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CD Myths 

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To the editors:

Cecil Adams's May 12, 1989 column discussing possible deterioration of compact discs reflects inadequate research and helps to perpetuate a new, high technology myth--the disintegrating disc.

This whole business began when a Nimbus spokesman stated, about a year ago, that some CDs had shown fatal deterioration because of contamination by ink applied as part of the labeling process. Both serious audio magazines and Nimbus itself quickly concluded that a type of ink used in producing a small batch of CDs had indeed leaked through the lacquer covering with disastrous results. Following the publicizing of this incident, all CD manufacturers indicated that they had not used this type of ink nor would they in future.

Despite the quick response of the industry, the scare was on! Over the past year virtually every audio magazine has published letters from concerned consumers and responded with detailed information which should have, but apparently hasn't, put the matter to rest.

With a CD collection approaching 1500, I was initially concerned. I have no technical background whatsoever but I have the lawyer's typical penchant for ferreting out information so I contacted several university-based metallurgists, none of whom had any ties to the CD industry. I learned that minimal edge oxidation occurs with most sealed aluminum products but that such oxidation was 1) self-sealing and 2) measured in something called "angstroms," a unit of measurement so small as to require its own terms of definition. All three of my experts concurred in the opinion that if a disc was properly manufactured, minimal normal edge oxidation would in no way shorten the service life of the disc.

You also state in your article that CDs may be ticking bombs because of the error correcting quality of CD players. I believe the data available indicates that defective CDs announce their problems with initial playings and badly produced CDs get neither better nor worse.

One final point. You advise consumers to purchase their discs "from reputable manufacturers." Most CDs are purchased from retail outlets which, understandably, stock mainstream manufacturer products in the main. Your caution may dissuade readers from mail ordering from many of the struggling independent producers who offer unusual catalogue selections of often fascinating but little known music. These "indies" have their discs manufactured by the majors but there is no indication of that in their catalogues.

I own no stock in any CD company but I love music and CDs are the best thing to come along since Edison first began experimenting with recording. It would be a shame if consumers were deterred from acquiring this marvelous sound carrier because of erroneous information and baseless fears.

Ralph Michael Stein
Professor of Law
Pace University
White Plains, New York

Cecil Adams replies:

Admittedly the risk of CD rot is small. However, like any journalist, I feel it is my duty to goose the paranoia quotient whenever the opportunity arises.

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