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CD Longevity Misinformation Scandal

This is an archive of a controversy that embroiled the data storage community in 1998. By posting copies of original correspondence and links to articles that were available on the Web, we hoped to shed some light on the spate of misinformation in the popular press which claims that storing data in digital form, especially on CD-ROM, is a sure way to lose it. Unfortunately, the issue has not gone away since then, so this page will remain available indefinitely.

In particular, please read an email from Dr. John Van Bogart of the National Media Lab in which he expresses his dismay at the events, and says that as a result of all this, the NML has removed material from their website, and may not make other information available there in the future. [The NML Web site at has been offline for several years now, since shortly after this controversy began.] It is truly a sad day when a few people misquoting someone's research results in the loss of access to important information for everyone outside of a few government agencies.

21 Jan 1998:

1998:[] Letter from Deanna Marcum of CLIR published in the Washington Post [n.b. this page is no longer available on the CLIR Web site.]

02 Feb 1998:

Email correspondence between Deanna Marcum and John Van Bogart

  • Dr. Van Bogart has granted us permission to quote his letters.

16 Feb 1998:

"Whoops there goes another CD-ROM" article by Laura Tangley published in US News & World Report

16 Feb 1998:

(Short) []
Letter to the Editor of US News from John Van Bogart published. [This link to the April 13 1998 issue no longer works.]

19 Feb 1998:

(Full text) Letter from John Van Bogart to the Editor of US News, Laura Tangley (US News reporter), Deanna Marcum and Randy Allen of CLIR

20 Feb 1998:

09 Mar 1998:

Letter from John Van Bogart to Deanna Marcum

  • Reply from Van Bogart to 20 Feb letter from Marcum
  • Dr. Van Bogart wrote in an email on 28 April that this letter had not yet been answered.

20 Apr 1998:

"From Digits to Dust" article by Marcia Stepanek published in Business Week

  • Viewing this article online requires a "premium" subscription to Business Week Online.

21 Apr 1998:

"Open Letter to the CD Industry" from Katherine Cochrane

  • This message was emailed to about 150 people in the CD industry, and was posted to several email lists and on this website.

28 Apr 1998:

Email to Katherine Cochrane, "Update on 'Short Life Expectancy' Articles," from John Van Bogart

01 May 1998:

Email to Marcia Stepanek, "'From Digits to Dust' a Disappointment" from John Van Bogart