Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Data Preservation and How Ancient Egypt Got It Right

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the keep-buying-the-white-album dept.

Data Storage 313

storagedude writes to tell us that a storage geek has an interesting article on why ancient Egyptians were better than us at data preservation — and what we need to do to get caught up. "After rocks, the human race moved on to writing on animal skins and papyrus, which were faster at recording but didn't last nearly as long. Paper and printing presses were even faster, but also deteriorated more quickly. Starting to see a pattern? And now we have digital records, which might last a decade before becoming obsolete. Recording and handing down history thus becomes an increasingly daunting task, as each generation of media must be migrated to the next at a faster and faster rate, or we risk losing vital records."

cancel ×

313 comments

Importance of information? (5, Interesting)

ddrueding80 (1091191) | more than 5 years ago | (#27364879)

As recording things became easier, more things were recorded. At some point we began recording things that no-one will ever care about, and now keep things recorded that we didn't even know were recorded (care to see my router logs?). The less significant something is, the less we need to worry about preserving it. Of course, there are things worth preserving, but most of it just isn't.

Nice try at first post, newcomer... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27364929)

...but try reading the rules of ettequite [cowtax.com] before you do it!!

Re:Nice try at first post, newcomer... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365189)

Where are the mods?

Mod Parent Down!

Re:Importance of information? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365219)

The problem is, you don't necessarily know NOW which things will be worth preserving.

Re:Importance of information? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365251)

As recording things became easier, more things were recorded. At some point we began recording things that no-one will ever care about

Like the size of my penis :(

Re:Importance of information? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365329)

The less significant something is, the less we need to worry about preserving it.

Which means we don't need to worry about preserving anything. Seriously, there is not a single bit of information that *needs* to be recorded and kept in tact for hundreds or thousands of years. People over-exaggerate the importance of knowledge, historical records, etc. Too many people like to think that what goes on in our world today is relevant or necessary for future generations to have.

Mankind is such a small, insignificant part of the universe. We could be wiped out, along with all our irrelevant records, and the world and/or universe would continue on without us. Mankind != important in the grand scheme of things, thus nothing we produce is all that important either.

Re:Importance of information? (1)

evolx10 (679412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365473)

I usually get the weird look when i say things like this.

Re:Importance of information? (4, Insightful)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365631)

Mankind != important in the grand scheme of things, thus nothing we produce is all that important either.

That is more than likely true, but in the the grand scheme of mankind, mankind is the most important thing. So yes, the universe will continue on, but what the grand majority of people are truly concerned about is mankind, and preserving our history is a uniquely interesting aspect of advancing mankind.

Legal Requirements (5, Informative)

DotNM (737979) | more than 5 years ago | (#27364893)

A lot of data retention is because of legal requirements. At the bank I work at, we're required to keep *everything* for at least seven years - all our emails are archived, instant messenger communications, etc.

Re:Legal Requirements (2, Funny)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365181)

A lot of data retention is because of legal requirements. At the bank I work at, we're required to keep *everything* for at least seven years - all our emails are archived, instant messenger communications, etc.

As society gets larger and dehumanized, soon that'll be all we have.

It doesn't matter, whether you lived in a house for 30 years and all the neighbors know you. If you don't have a piece of paper with a stamp on it, it doesn't matter. One Thursday, you'll see Yellow in the bathroom mirror.

Re:Legal Requirements (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365449)

A lot of data retention is because of legal requirements.

Well, it's for lots of requirements really. Pretty much wherever information can be useful for more than real-time decision making, you'll see archiving.

Nothing new in this story. Peter Quinn made a much more interesting case when he spoke of Sovereignty in the context of citizen's own rights of access to their historical records, and the onus on governments to preserve that data in a format that belongs to the people (i.e., a non-proprietary format).

Thank Goodness for ASCII Art (4, Funny)

syntap (242090) | more than 5 years ago | (#27364905)

I don't know of any other way to preserve our pr0n on rocks.

Re:Thank Goodness for ASCII Art (5, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365433)

Statues?

Even better: it is actually 3D.

Re:Thank Goodness for ASCII Art (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365487)

I don't know of any other way to preserve our pr0n on rocks.

What about this way [wikipedia.org] .

So write it on rocks (1, Interesting)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 5 years ago | (#27364935)

Etch barcodes into rocks.

Re:So write it on rocks (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365039)

Close.

I was thinking of a pressed CDROM made of pure platinum because it wont corrode. Expensive per byte; sure. How much is your data worth however?

Another idea is to encode data in DNA sequences spliced into the human genome. I'm not sure if there's a reliable algorithm that can read passed all of the mutations after X amount of generations into the future however.

Re:So write it on rocks (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365111)

I think I speak for all of us when I say I do not want other people's files telling my cells what to do.

Re:So write it on rocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365141)

Agua Regia.

I dissolve your records, and the scientologist's too!

Re:So write it on rocks (1)

evolx10 (679412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365541)

and then precipitate them out for a profit!!!

Re:So write it on rocks (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365259)

> How much is your data worth however?

Fuck all. I mean, no, alright, I backup stuff onto hard drives and dvds, but that's pennies. I don't need platinum. Noone alive today will be alive in even 100 years (with very few exceptions). They'll figure out the important stuff, and if they don't..fffft, whatever.

No, this is 2009 (4, Funny)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365055)

Etch barcodes into rocks.

We Lenny them into rocks.

Re:No, this is 2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365267)

Have you ever had a moment where you stop, sit back and realize what a humongous nerd you are?

This post prompted one of those moments for me :<

no they don't. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27364963)

AS technology changes, so will the format of the data.
Sure, in days of yore, before everyone had hard drives, and data cluster, certain technologies would become obsolete and reader would go away. Those days are gone.

As everything moves to the 'cloud' the data will be stored forever.
well, OK, until something happens that destroys all the 'nodes' that are housing data.

Re:no they don't. (4, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365113)

you don't have to destroy the nodes. Destroy the power plants, and the cloud evaporates.

  The North east blackout of 2003 showed us. In a blink all of our data retention methods fail. Portable generators won't last long enough.

what is needed is two things. a way to store electricity that isn't chemical(battery), and multiple methods of power generation. So we aren't dependent on any one source. Local power storage and generation(Heck even 5kw on the roof of your home will pay for your air conditioning) will take the burden off the power grid. and then the cloud can still be up there.

Also storage on the cloud? are companies really that stupid? Clouds can be seen by everyone there won't be any truly secure cloud storage.

All the nodes... (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365151)

You mean like "all the nodes" [slashdot.org] that stored WebHostingTalk's data? "All the nodes" [slashdot.org] that were hosting Ma.gnolia bookmarks? "All the nodes" [slashdot.org] running Journalspace?

In the cloud, you can't tell who's a dog. I was stunned at every one of these events, which was totally preventable. But I read everything I could about each one, in order to be sure to avoid their mistakes.

You've got to ask the hard questions about how your data is being handled when you entrust it to somebody in the cloud.

Re:no they don't. (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365741)

As everything moves to the 'cloud' the data will be stored forever. well, OK, until something happens that destroys all the 'nodes' that are housing data.

I can see it now. Researchers, historians and authors who relied on hand-written letters written home by soldiers in the Civil War, for example, now have it easy. Instead of painstakingly sifting through carefully maintained archives, they can just use Yahoo! and Gmail to do the same for their new book on Iraq. For everything else, they can Google like everyone else.

Oh, wait ...

One of the themes in Orwell's book concerned itself with the loss of history. Setting aside Dick Cheney trying to rewrite current history or the White House email fiasco, it should be obvious there's a price to be paid for assumptions like "No worries, mate. It's in the cloud." or worse, "We're too busy with the new stuff to pay attention to the old stuff."

"Got it right"? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27364979)

I'm not sure if they "got it right". After a few thousand years we have yet to agree on what they were even writing.

Re:"Got it right"? (2, Funny)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365163)

M Khan is bent?

Preserving gibberish (5, Informative)

spacefiddle (620205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27364993)

Interesting, TFA goes on about strategies for making sure stuff lasts. But he even touches on the more interesting facet of this briefly - no one can read the damn Hieroglyphs any more, so what does it matter that it lasted 4000 years?

What is more interesting to me is a way to cheaply, efficiently, include a sort of Rosetta Stone along with archival data meant for long-term storage. Hell, even the devices themselves... he talks at the end a bit about format issues, frex. Some kind of key to the interface or logic needed to reconstruct the method of reading the medium..? Anyone got a wax cylander lying around? If you ran across one, how long would it take you to be able to hear what was on it - and what're the odds of you damaging it in the process, especially if you had to dig up schematics and build a player yourself..?

Re:Preserving gibberish (2, Funny)

feyhunde (700477) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365045)

Well from what I learned on Tech TV it's really easy to break... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4GYg-5AdRw [youtube.com]

Re:Preserving gibberish (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365361)

Well from what I learned on Tech TV it's really easy to break...

Most people today wouldn't even understand Shakespeare [suite101.com] . You may get the words right, but you don't have the cultural background to understand much deeper.

Re:Preserving gibberish (2, Informative)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365289)

no one can read the damn Hieroglyphs any more

I thought we (or at least some people) can - thanks to a thing called the...?

Rosetta Stone

Correct. You win an internet.

Perhaps my irony meter is due for a service, but I get the impression that whoever wrote the slashvertisment^H^H^H^H^H article didn't know that either, though it uses the word "Rosetta" at least fifteen times per sentence.

Re:Preserving gibberish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365377)

If you ran across one, how long would it take you to be able to hear what was on it - and what're the odds of you damaging it in the process, especially if you had to dig up schematics and build a player yourself..?

Meh, stuff like that is easy. Point a laser at it and you can basically generate a damn close to 100% accurate 3D map of it (accurate enough to get at the original data). Then you have a pure digital copy to do whatever the hell you want with.

What people don't seem to get is that as we become more technologically advanced it actually becomes easier to decode that old stuff. Sure, it's not always something someone could do with a soldering iron in their garage but it's still way easier than it was when the original was made.

Now it's important to know how the information is stored (ie. the design). That's the really important part, not whether or not we have the technology to get the information.

Re:Preserving gibberish (3, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365527)

The Rosetta Disk [rosettaproject.org] has spiraling text that gets smaller and smaller, telling you implicitly that what you need is a magnifier. It doesn't explain how to build a microscope, though.

Gibberish partially decoded (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365771)

no one can read the damn Hieroglyphs any more, so what does it matter that it lasted 4000 years?

Actually, I can read some Hieroglyphics. For example, the ones in the article's picture refer to something about "DVMCAIIXV takethdown notyce for CovpyriGt Infrryngemynt" or something like that.

At the bottom it is signed by the "RIVV".

History is all we have (1)

Magreger_V (1441121) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365005)

When we are born the only thing we know how to do is suck on a tit. We must continually pass down the information from one generation to the next or it will be lost forever. We had better find a way to permanently store our history or we will lose everything our for-fathers have worked for.

Re:History is all we have (1)

mokus000 (1491841) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365293)

Permanent data storage is the last thing we need. If we had all the most important knowledge according to the ancient egyptians, how much of it do you think we'd use?

We *do* have all the most important knowledge of many pretty old civilizations, and the vast majority of us call the vast majority of it rubbish, and call the ones who don't "religious extremists".

If you really think our most important knowledge won't suffer the same fate in 4,000 years, I think you're seriously mistaken.

Many Fragile vs. Few Solid (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365009)

Why would a future generation want to read about me? Why ruin a perfectly good rock with a biography? ;)

Actually it's an interesting topic. On the other hand, we have a lot of backups now. We are much more efficient at producing a backup now. It's a tradeoff of producing many copies quickly or few copies that last for a long time (i.e., a chunk of rock).

Seems that the more copies you have, the easier it is to retain them through history... proliferation as opposed to preservation.

In other words: offsite [reliable] backups.

What a load of rubbish (4, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365013)

Seriously what a piece of complete and utter rubbish. From Ancient Egypt we have an extremely limited set of information because stone tablets crack and they aren't exactly the most portable things in the world. Go through to the Romans and paper, and the Chinese and you are seeing massively more information become available down the centuries. Zoom forwards into the 14th Century and we have a massively detailed view of what life was like which becomes more and more detailed as time goes by. The key here is detail, the amount of information in Ancient Egypt was huge, probably comparable to today, but the amount that was etched onto pyramids was tiny and quite a lot of that didn't survive anyway.

The key things that future historians need are prime sources and one thing that the internet is massively impressive at is the duplication of information and the avoidance of redundancy. Stone is rubbish for this, no-one bothers making copies so you lose the original and you lose everything.

Printing introduced simpler copies which meant that the information was more likely to survive down the years. With modern digital technology this increases still further. It is ridiculous to claim that digitally we won't have more information about the major events and people of today which is available in 400 years. We will have more CRAP available in 400 years (blogs, twitter, Slashdot) than any generation of historians have had to wade through.

Digital technology makes accurate duplication simple and that is the most powerful way to make sure information survives. Wikileaks is the embodiment of that view. The issue is that there is now SO MUCH CRAP that the issue for future historians will be in wading through all of the blog posts of "Obama is a Muslim" to find out that in fact he wasn't.

A rubbish supposition which is massively undermined by every time there is a censorship case the plea to "mirror the information".

Some information will be lost but the amount that will survive is miles higher than the amount of information that survived from Ancient Egypt. For instance its amazing to Bible Literalists that NOT ONCE in their SIX THOUSAND YEARS OF RECORDED HISTORY did the ancient Egyptians ever mention all getting drowned in a global flood... and you'd have thought they'd have noticed that.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365183)

It's amazing to Bible Literalists?

I think the prevailing view among Bible literalists is that the Egyptian histories don't make a whole lot of mentions of [other] embarrassing "war" losses. "2 million Hebrew slaves walked out of Egypt, across the Red Sea. We followed them after we changed our mind about letting them go. We drove our chariots through the Red Sea pathway and it closed on us, killing us all."

Ancient civilizations didn't seem to particularly like those parts of their history that they thought were embarrassing, and conveniently left them out. Call it a national reporter bias. Especially since, if you didn't have the national reporter bias, someone like the Pharaoh would kill you.

Incidentally, I'm not sure what Egyptians would be around to write about getting killed in a global flood. Who recorded that? According to the Biblical record, no Egyptians went on the Ark.

Re:What a load of rubbish (2, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365343)

Lol I like this stunning bit of logic. 'no egyptians went on the ark' suggesting that ALL egyptians died. Awesome! That means the Egyptians of today are either fake or zombies. I vote for option 2.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365417)

Yes, obviously I was trying to say that there are no live Egyptians in the world.

Or maybe I'm saying that (1) Bible literalists aren't as stupid to think that Egyptian history would necessarily record a global flood and (2) Egyptian civilization would live through a global flood. Maybe Bible literalists don't date the flood right in the middle of Egyptian civilization (which, according to wikipedia, "The civilization began around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh, and it developed over the next three millennia.") and presume that the flood was just a minor blip and Egyptian civ continued like before after a little rebuilding. Or something like that?

Re:What a load of rubbish (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365797)

Sigh... The global flood of Noah and the Ark would have pre-dated Egyptian history altogether. After the flood, some of Noah's descendants wandered to the Nile delta and founded the land of Egypt. It wouldn't have been until thousands of years later that they enslaved the Israelites and chased them through the Red Sea. The Flood and the drowning of the Egyptian army are two separate events.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365853)

I realize that. Neither one is recorded in Egyptian history, hence me referencing the second also-embarrassing event. I believe it is Ham that is presumably responsible for Egypt? I forget, though.

Re:What a load of rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365563)

If the Biblical narrative is to be believed, all mankind except for Noah and his family was destroyed in the flood. The Egyptians would then be decendents of Noah.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

peterjb31 (1108781) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365347)

Its interesting that recently references were found to a Pharaoh who changed Egyptian culture completely to Worshiping a monotheistic God (which was embodied by the son). After his death they reverted to Polytheism. Both the monotheistic Pharaoh and the one before him seem to have etched out of history.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

jfruhlinger (470035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365425)

This is not a recent discovery; you're talking about Amenhotep IV, aka Akhnaten [wikipedia.org] , and his place in Egyptian history has been well understood for centuries. Freud went so far as to theorize that Moses was actually a disgruntled Egyptian follower of Aknaten [wikipedia.org] who left the country when the traditional Egyptian religion was restored.

And by the way, Akhnaten's God was embodied by the sun, not the son. The pun only works in English, which the Egyptians, you know, didn't speak.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365443)

That was Akhenaten [wikipedia.org] . Strangely (or not so strangely), people like Freud proposed that his creation of a monotheistic religion (worshiping Aten) probably was the root of Moses/Judaism. Apparently, everyone's history except the Hebrews' history is a viable option. Jews must have been lying throughout history, but Egyptian history is likely very accurate...

Hm.

Re:What a load of rubbish (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365491)

Both the monotheistic Pharaoh and the one before him seem to have etched out of history.

[citation needed]

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

Komi (89040) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365297)

Kind of a twist on "I've forgotten more than you'll ever know."

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365353)

And yet if you look at other cultures you will discover that there is a prevalence of a "flood myth" that would tend to indicate that a very large catestrophe happened a long time ago. When? Nobody really knows, but it is nearly a dead certanity that there was a big disaster that wiped out a lot of the planet a long time ago.

Of course, the dates proposed by people trying to take it from the Bible are nonsense. But that is nearly irrelevent. The point is there was almost certainly soemthing that was interpreted by humans over most of the planet as "a big flood".

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

evolx10 (679412) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365821)

survey says!!!. Baby Asteroid.
or just year after year of varying floods, some absolutely worse than ever remembered (N Dakota!--) , after generations of someone telling a story that their grandfather told of the big flood,

comeon man, there were no pipes, most civilization lived near rivers or water, give it time and a general myth or story or whatever will develop around the "flood that no one now alive saw", but we retell it to the new Gen who will further butcher it, then someone seeking social control will incorporate it into a religion.

Re:What a load of rubbish (1)

Al Al Cool J (234559) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365483)

The ancient Egyptians had very detailed records of the great flood, carved into stone. Unfortunately they sank.

Re:What a load of rubbish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365711)

In the Ancient Egypt the people understod that "Picture can tell more than thousand words".

Thats why they used the images as words. You could easily tell complex story with few picture. You did not need to explain every small thing, because the meaning was the important and you needed to use your own brains to actually understand what images were telling.

Like in example:

"the Desert is hot place".
That you could write down just with two images.

And as a wisdom, you could understand that correctly in different context that means "There is other places that ain't so hot as Desert".

Current time civilians does not usually know how to use their own knowledge to fill empty parts of the meaning what someone has wrote.
Few scrolls of hieroglyph writing can tell longer story than same amount of paper wroted with english or other language.

Like Chinese, you have over 80 000 markings and usually it is needed 6000-8000 to speak/read well Chinese. But, when one image means a complete word or even a whole wisdom, you can write very short messages and still manage to get the whole story on it. The writing just ain't so fast and reading can bring few problems if you have not ever seen the mark, but you can actually understand it still if it is similar for other.

Currently humankind creates just too much information what actually ain't important to store.
The problem is that we do not anymore actually even know what information is such, that it is vital to be stored and what could be deleted after few days.

And in this modern time, not all can write and read but still they manage to store information between generations. And because so many can write and read stuff on Internet, we end up to situation that the truth is just hided under so many layers of propaganda and lies that it is so impossible to know what is important.

They did? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365061)

If it wasn't for the lucky find and preservation of the Rosetta stone, how long would it have taken us to decipher Egyptian hierogylphics? Not exactly an open standard...

Vital records? (4, Insightful)

edcheevy (1160545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365075)

I know nothing about the field of data preservation, but is there a Darwinian pruning of data that occurs? Do we really need to keep copies of ALL of our data for thousands of years, or do the truly "vital" emails/books/stone tablets have a much greater lifespan because they have actual value?

Re:Vital records? (3, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365615)

Value is, pardon the phrase, a value judgment. We can only guess what historians of a thousand years from now will consider important.

Free flow of information better than rocks (2, Interesting)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365083)

Yea, rocks don't need backups, but very few people could read them, and even less could 'etch' them.

I think the unprecedented decentralization and free flow of information of our time is far superior, even if the media we use is much less durable.

On the issue of formats he makes a very valid point tho. All we can do is support open formats and hope others follow our example so they gain momentum and become widespread and long lived.

Re:Free flow of information better than rocks (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365547)

Yea, rocks don't need backups

It is possible to erase them [wikipedia.org]

Another case of wrong problem? (5, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365117)

This is another case of only seeing part of the problem. Data preservation is easy. The problem is, we generate massive amounts of data. Data doesn't have an expiration date. It doesn't automatically categorize itself, know its own relevance, or volunteer itself for tasks. See, the vast majority of "data" floating around can be safely discarded. Do you really need an ethernet sniff log of everything you've done on the internet over the past ten years? The government might want a copy, but chances are pretty good its just as useless to them as you. How about those four (broken) copies of that mp3 you downloaded from Shareaza? Or outdated installers of software? Is there a reason to keep around those Netware 3.12 floppies (besides impressing other old farts)?

The problem isn't preserving data, it's knowing when to let it go. We have many, many, many methods of data preservation. We are drowning in information. The internet is generating petabytes worth of data every day, and only the smallest fraction of that really has any reuse value. And most of that, in six months, or a few years, probably not. What we need is better methods of sorting data, and ways to expire data safely.

Also, we also need control over our data. Corporations have been trying to take that away now for years. You don't need a copy of our software that can run on any computer, we're going to mung it up so it only runs on one computer, and if you have to reinstall the operating system or change the video card or anything else, that copy will cease to work. An irony, really -- because I know plenty of people that love playing old video games whose manufacturers long ago gave up on, but won't release the copyright for. Fifty years from now, I doubt a single copy of the game will still exist -- the concept, maybe. But it will have died and yet someone will still own the copyright and think money could be made off it. When we buy a chunk of data, we need to be able to control it, not just use it in some narrowly-defined way. Because otherwise, what's the point of data preservation in the first place? To stockpile more useless data that -- even worse, holding onto could be a liability to you?

Re:Another case of wrong problem? (1)

spydabyte (1032538) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365531)

I agreed with you up until

We are drowning in information.

I'd beg to differ, I think we don't have enough, we've only touched the surface, and we don't share enough. That's two great things about computing:
1. Everything is information.
2. The internet is designed for copying.

I mean, think about it. Ever since a repeater was invented, we've been copying information.

On a related topic, I enjoyed Tim Berners' talk on what he's calling "Linked Data" [ted.com] , even if I don't agree with his method.

Ancient egyptians had bad data preservation too. (4, Insightful)

Rufty (37223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365131)

I'd show you some examples, but they kinda fell to pieces sometime around 200BC. What we have left is the stuff that preserves well.

Re:Ancient egyptians had bad data preservation too (1)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365247)

What we have left is the stuff that preserves well.

Totally agree. Those supermarket plastic bags with a half-life of 50,000 years bare important messages for distant generations. And you know they're going to misinterpret the purpose of our junk and come up with weird theories to explain why we were so polite.

Re:Ancient egyptians had bad data preservation too (1)

djp928 (516044) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365395)

Since when does plastic have a half-life?

Re:Ancient egyptians had bad data preservation too (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365863)

Everything has a half life. It is merely the time it takes for half of a given sample of items to decay, or be destroyed. Granted, the term is mainly used when talking about radioactive isotopes, however it can be used in other realms.

Re:Ancient egyptians had bad data preservation too (0)

Rufty (37223) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365429)

Apparently, the least biodegradable substance is silicone. So our most enduring mark on the sands of eternity will be "breast enhancements".

Re:Ancient egyptians had bad data preservation too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365745)

I can see it now. Graveyards with nothing left but pairs of implants buried in the ground.

How many GB can I fit on a rock? (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365133)

The finer the print, the more susceptible to wear, I would expect.

DRM (1, Funny)

russlar (1122455) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365145)

You can't put DRM on a rock.

Re:DRM (1)

XanC (644172) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365223)

I'm pretty sure you could carve encrypted data into a rock, just like you can on a Blu-ray.

And yes, it's just as silly.

Re:DRM (1)

twitchingbug (701187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365243)

Funny? Insightful?

I guess I'll just say the obvious. Yes. you can't put _Digital_ Rights Management on a rock.

However regular rights management of a rock is infinitely easier. :)

Re:DRM (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365303)

But you can use it to hurt people that want to steal the rock.

Re:DRM (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365379)

A rock works exactly the same as any DRMed media in 4000years from now.... 50years from now as well...

Stupid article (3, Informative)

Renderer of Evil (604742) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365173)

The entire piece consists of:

1. Saw an Egyptian obelisk which had lasted for a long time.
2. Our modern data preservation methods aren't built for longevity.
3. Rocks have better data integrity than digital archives.

Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure to keep that in mind when I'm deciding whether to save my memoirs on rock or .doc. Really helpful stuff.

Re:Stupid article (2, Funny)

Eberlin (570874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365645)

Well, Stallman and I would tell you that given those two options, rock may be a better format. Hmmm, make that GNU/rock.

scale (1)

bugi (8479) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365179)

Sorry, papyrus just doesn't scale that well.

Re:scale (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365229)

Sure it does, you just have to get a precise enough scale. [wikipedia.org] Maybe one like this one [wikipedia.org] would work... ;)

What future alien archeologists will find . . . (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365185)

on our hard drives. Porn. That will keep them scratching their heads for years.

"This primitive race seemed to be preoccupied with sex. So how did they fail to reproduce and let their race die out?"

Way back in the ancient times, only important stuff was carved into stone. Now everyone on our planet is squirreling away all kinds of useless crap on digital media.

Future alien archeologists will have a hell of a job sorting out the crap from the, well, stuff that is just a little less than crap.

Re:What future alien archeologists will find . . . (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365461)

I don't think that is the case at all. Take a large enough sampling of all of this data and we will be able to see how "important" it was to people. I would imagine that the very large assortment of "useless crap" would ultimately be able to build a much more detailed frame of reference for the less useless crap. Assuming that these future archeologists have a way to read and decode all of our data they probably also have a relatively efficient way of dredging through all of it and quickly categorizing it. This could actually provide more interesting information than we even know about ourselves. You could actually aggregate data and have a better chance of determining true human behaviors and preferences rather than relying on our current model of silly biased surveys.

I also think your assumption about their view of human sex is pretty flawed. "This race was wired to have extremely positive neurological feedback from sex, yet had a birth process of shoving something the size of a watermellon through a hole the size of a golf ball and then years of care before the offspring becomes survivably independant. It took them an aweful long time to figure out how to reliably enjoy the sex part without having to worry about the procreation part." Of course...that could also suggest that "furries" have retained some kind of genetic knowledge from their ancestors that screwing an animal is better because there are no problems afterwards.

Re:What future alien archeologists will find . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365587)

on our hard drives. Porn.

Just pray that they don't find the hard drive of a furry!

Economies of scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365203)

You can only write on so many walls before there aren't any walls left to write on. In fact, just because they wrote on walls didn't mean all data was preserved either. The fact that the we don't have an index of what was created means we can't tell how wide-spread a data loss would have been.

To extend on the thought, data preservation from ancient Egypt in modern times means you need an entire profession (archaeologists) just to dig up and translate these texts into a modern form. Its like a data recovery analyst, but much more specialized. You also need expensive structural engineers to make sure the buildings aren't going to fall apart. Then you need security guards to protect the walls from theft, desecration, accidental damage, etc...

I guess the while take-away is getting easier instead of harder. The poster may have cited some good examples of how works deteriorate over time, but not necessarily about the ability of restoring/reproducing/distributing such works.

We will never go back to the stone age (1)

Obama (1458545) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365205)

With all the advances we've made now, with a doubling of the storage capacity every 18 months, why would we have to worry about what's going to happen to our data? Stop back-projecting our past and trying to make it the albatross of our future. Bits are cheap and plentiful and becoming ever more so. In fifteen years, people are going to carry today's internet around in their back pockets like we have emulators on our mobile phones. As long as mankind matters, they will keep our data. We will effectively live forever.

Just don't lose your rosetta stone! (1)

arthurh3535 (447288) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365235)

After all, all that 'data' that was so useless for hundreds and hundreds of years was because we didn't have the ability to decode it.

Hmm. Perhaps we need to have a 'new rosetta stone' project that all programs and decoders have to submit to (for hardware and software.)

Preserving data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365241)

I really want to be sure that I can find my shell scripts, so I've hired a team of down and out Egyptian peasants to carve them in to stone for me. My first script should be ready on 6 months.

100,000 monks (1)

RevSpaminator (1419557) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365255)

I imagine a data archival system of 100,000 monks scratching 1's and 0's into slate tablets.

Look at the opposite trend (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365269)

Look at the opposite trend that went from stone to paper to electronic:

1) Data became more portable
2) Data became more easy to edit and change
3) You can store more data in the same size container
4) You can store more types of data, like sounds and moving pictures!
5) You can store more than data, you can store programs which do things that can create and transform their own data!

What can a 50 lb stone slab do?

Also, what is the quality of the content? How much quality information does it tell us? There's some good history there, but I don't see someone using a stone slab to store a human DNA sequence any time soon.

Nice try, but this is the most extreme hyperbole I've ever seen. I'm glad for the mental exercise but it was way too lightweight and way too easy to shoot holes in this.

Re:Look at the opposite trend (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365617)

What can a 50 lb stone slab do?

Makes a better weapon than a keyboard... Come to think of it, a keyboard made out of granite would be pretty cool.

what a nonsense article (2, Insightful)

thenewguy001 (1290738) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365327)

Digital information can be easily duplicated and transferred to other media. You can save the entire library of congress on hard disk, convert it to DVD, or print it out on paper. And all of it can be almost fully automated with near zero chance of error. Try doing a backup of your stone tablet library in a reasonable amount of time, labor, and accuracy. There is just no comparison.

uhh... hello!!! (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365359)

nuclear war clearly states all this. The people that preceded the Egyptians got in a war with the middle east and they nuked each other - hense the deserts

Since all their technology was gone and they couldn't even make a pencil because they had grown so dependant on technology they had to go back to writing on rocks. And so will we!!!

Being creative is fun.

Duplication? (1)

LoudMusic (199347) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365363)

So what if it doesn't last as long. The vast majority isn't worth remembering anyway.

But seriously, lets say your historical rock recording is damaged - well it's not likely that there was a backup. But what about my photography collection? Oh, that's right, I have seven copies in four different locations, one of which is over 2000 miles from the others. And if I want another copy, safely tucked away on the other side of the world, it takes about a day to get it there. Let's see you do that with your rock carving.

Rocks Don't Need to Be Backed Up (2, Insightful)

Zakabog (603757) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365463)

I really thought there was going to be something special here, that the ancient Egyptians found some way to preserve data better we do now in modern society.

Does the author not realize that he's only looking at a rock that survived, and not one of the millions of rocks that turned to dust over the years?

If someone in 5,000 years finds a USB flash drive exhibit in some park with the data still readable off the device, that will not be proof that USB flash storage is the ultimate in storage technology, it'll only prove that that one USB flash drive lasted for 5,000 years.

We will be the first digital settlers (1)

hkz (1266066) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365477)

I believe that we (us netizens right now) will be remembered as the root users of the internet, the place where the buck stops, the people alive at 0 A.D. if you will. Sort of like us surfing to web.archive.org to check out sites from 1995, only people in 2500 will be checking us out and tracking us down. Perhaps even celebrities may come of it, unknown in our time. In 20 years people will have all of today's internet on an USB stick (or obviously some other far more advanced replacement) and this whole data retention thing won't be an issue. We're here to stay, from now on we're switched on. Cheers.

Almost pointless discussion (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365503)

There are a number of problems, some of which are obvious like longevity of media. A bigger problem is the hardware to access the media. And even bigger, is the format of the data.

OK, under proper conditions a properly made CD or DVD will last nearly forever. But it requires some really fancy optics and a solid state laser diode to read it. And a DVD requires a microprocessor - can't get away with some simple logic chips like you can with a CD. And the encoding of the data itself is complicated - probably too complicated to consider it for long term storage.

But the biggest problem is data format. People keep crowing about open formats, but that is nearly irrelevent. If I handed you a 10.5 inch tape reel with data from 1955 on it you couldn't read it without having (a) a tape reader mechanism, (b) a knowledge of BCD (the predecessor to EBCDIC) and (c) a knowledge of the format of the data being used. Having a 60-bit binary number spread across 10 characters is pretty useless unless you have some idea what that number represents. And there is the problem.

Open formats are fine, but they are too complicated for archival purposes. Things change, and the changes often make the very definitions of the data obscure. Today in Europe would a set of construction plans from 1920 make any sense at all? Probably not, because all the units have changed. We face a similar problem - only more so. In 100 years it is likely that a PDF document will be utterly unreadable because it uses ASCII to reference glyphs to be rendered on the screen with fonts. None of ASCII, ASCII fonts or anything else will exist any longer.

So it will not matter one tiny little bit that an "open format" was used. The material will still be unusable and unreadable without special conversions. Can open formats be more readily converted as format change? Possibly. I suppose if you have a lot of word processor documents from the Atari 800 today that you might find them difficult to convert, if not impossible. I would offer that even if they were done in an "open format" (like plain text with control words, like WordStar) you would stll find them unreadable and unusable - Atari didn't use ASCII.

And in 100 years the likelyhood that either ASCII or Unicode will survive is very remote.

Re:Almost pointless discussion (1)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365763)

Today in Europe would a set of construction plans from 1920 make any sense at all?

The metric system was introduced in the 18th century.

And in 100 years the likelyhood that either ASCII or Unicode will survive is very remote.

I think, 100 years from now some people will still remember the order of the alphabet, and some will even know what binary digits are. Put those two things together - you got ASCII. Add some more offsets - you got Unicode.

Alan Turing cracked Enigma 70 years ago. I'm pretty confident someone will crack ASCII or Unicode in 100 years - if it will be abandoned.

FAIL (4, Insightful)

ChienAndalu (1293930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365559)

The whole article is ridiculous. The first sentence is

My wife and I were in New York's Central Park last fall when we saw a nearly 4,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk that has been remarkably well preserved, with hieroglyphs that were clearly legible

What is remarkable about that? If you want to put a ancient Egypt rock in the Central Park, do you use a shattered obelisk where you can't read anything or do you take the nice one?

And how ignorant is the author to ignore all the broken, lost and otherwise destroyed rocks that didn't survive?

If you want to write an article about the lack of metadata standards and your perceived lack of long-term storage options, fine, but don't built it around your wifes spontaneous epiphanies.

Rock, Paper, Scissors (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365577)

In that order. Still working on how to write data on scissors..... Magnets!

Chiseling Reddit (2, Funny)

crhylove (205956) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365601)

This is why I've been chiseling reddit headlines into the concrete in my driveway. And the neighbors call me crazy!!!

uhhh (1)

binaryseraph (955557) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365661)

Wait, someone ACTUALLY had to write an article to tell me that scratching some letters into a rock will last longer than paper? Uh... You dont say?

Laser-etched stones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27365683)

THIS IS THE FUTURE!

Seriously though, this would be better than all hard drives, all optical discs and solid-state in the world.
Just make thick platters of plastic / rock / something else, then physically etch a shape into it.
At least, this is for backups, not rewritables.

The center of each disc could show some sort of diagram that shows data getting smaller and smaller, then have some sort of magnifying glass zooming into the smaller data.
And if something finds this in the future and fails to decipher it, then screw them, they don't deserve such knowledge at their current evolutionary level.

Brb, creating a business.

How many rocks do I need to chisel to keep... (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 5 years ago | (#27365857)

How many rocks do I need to chisel to keep a copy of the current Wikipedia? Are there even enough mountains in Egypt for the top 10,000 articles?

I think we'll manage to keep enough of the important data by migrating to newer media over time. Besides, it's not like we have any better options.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...