You could think, once a medium goes out of "mass" status, how many years until all the playback 
equipment dies and nothing new is being made? Well, when exactly? LPs haven't been a mass medium for 
almost 2 decades now. Still plenty of turntables and cartridges available and the LP medium has a 
healthy niche (some could argue more economically viable than most CD releases). How about 
cassettes? They seem to be a quicker-to-the-grave medium. CD's passed cassettes in I believe the 
early 90's. But cassettes are still a mass medium in some parts of the 3rd world. You can still buy 
a variety of cassette decks and walkmans:

Now, there's also the argument that magnetic tape and grooved disks are technologies that can be 
replicated with mid-20th century level or older technologies whereas CD playback is, well, somewhat 
akin to rocket science.

But, 5" discs got another leg with the DVD medium and they might get yet another fresh wind with 
hi-def discs. Blowing the other way is the wind of downloads and iPods -- where there are not 
physical mass media but rather computer files transmitted over the Internet and then perhaps around 
homes to media-less playback systems. I don't doubt the future is one without packaged physical mass 
media for audio and video content, but it's not all there yet and the installed and owned base of 5" 
discs is enormous (I _think_ that more CD's were sold worldwide so far than all mesaured sales of 
all LPs since 1949 -- and that's not counting the fact that there might be a 1:1 ratio or greater of 
pressed CD's to legal or illegal copies that are essentially bit-by-bit replicas). Plus, as of now 
the quality of the 5" disc media is usually better than what you can get over the ether on your 
media-less playback system (that will not be true forever, indeed hopefully not for much longer).

So bottom line, I'll give the 5" discs another 50 years of viability but I don't think they will be 
the dominant mass medium in the "first world" for too much longer -- and I think the places still 
cassette-dominant will leapfrog over the 5" disc media and go right to the over-ether media-less 
model. For what it's worth, I have a 1986 CD player that still works just fine. To my great joy, it 
was designed future-looking enough to be able to play most CDR media. The make is Teac and the price 
was not very high when I bought it as a poor college kid blowing some summer loot, so this was no 
high-grade special machine in its day. My point is, 20-year-old CD technology works fine in a modern 
context. I have no reason to believe my 2005 vintage Marantz SACD/DVD/CD player won't work in 20 
years. That would get past the 50-year-viability mark for the CD medium (introduced 1982) and I 
betcha 5" disc players will be rolling off Asian assembly lines for at least another decade, 
probably longer.

Let me just add that I think managed hard-drive-based archiving is a better idea nowadays and will 
be an ever-better idea as the storage media get cheaper, denser and hopefully more reliable.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, January 05, 2008 8:36 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] CD-R question

> At 08:11 PM 2008-01-05, John Spencer wrote:
>>Richard (and more so to Mr. Friedman),
>>Do we have any concrete expectations that CD drives will be available
>>in 50 years? Please point me to the information that guarantees that,
>>I would be happy to be reassured that CD drives will be available
>>then. I tend to be much more pessimistic about hardware/ software
>>availability given the 50-year target mentioned.
> Hi, John,
> Happy New Year!
> I think we'll be in as good or better shape playing back CDs in 50 years as we will be playing 
> back reel tapes in 35-40 years which is approx the 50-year time frame that LoC was still 
> advocating transfers to 2-track tapes.
> There are just too many, and they're not going to all break.
> As with any media, as the supply of machines dries up it's the archive's responsibility to 
> migrate/reformat before they cannot. I think we've had this discussion before <smile>.
> Cheers,
> Richard
> Richard L. Hess                   email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada       (905) 713 6733     1-877-TAPE-FIX
> Detailed contact information:
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.