Old CDs Never Die, But They Can Fade Away

Remember, back in the day, when you made mixtapes of your favorite music for parties, for the car, or for those romantic evenings? No? Ah, then you missed out, dear reader, in my humble opinion. If not actual tapes, then maybe CDs? Chances are those CDs from the 90's may only be a shadow of their former selves - they may not play at all now. But wait you say, wasn't one of the promises of this new digital technology that you could make non-degrading copies, and that there was nothing to wear out your CDs - no stylus, no magnetic head siding across thin tape? Well, yes...and no.

The digital recordings are robust enough, but the media - the CDs themselves - are starting to fade, to oxidize and to otherwise deteriorate over time. This is not so evident on purchased CD albums, but on self-recorded CDs it's a different story.

There are all kinds of forces that accelerate CD aging in real time. Eventually, many discs show signs of edge rot, which happens as oxygen seeps through a disc's layers. Some CDs begin a deterioration process called bronzing, which is corrosion that worsens with exposure to various pollutants. The lasers in devices used to burn or even play a CD can also affect its longevity.

Then there's the wear and tear that's more in line with what you'd probably expect to happen over time—like scratches and exposure to extreme temperatures.
Despite the rather depressing thought that your glorious mixes may be lost to eternity, the amount of music available online (in usually decent quality) is pretty astonishing these day - so don't feel too bad, or even desperately try to salvage you old CDs.  

At least the music never dies....


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