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How long does a compact disc last?

Most compact discs are made from a sturdy polycarbonate plastic, and the data they store is contained in the microscopic impressions on the plastic – not only in the reflective metallic layer that coats it. As a result, correctly manufactured optical media discs have an expected working life in the order of several decades, if not centuries. But sometimes things go wrong, and it’s not clear that the projections used to estimate the lifespan of optical media will be proven accurate by the only important test: time. Image by Hutschi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

How long does it take for a CD to stop working? To decompose completely? Participants talk glitches, guarantees and the projected shelf-life of a standard audio disc:

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