Burned CD and DVD long-term viability, TV antenna reception

Week of February 5, 2006

Q: I have been copying home videos to DVD with a DVD recorder. Recently there have been reports of the purple dyes in recordable CDs deteriorating. The blank DVDs also appear to have a purple substrate. I plan on not recording over the original tapes, but could you give me any information on this potential problem? Should I recopy the disks every couple of years?

-Gary Storkamp, Minneapolis, MN

A: It is hard to say how exactly long they will last or when they will start to deteriorate as there are variables such as media brand and storage conditions. I’ve seen anecdotal reports from both sides, but the general consensus is that eventually home-recorded CDs and DVDs will fade, and recorded CDs are more vulnerable to aging and fading than recorded DVDs. I’ve never had a burned disc fail on me yet, but who knows what the future holds? It’s a good idea to save the original videotape- like yourself, that is the course I have taken myself.

As of late I’ve received a lot of correspondence on this issue. For those of you looking for a recording that is pretty much permanent, Delkin Devices’ Archival Gold CDs have a storage life of 300 years. The Delkin Archival Gold DVDs have a storage life of 100 years. Put a sticky note on the DVD case requesting the then-owner recopy it in 2106, and you can be assured your videos will be preserved for generations to come!

You can see Delkin’s Archival Gold discs at www.delkin.com.

Q: I had a Sony 27 inch TV for 20 years and it gave excellent service until it just gave up. Being loyal to Sony I bought the best Sony I could buy. To my surprise the reception is lousy. I only get half of the local stations, and I have spent money on amplified antennas to no avail.

I have an old GE TV 19 inch with a rabbit ears that gets perfect reception on all stations. I thought that in this day of technology that things got better, not worse. Is my only way out to install a unsightly roof antenna? I don’t want to spend $100.00 a month on cable or satellite TV. Any suggestions?

-Ralph Johnson, Minneapolis, MN

A: It is true that things get better as technology marches forward, but priorities change, as well. Years ago when you bought your Sony and GE TVs a much greater percentage of the population relied on the TV’s tuner to receive programming. Accordingly, the manufacturers put more care into designing and manufacturing the tuner, which accounts for your older TVs’ excellent reception.

Nowadays most of the public has cable or satellite TV so the tuner is not as important. Manufacturers have been producing lesser tuners to either lower costs, or put the money into other features.

I haven’t yet tested an amplified antenna that was any good at all, even some quite expensive ones. I’m not surprised that it did not work out for you.

As I see it you have two options, neither of which you are likely to like: installing a rooftop antenna, or biting the bullet and paying for programming via cable or satellite.

Most cable companies have a “lifeline” service which provides only the local stations- exactly as your antenna would, for $10 or so per month. Expanded services will vary per provider and region.

You can buy a DirecTV outfit for $99.00, and a matching $99 rebate makes the equipment effectively free. The DirecTV Total Choice package is only $41.99 per month and includes local channels.

My own provider for TV subscription programming is Dish Network. I’ve used Dish for almost ten years and have been continuously delighted. They offer a program called “Digital Home Advantage” with a $49 installation fee with a $49 rebate, again making the equipment and installation effectively free. The lowest-priced package is America’s Top 60 for $31.99 per month, including local channels. You can add a digital video recorder (like TiVo) for only $5 per month more.

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