The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

August 06, 2007

They're doomed

If you have a large CD collection, maybe you should check some of the CDs that you bought between 1989 and 1991. Especially UK imports. Because that's what I did after I accidentally stumbled over an article that discussed data safety on compact discs. One particular type of disk degradation made me check some items in my collection, and this is what I found:

CD bronzing

These two CDs are victims of CD bronzing, a type of deterioration that occurs specifically with CDs manufactured at one particular pressing plant in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s. What happens here is that the reflective layer of the CD oxydizes (i.e., essentially rusts), rendering the CD unreadable over time. Remarkably, the two CDs above have been slowly decaying for 17 years, but still play fine. This seems to be due to proper storage, as reports on the Internet talk about unreadable CDs already about ten years ago.

Anyway, much as I hate Wikipedia, I have gathered all information that I found on this problem and written an article on CD bronzing, mostly because there is no place on the Internet that I know of where such information can be pooled safely. If you have a large CD collection and/or are interested in this matter, I suggest that you read it fast because as with anything else I have written on Wikipedia so far, it's only a matter of time until it has been defaced and/or lots of wrong details have been added.

Funny though, I remember that in the late 1980s I used to complain that the German pressings that you got in Austria always seemed to have cheaper booklets and no artwork on the CDs compared to the UK imports. Having found those two dying CDs in my collection (there may be more, but hopefully not too many), I'm actually relieved now that those UK imports were so elusive back then.

Even funnier (if perhaps somewhat disquieting), the first track on the left CD pictured above is called "Doomed", and the first words you can hear on it are "I'm doomed."

Posted by Horst on August 6, 2007 01:13 AM to books & bookkeeping | Tell-a-friend
Sandra said on August 6, 2007 07:44 AM:

Fortunately for me, in the late 1980s and early 1990s I still hated CDs, still preferred Vinyl and could not imagine that would ever change (it did).
Maybe this bronzing is just a kind of curse for those that gave in to CDs too early ;-)
Maybe you should turn to Julian "YOU GOTTA PROBLEM WITH ME" Cope, the Arch-drude: this kind of powerful curse could be his by origin.

quiddity said on August 6, 2007 06:27 PM:

Great article. And congratulations on wrangling all the relevant wikimarkup! (don't hate us because of the broken bits (there are many), but love us because of the possibilities!)

If you're curious about why there are so many apparent idiots there, see this page for a tangential explanation:

and yes, doom.

scotty said on August 11, 2007 09:56 PM:

While I was pretty much vinyl-only, I had some friends who were obsessive about obtaining the very-pricey UK imports of most releases back then -- especially in 90-91. Ugh. I shudder to think...

_Felix said on August 15, 2007 12:46 PM:

Pffft. You secretly love Wikipedia and you want to marry it.

Really, three years have passed since your rant; can't you stop badmouthing Wikipedia now? It's all about the citations, anyway, which can be checked by readers concerned with accuracy. (11 references on your CD bronzing article, nice going.) This means the veneer of uncited noise doesn't matter - particularly since vandalism is usually blatantly obvious. Well, OK, the noise is a bit annoying, but such is life - you get a huge, free, conscientious, knowledge-growing encyclopedia, with a slight scum of noise on top. It *is* like a parallel world wide web, I agree, one concerned with objectivity and seriousness (noise aside), and that's a good thing to have. Surely you admit by now that Wikipedia is a force for good and a thing that deserves to exist?

_Felix said on August 15, 2007 01:12 PM:

It's true that uncited wikipedia information can't be trusted, due to vandals, so wikipedia can't add to the number of citable articles in existence. In that limited sense it doesn't grow knowledge, admittedly, if by knowledge you meant only citable articles. It acts as a filter to collect trusted sources, and a place with a serious atmosphere in which to offer explanations, which are useful even without being completely trustworthy, since readers have some capacity for evaluating theories for themselves.

Honestly, you Germanic types and your terrible snobbery about textbook wisdom.

Sandra said on August 17, 2007 01:09 PM:

BTW, 25 years ago:
"Am 17. August 1982 liefen in dem damals dem Philips-Konzern gehörenden Polygram-Werk in Langenhagen bei Hannover die ersten serienmäßig produzierten CDs vom Förderband."

dieter said on August 17, 2007 03:13 PM:

I cannot help noticing how touchy and alert the WIKIs are...

Horst said on August 20, 2007 10:44 AM:

Exremely touchy, and also a bit paranoid, it seems.

Jann said on August 22, 2007 04:20 AM:

I don't have this problem of CD bronzing, but I did appreciate your very well written article in Wikipedia.

Regarding _Felix's statement, " Germanic types and your terrible snobbery about textbook wisdom.," I have this to say:

My family is all Germanic all the way back to before ca. 1715 when they came from a German speaking part of Europe and settled in what was to become the Pennsylvania German part of PA. It was obvious to me from about the age of three that my family historically had a love of books/love of learning, and a deep respect for books and a pride in ownership of books. A new book, whether a botany textbook, a volume of poems, or "Immensee"(Theodore W Storm), in the times when money was tight and people did without, was something to be anticipated and treasured, read over and over, learned by heart in some cases. Of course the books were expected and required to be accurate! But danged if I can see how this is snobbery...

Onno said on January 6, 2008 06:14 PM:

I found out about this problem around Summer 2004. Luckily they still had several master discs and others they remade by using damaged discs. Unfortunately I have around 30 to 40 discs that were not remade, with 2 of them that have already playback noise. A big shame the new owners stopped the PDO helpline.

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