but also better, integrated CDs
will be living on borrowed time. Why have hundreds or thousands of plastic 
containers cluttering up your house when you can fit your
entire collection on something the size of a credit card. You can plug 
this in the wall with a hidden sound system with wireless
comms to speaks and amplifiers and with that you have a wi-fi system that 
communicates with itself and is interchangeable with
different devices.
James, UK

I have had many problems with CDs but still find them more durable than 
vinyl ever was. Remember how easy it was to scratch a
record, or how they could warp in any heat fluctuation.
Charlie, Brighton, UK

Oh yes, no problems here. I've recently spent several weeks converting all 
my CDs to MP3 format for playing in iTunes. Every single
one of them transferred with no problems at all. Many of them are 20 years 
Nigel Goodman, UK

I have CDs I bought 15 years ago when I got my first CD player and they 
still play fine. What's more likely to be a problem is one
day CD technology will be dated and cease to exist as newer technologies 
take over and make CD redundant. The CDs might last 100
years but how likely is it that CD players will be available in 100 years?
Paul, UK

I don't have a huge collection - about 500 - but I've never had any 
problems with CDs failing to play. At least, not because of the
CD. There were several which wouldn't play on my old CD player, but a new 
player has solved that. I do look after them, though. I
never leave them lying around, and always avoid touching the surfaces of 
Will Duffay, Welling, Kent

Most of my old CDs (I stopped buying them after I realised that the sound 
quality was better on vinyl) that haven't been touched in
years are practically unplayable, whereas my old vinyl records (some of 
which are nearly 50 years old) are still playing and sound
Mark, London. UK

It's my understanding that a number of problems we have with CDs not 
playing are because player manufacturers do not follow the
stringent quality requirements defined by the CD standard. Players should 
contain all sorts of error-correction hardware and
software which should enable CDs damaged by normal wear and tear to play 
just as well. Cheaper players contain cheaper components -
you get what you pay for!
John Wingfield, London, UK

I bought my first CD player in 1988 and, when starting to import my whole 
collection into iTunes, noted that some of the early CDs
were taking 4 to 6 times as long to rip as new ones, presumably because 
the conversion process was having to re-read the CD on
encountering errors. With hindsight it was sheer good luck that I found 
this out now - a few more years and part of my collection
might have been lost.
Alastair Scott, London, United Kingdom

I have a huge CD collection and many of them are 8 or 9 years old. I have 
only ever had 1 CD skip in the player, and that is because
somebody used it as a placemat at a party; bad handling is the problem, 
not the medium. They might be tougher than vinyl but you
still have to be careful...all of my 500 strong collection are in tip top 
quality after many years as a result
Alec, London, UK

I still have a tape I bought about twenty years ago, and vinyl that my 
grandmother bought I don't know how long ago - with good care
these are still in good working order, but a good half of my CDs are 
damaged in some way. I've converted most of them to MP3, and so
my music has (mostly) survived...But I wouldn't say it's a sturdy medium 
at all.
Dan O'Brien, United Kingdom

I've had the exact opposite problem several times - trying to destroy a CD 
containing proprietary data gave me the perfect
opportunity to test their robustness. Firstly I used a paper knife to 
scratch a criss-cross pattern but it was still readable. Then
I scratched a spider-web pattern in the back of it and still managed to 
read large amounts of it. Finally I gave up on the
scratching approach and broke it into pieces....
John B, UK

When my dad bought a CD player back in the eighties, the first CD he 
bought was Bonnie Tyler. So this deterioration of CDs may not
be all bad news!
Josh, Norwich

When I first looked at a CD player in a specialist shop, the assistant 
informed me the disks were indestructible & it would be
perfectly feasible to fry an egg on one. Perhaps a slight overstatement on 
his part.
Derek Hutchinson, Newcastle GB

Ha - we lovers of vinyl will have the last laugh after all! LPs will 
always out live CDs, I can still play LPs from the 1960s and I
am sure future generations will only be able to access music from our 
generations from this 'old' medium. After all, you don't need
sophisticated electronics to play an LP, spin one on a platter with a cup 
and a needle and you will hear the contents - try doing
that with a CD!
Keith Marriott, Crewe, England

Looking at some of the garbage in my record collection it's a shame some 
of them haven't perished !
Shaun, Baildon, West Yorkshire

I have around 1000 CDs collected since the mid 1980s. I have never had a 
problem playing any of them. I think perhaps people are not
taking good care of their CDs - they were never sold as being 
indestructible. My old vinyl collection has not faired quite so well.
Music Lover, Bath, UK

Don't forget that by copying your CDs in any way you are, in some 
countries, breaking the law. It would be nice to see a guarantee
from the record companies to replace faulty discs free of charge but I 
suspect that's unlikely.
Nick, London, UK

I bought a Killing Joke CD, took it home, and eagerly got ready to listen 
to it. The CD was difficult to get out of its case though,
as the holder in the centre was extremely tight. Eventually the CD sprung 
loose but out of my grasp, and bounced off my CD player
leaving it scratched and completely unusable due to "jumping" tracks. And 
I thought 15 quid was paying for a durable alternative to
Chris, West Yorkshire

A number of my older CDs, 15-20 years old, have suffered from some kind of 
unavoidable deterioration. The 'browning' effect which at
the early stage doesn't seem to affect the playback is one. The receding 
of the aluminium layer from the centre edge and outer edge
of the disc, which certainly prevents playback is another and an effect 
where the layer of lacquer on the play side seems to "fog
over" or crystallize, again, making playback impossible. I realise that 
nothing lasts forever, but doesn't this "rotting" CD's
phenomenon just add fuel to the fire that the product is overpriced and 
therefore encourages illegal copying and file sharing
activities even further!
Darron Heath, London UK

All well and good it 'may' last a lifetime and if it doesn't you end up 
paying twice for something. Video games are subject to the
same problems and the manufacturers don't help at all, quite the opposite 
in fact with anti piracy measures.
Fat Herbert

Here's an idea - why not get your old treasured CDs transferred to vinyl. 
At least they seem to last longer than CDs!
Paul, Blackpool

Co-incidentally, I today pulled from the rack a CD by 'Swing Out Sister' 
which I noted was produced in 1983; it seemed as good as
new! I'll check some of the others now though.
Chris , London UK

Those discs that will have started to deteriorate will be early transfers 
that sounded awful anyway. As albums are cleaned up and
'remastered', not only do they sound better, but the quality control in 
the manufacturing process will have improved.
Nick, UK

I don't even bother with CDs any more. I rip music to my PC's Hard Drive 
and then back it up onto DVD+R. you can fit about 150
albums onto a recordable DVD. Obviously you have the same problems with 
DVDs deteriorating over time. However, now I only have to
worry about 7 DVDs of MP3 instead of 1000 audio CDs.
Rob, London

Initially the idea of CDs was supposed to be a robust alternative to vinyl 
and apart from CDs skipping they are still superior in
quality. However, I think the argument is irrelevant as more and more 
people will turn to downloading instead.
Oliver Davis, London

Why is it that we modern people assume that indestructibility is something 
we deserve. Nothing lasts forever - we are not invincible
and neither are the things we make. Maybe the sooner we accept this the 
quicker we will be to appreciate the benefits that our
technologies offer us!
Dave H, Bedworth, UK

So basically, they don't want us to be able to make backups of the CDs any 
more but are basically admitting that they will become
unusable, this just helps them because when your CD is broken you have to 
go and buy another one. I work in IT and have literally
thousands of CDs and it is very common for them not to work, even some 
discs that I have never taken out of the packaging before
sometimes do not work when I open them a year later. CDs were originally 
made from hardened glass and were pretty much
indestructible but in the process of making them cheaper to produce 
(without passing down the savings to the consumer, I might add)
they changed to using plastics and low quality production techniques for 
which the end consumer is not warned about or and has no
rights about at all.
Jamie Ferguson, Edinburgh and Amsterdam

I've seen many CDs deteriorate over time. Original CDs are slightly more 
durable, but CD-Rs and CD-RWs are awful. I've got disks
I've written 5 years ago that are in cases that are unreadable now. I 
doubt we'll see people buying antique copies of CDs in 50-60
years time on eBay, but vinyl will still be working fine. Ironic when you 
consider vinyl gets scraped by a needle!
David Rickard, Aylesbury, Bucks, UK

I have been a DJ for years and some of my CD singles from back in 1996 
have begun to rust around the edges. I have taken special
care of my CD collection so it is not user misuse. Luckily, the CD singles 
contain limited information and the rust has not affected
the playback. But within time, I expect the disc to become completely 
corrupted. I wonder how we stand with making copies of our own
CDs before they become unusable?
Matt Cartlidge, Stoke-on-Trent

So now I'm lead to believe that my CDs aren't going to last a life time? 
Maybe I should make a copy for safe keeping? But now with
new copy protection I can't even do that! What should we do now?
IV, London

This story backs up my complaint over CD pricing. They are priced and sold 
as buy-once products and yet they are effectively
disposables. I am having to start re-buying the first CDs I bought as many 
have started to deteriorate despite my looking after them
Karl Handy, Alcester, England

Most manufacturers nowadays add copy protection to CDs which means that 
they don't adhere to the red book standard anymore anyway.
This gives multiple problems. One is that the CDs may not play on certain 
drives, or play only with errors (let alone degrading over
time) and the other is that it is not easy to make backups in order to 
protect the music you have bought. Looks to me like the only
people losing out here are the users.
Matt Lees, Hampshire, UK

I have never believed that CDs are infallible. I have heard of rot 
affecting both CDs and Laserdiscs for sometime now and think that
the business should take this very seriously. How long before DVDs develop 
the same problem too?
Shaun Reid, South Shields

This just makes me more likely to make digital "rips" of my CDs and DVDs. 
I think the tactics of the music and film industries are
disgusting - they just want us to rebuy the same content every few years.
Anon, Bristol

It's not just CDs that have problems. One of my DVDs has messed up having 
warped around the edges. This includes the unplayed and
barely-handled bonus disc which has the same fault as the film disc. 
Clearly if DVD and CD manufacturers are advertising them as
lasting a lifetime if properly kept and they are decaying, they are 
breaking consumer laws by misadvertising products.
James Newman, UK

Touch wood I've never had a problem with a CD, and am not too worried as 
all my CDs are now on my computer, which is backed up
regularly, and my iPod, which acts as a redundant backup. But I have had a 
problem with a DVD. A copy of Sleepy Hollow which I
purchased used online turned out to have damage to the edge of the disk 
which prevented it from playing past the half-way mark. The
damage looked like tiny holes in the metal substrate all around the edge 
of the disk. Since it is impossible to back up DVDs
(legally, because of the CSS encryption, and practically, because consumer 
DVD writers have half the capacity of purchased DVDs)
this would seem to be a far more concerning problem.
Stephen West, London

So if I find one of my CD's has degraded, am I justified in downloading a 
copy of the music from the net on the assumption that I
have a license to listen to it, given that the publishers have no method 
for replacing an 'unfit for purpose' CD?
Tom Jasper, Crowthorne, UK

Contrary to what the record companies say, I have often purchased CDs that 
in spite of being handled carefully don't last a year,
let alone 20 years.
Steven, London

I fully expect my vinyl collection to outlast my CDs in terms of 
durability and longevity. The worrying thing is that many
businesses are now using CDs as a form of data backup. What happens if 
these start to deteriorate in ten years? Put the data on
Colin, Glasgow, Scotland

As a DJ I have seen a few of my discs start to perish over the years 
particularly the early cheap compilations. But my 1958 copy on
vinyl of Johnny B Goode still plays no problem. Vinyl is still King!
Steve Bowles, Windsor, UK

The comment "the compact disc is still the best format there is" really 
depends on your definition of "best" - if you're talking
about cheapest, most widely used then you're probably right. But these 
days I wouldn't trust anything (certainly not photos, etc) to
removable media - everything gets stored on my hard drive, and with the 
price of CD-R media so cheap at the moment, I make
reasonably regular write-once backups of important data to CD-R in case 
the hard drive dies.
Steve Hill, Southampton, UK

I bought my first CDs 17 years ago and they still play fine today (though 
my musical tastes have changed so they don't get played
too often). If deterioration occurs only in such a minority of cases then 
the music companies should be prepared to replace dodgy
disks free of charge. What worries me is that the ever reducing costs of 
data CDs might increase this problem - we need to know for
the sake of photographic memories etc.
Mark, Fleet, UK

I've been collecting CDs for around 17 years, and own somewhere in the 
region of 650 albums. I can honestly say that I haven't yet
seen any cases of this deterioration. I recall a story about 10+ years ago 
saying that a lot of CDs were being pressed "on the
cheap" in substandard plants, and as a result were corroding within a year 
or two of manufacture. One wonders whether the
experiences in this story are a return of that situation? Personally 
though, the only problems I've had with any CDs are with the
so-called copy protected "CDs" (which don't meet the Red Book standard and 
therefore can't legally be called Compact Discs). These
are so problematic I just refuse to buy them, despite the irritation of 
thus being prevented from listening to a number albums I'd
really like to have.
Ian, Edinburgh, UK

There is a definite difference in the deterioration of the CDs depending 
on which label they were released through - some are
perfect whilst others show extreme 'pricking'
Jon, Worcs