A new article published by Tedium explores the strange phenomenon of “disc rot,” the process by which CDs and DVDs slowly decay over time. It’s a nightmarish story for digital archivists and collectors of optical media, many of whom have begun to notice tiny dots or discolorations on their old discs.
Far from innocuous, these seemingly random marks are signs of decay that affect how discs play and, in the worst cases, render them completely unplayable.
Originally noticed by laser-disc collectors way back in the 1980s, “disc rot” (or “laser rot,” as they called it back then) may be the result of gradual chemical corrosion or manufacturing practices that failed to account for long-term durability. This would be a huge problem for any media format, but it’s especially ironic considering how CDs and DVDs were sold to consumers as highly resistant to wear and damage.
In any case, you might want to go back and check your old CD collection. As the original story points out, one blogger reported finding traces of disc rot on several factory-sealed video games. Gah!
Vinyl’s resurgence couldn’t have happened at a better time.