Some years back when my grandfather passed away at age 93, my mother came to me with a very old document that had been found in his effects. It was clear that this document assigned to my granddad oil and mineral rights to a certain piece of property, and we were eager to see what that was about.

There were problems, however. The document, which seemed to be typed on some kind of parchment, had degraded to the point where we could not determine the location of the property, nor could we see the name of the company that had assigned the rights.

Unfortunately, there were no clues to aid in answering either question among his other belongings and, reluctantly, we gave up on ever finding out. What a shame that such an important document could not be read or used because it had faded poorly over the years.

The problem of degradation, however, may soon become, literally, a thing of the past.  According to an item on Yahoo! Tech, a company called Cranberry has developed a product called DiamonDisc, which is said to maintain its integrity and readability for 1,000 years. Some of you may remember that most optical media, such asCDs, DVDs and the like tend to degrade after 10 years of use, especially if they are exposed to sunlight or other forms of radiation. Originally, optical disc media makers said their products would hold up for 100 years—and they probably will if lightly used and cared for perfectly.

The Cranberry technology works by getting rid of anything in the disc that can physically break down, the Yahoo! item notes. By removing dyes, adhesives and reflective materials, a DiamonDisc is completely transparent, lacking the shimmery reflection you get with a standard disc. Special hardware is required to create a DiamonDisc, but the discs can, subsequently, be read on any drive that reads DVDs. The price, however, is high, with a single disc selling for $35, and the burner currently going for $5,000.

Only time will tell if this technology—a natural for archiving—will catch on, but I can see it having some interesting uses for insurance, especially life insurance. Life policies that remain unpaid even hundreds of years after the insured is deceased could easily be resurrected, and payments could be claimed. For more everyday use, records of health and property/casualty information “permanently” saved on such discs would be a valuable resource for insurers and insureds alike, representing a fast and convenient way to determine dual coverages and the like.

I wasn’t able to determine whether or not these discs are rewritable, but my suspicion is that they are not. Then there’s always the possibility that some heretofore-unknown factor will cause these discs to degrade anyway. That said, however, any technology that can truly preserve data for that long deserves our attention.

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