Modern music would not be what it is without the CD. These shiny, colorful, and virtually indestructable discs have become as common (and as revered) in most american homes as toilet paper. Until the ipod came along CD was the only way to go.
I say CDs are nearly indestructible because we all know that they can be scratched. If you don’t take care of them, they will eventually become unreadable by the cd player. This morning i was in the process of ripping my favorite cds to my computer. I recently made the jump from PC to MAC and with the new ACC compression (which is higher quality, smaller sized files) i wanted to start fresh (my collection was previously in MP3 format.) Sadly, i’ve discovered that my confidence in CD’s wasn’t as well founded as i thought.
I found that quite a few of my cds have become the victims of ‘cd rot,’ a process that occurs when the metalic layer inside the disc is exposed to air, causing the aluminum to oxidize. Bummer. Basically, all that work trying to keep the shiny side from being scratched was usless because the discs have been ruined from the label side. In researching this problem i’ve found that there are different theories and even fanatics on each side of the debate about what the problem really is (big surprise there).
Here’s the best that i can figure. Stacking CDs disc to disc (without putting them in a case) will scratch the data side of the disc. But that’s not the problem. The data side (the side without the label) was designed to withstand as much scratching as possible. However, the label side wasn’t. You are, in reality, scratching both sides of the disc. When the label side is scratched it sometimes allows air to penetrate and oxidized the aluminum underneath…which will cause errors and sometimes make the cd unplayable. In looking through my collection i’ve found several damaged discs, and a couple of those are serious enough that certain songs won’t play at all. Most of the cds are older ones (it seems that quality has gotten a bit better recently).
In order to do your best to save your CDs, follow a few common sense rules. Store the discs in their cases, don’t stack them disc to disc, and if possible wipe both sides with a disc with a clean cloth occasionally (to remove abrasive dust). Another helpful move is to archive your collection digitally. Rip the cds to MP3 (mac or pc) or M4A files (mac) and put them on CD-R discs. A CD-R disc will hold fifteen CDs worth of MP3 files. Then, even if your discs are damaged, you’ll have acess to the music (even with the debate on MP3 and digital music files, there is nothing wrong with burning a new copy of a CD you already own, if the new CD is for personal use.)
In thinking about this problem i’ve come to the inevitable parallels to our lives. Often i think that we heavily armor one side of life, in order to make our stands against the world. In my life i’ve found that most of the things that really penetrate my defenses have penetrated from the side that wasn’t protected. Just like we don’t expect CDs to scratch through the label, we don’t expect trial to come through certain aspects of our lives. We expect to be hit from the front–from the world. Not from behind. Not from our friends. Not from our churches. Often these problems happen unnoticed and slowly begin to rot away at the parts of our lives that we should protect. In my life it has often started with small offense that i’ve taken with something someone said, or did. Unchecked it can eat away and destroy us from the inside.
Enough of my moralizing. Y’all get the idea. There are dozens of examples of ways that rot can creep into our lives and minds. The good news is that, although a rotted cd is pretty much a lost cause, we can do something about the rot in our lives. We can deal with it, ask for forgiveness, and find healing.