ZIFFPAGE TITLEIs Something Rotten

By Don Labriola  |  Posted 2004-05-11 Print this article Print

Is Something Rotten? Similar to the "laser rot" that cropped up in some early laserdiscs, DVD rot makes discs unplayable by impairing the ability of their aluminum layer to reflect light. Its most likely causes include oxidation caused by air coming into contact with the reflective layer, a galvanic reaction between a dual-layer discs gold and aluminum coatings, and a chemical reaction triggered by impurities in either the discs adhesive or in the aluminum itself. The good news is that although the aluminum coatings of a small percentage of discs manufactured before 2001 have slowly deteriorated spontaneously, the vast majority of reported cases of DVD rot have been shown to be due to user mishandling. In a February 2003 study, Australian engineer Rohan Byrnes generated photographic evidence of aluminum deterioration in the unplayable areas of several affected discs (www.andraste.org/discfault/discfault.htm). This triggered an alarming article in a Sydney newspaper that extrapolated Byrnes findings to conclude that a huge number of discs would eventually rot away (www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/01/31/1043804519345.html)–a story that has since grown into an urban legend, which still periodically inspires headlines in mainstream news venues.
Most observers agree that real cases of DVD rot do exist but are probably limited to discs from a few plants that had quality control problems in the late 1990s. Fortunately, there seem to be no new cases, and Byrnes hasnt found problems with new discs. Also, DVD rot doesnt affect recordable or rewritable DVD media, which use a radically different dye-based technology to store data.


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