Tuesday, April 20, 2004  [!]
From Dave Winer comes a link to this article about the new DVD format made using blue lasers. It's bigger! It's better! It'll store more! more! more! ...but it may not be backwards compatible.

Just as consumers are beginning to get comfortable with their DVD players, electronics manufacturers are set to introduce next-generation discs that store more and would be harder to copy.

[...] The new discs, which look much like DVDs, would be read by players with newly developed blue lasers, which can pick out finer detail than the red lasers used to play DVDs and CDs. This lets the new discs store three to five times as much data as a DVD, enough for high-definition movies with surround sound.

Manufacturers from both groups plan to also build red lasers into their new players, allowing them to read current DVDs.

The Blu-ray disc has the most storage capacity, up to 50 gigabytes. However, it achieves that capacity by using a structure quite different from DVDs. This means that the companies that make prerecorded DVDs would have to invest in new equipment, which is sure to give Hollywood pause as it ponders which format to back.

It's not that I don't mind more! more! more! I like the benefits of Moore's Law and higher storage capacity. (Just today I was googling for info on DVD writer market penetration. I haven't found answers to my questions. But this article tells me that "the answer" is a fleeting thing; it'll change again. The new format'll muddy up the DVD pond, which will take a while to settle.)

I'm not whining in rebellion against the inexorable "adapt or die" (well, okay, maybe I am.) I'm just pointing out how this innovation fits into a larger trend of The Great Digital Graveyard.

How long will the DVD last? What's the longevity of both the physical item, and the supporting hardware, firmware and software that can play and interpret all those luscious digital bits that fit on that physical item? I'm thinking past the product development curve (from early-adopter to widespread use to obscurity as something better takes its place) to what's going to be around a generation from now. This isn't just about DVD, but about storage media as a whole. Stewart Brand's book, The Clock of the Long Now first brought this matter to my attention.

Thanks to the pace of innovation and invention, we will lose more data faster thanks to so many innovate storage formats coming onto the market and then dying a quick death. The Long Now foundation discusses longevity:

"It is only slightly facetious," wrote RAND researcher Jeff Rothenberg in Scientific American, "to say that digital information lasts forever--or five years, whichever comes first."
At an audio restoration workshop a few months ago, I got a tour through the past century's obsolete audio storage formats:

audio graveyard:

Pity the poor archivist who needs to take care of a collection of materials that were made using The Way Cool Media Format that is now so four decades ago. If it took the better part of a century to generate an audio-storage format graveyard of moderate size (albeit formidable for the archivist), what kind of digital graveyard have we been creating in the last couple of decades? DVD blue may be cool, but this reality-check from the future is the other side to innovation.

Related note: FAQ about the new, higher-density MiniDisc format (HD MD) introduced by Sony in Jan 2004. New HD MD recorders should be arriving in May. (I've started using MiniDisc for audio recording).

4/20/04; 7:45:59 PM | GeekTech | Discuss | # | |

Wonderful Fark photoshop contest. [via Al]

4/20/04; 12:56:47 AM | Giggles | Discuss | # | |