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!

Thanks For the ... Eight-Track, Uncle Alex

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the redundancy-and-repetition dept.

Data Storage 633

Uncle Alex writes "My niece just turned one year old and her parents have asked that, instead of the usual gifts, we each contribute something to a time capsule to be opened on her 17th birthday. Multiple members of my family want to contribute digital data — text, video, music files. They came to me (the closest thing to a geek our family has) wondering: what's the best way to save the data to ensure she'll actually be able to see it in 16 years? Software might be out of date, hardware may no longer be used... any suggestions?"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Pretty easy (2, Insightful)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183717)

Files will always be available. I don't thing the file paradigm will be gone anytime soon the next 17 years. Too much legacy information would be gone in that case. For the same reason, audio and video files will keep being supported (as legacy formats perhaps) but they WILL be supported. There are huge archives in many places with terabytes of important media data that is archived and will need to be accessed somehow.

The only problem might be the hardware, but hell, you can keep the media on some unused computer/server which will be available for only that purpose. Backup the files regularly via FTP to some other remote system (just in case). When hardware changes, just move the media to a new computer in the period of transition.

I have a lot of data/programs from my old DOS days in the 80s that I still can access using emulators. Old floppies won't fit in my floppyless computer but I have copied them to my HD since ages back.

Re:Pretty easy (5, Funny)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183743)

Of course, you could use paper ... but then you take the risk that people will still be able to read 17 years into the future!

Re:Pretty easy (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184117)

Of course, you could use paper ... but then you take the risk that people will still be able to read 17 years into the future!

I was about to suggest the same thing with flip books and printed scores but your point is very valid.

Maybe with an English to SMS-lingo (what is it called in the US, texting lingo ?) converter ?

Or you could include a language method with ideograms ?


On second thought maybe not.

Punch-cards (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183813)

...are fine for text if you don't want to use pen and paper (or can't remember how). You don't even need a machine to read punch-cards - you can do it by eyeball pretty easily though it might take a little while...

Re:Pretty easy (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183833)

"what's the best way to save the data to ensure she'll actually be able to see it in 16 years? "

You're missing the real point of his question. I think he's really asking how to make his Time Capsule zombie/meteor/nuclear bomb-proof.

Divorce? (2, Funny)

jginspace (678908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183961)

"what's the best way to save the data to ensure she'll actually be able to see it in 16 years? "

You're missing the real point of his question. I think he's really asking how to make his Time Capsule zombie/meteor/nuclear bomb-proof.

And divorce-proof.

"Oh darling, when you were just twelve months old your mother and ... Damnit! If it wasn't for you I'd have never had to get married to that ... $%^#&#@%$".

Re:Pretty easy (4, Insightful)

NoobixCube (1133473) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184145)

Keep copies of all the software needed to play those video files *cough* vlc *cough*, and a means of running that program - maybe a whole OS in a raw hard disk image or something, so you can mount it in a virtual machine in 16 years. I'm sure some nerds will want to emulate x86 processors long after ARM has taken over.

Re:Pretty easy (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184181)

Save it on a harddisk. Preferable on an external one with ethernet access. You will still be able to use ethernet in 16years while USB might have become uncommon. I have 12 year old harddisks that are still active and working. With continued use half of them have died in that timeframe, but I assume that if they had been unused most would have made it.

KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183723)

ASCII, printed on UV-resistant foil

Print it! (1, Redundant)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183737)

Just print the text, get the tablature or sheet music for any songs and print a booklet of screencaps of the videos so that she can flick through them to "animate" them. Put it all in a dry environment and it should be fine until it is opened, and you can guarantee the required technology is still available!

Re:Print it! (4, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184133)

Or get the entire package, transform it into a single file (by whatever means necessary) and print the binary code of that file in 2D barcode, in plastic sheets.

It will last well over five thousand years and no matter the difficulty of reading it, it will always be at least possible.

If you expect your niece to become a vampire or somehow surpass the expiration date of plastic, you can pay a little to get the 2D barcoded plastic sheets engraved in metal sheets or tablets.

Follow those steps and your niece's time capsule might become the rosetta stone for an intelligent being aeons away.

Get a netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183739)

Get her a cheap netbook or something equivalent. That way she only needs to get /power/ for the device and everything else can be sorted out as needs dictate.

Netbook (3, Insightful)

Shin-LaC (1333529) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183745)

16 years isn't such a long time, but just to be sure, put a netbook inside the capsule. Make sure it can run on external power alone, and remove the battery.

Re:Netbook (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183807)

This leads to a good question, will a solid state hard drive survive 16 years without data corruption? If it is a platter hard drive, the best you are looking at is 8-10 years. The life span of platter drive decreases if it is not accessed.

Looking at USB's history, 1.0 was released in 1996. this is 12 years ago, and it is still backwards compatible to this day. A good hedge might be to get a USB 2.0 thumb drive (granted if the answer the my question is no, than you might have to result to punch cards and paper), and load it up with the data you want to preserve. Considering that the next iteration of USB is backwards compatible, it is a safe bet that there will be a computer that can read it.

Keep in mind that 16 years ago we used PATA and that still comes default with new motherboards.

Re:Netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184013)

USB 3.0 is optical for the data lines, IIRC, and will be released to consumers on new hardware starting in January.

There is already hardware (controllers) for developers and support is in the Linux kernel.

Re:Netbook (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184167)

No, USB 3.0 is still copper. Early development went for optical, but that got dropped. Just 8 conductors instead of 4 in the cable.

Re:Netbook (2, Interesting)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184159)

A standard harddisk survives 6-10 years of continued _use_. Storing it is perfectly safe. If you are really worried buy a modern SCSI drive, they should be able to survive the 16years even if it is running the whole time.

With the cut price components used these days... (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183809)

... I wouldn't want to lay money on the electronics still working in 16 years time (gone off electrolytic capacitors being the most likely) and thats before you have to worry about the mechanical components of the hard drive seizing up through lack of use not to mention the data becoming corrupted as the magnetism on the disk slowly changes. And similarly even if you use a netbook with an SSD theres a good chance it would have lost or corrupted enough data by then to make it crash prone or even unbootable.

Re:With the cut price components used these days.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183893)

The main netbook electronics will be perfectly fine in only 16 years time. I have a 386 system from 1987 or so that still works (yes, the hard drive in it still works too). Just include a bootable live disc with OS and files. Optical discs, even burned ones, can easily last a century if stored properly.

Re:With the cut price components used these days.. (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183951)

My impression is that build quality on 1987 386s was better than on current equipment. In particular, grandparent's comment about electrolytic capacitors points to major quality issues [] they've been having recently.

Re:Netbook (1)

CrystalX (1299317) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183837)

16 years isn't such a long time, but just to be sure, put a netbook inside the capsule. Make sure it can run on external power alone, and remove the battery.

Agreed. If you intend to archive the actual digital objects (and not transcribe them to some other medium like paper), you need to include the hardware/software to decode them. A netbook is a cheap way to do this.

For some additional reading on the digital dark age problem:
* []
* []

first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183747)

if you want to store digital data, use multiple device formats(a usb drive, a compact flash card, a CD, a DVD, blue ray, a sata hard drive) and make sure it gets stored the same way, audio in multiple formats, mp3, ogg, flac, wav. text should theoretically still be text in 16 years, but who knows? video the same way, as many formats as you can manage. then you hope that the storage devices survive long enough for her to stand a chance of reading any of them.

Or, get yourself a netbook. put ubuntu on it. put the data on it, take the battery out, vacuum pack the works and store That. hopefully AC will still exist, and be close enough to what we have now to run the thing.

Re:first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184073)

provide a solar panel, inverter, analog battery-less voltmeter, and paper instructions on how to make batteries.

Re:first? (0)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184177)

Add a solar powered battery charger. If the sun doesn't exist, the inability to decode this packages is one of the smaller problems she will have.

Go digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183749)

Some sort of Virtual Time Capsule with someone (you) as the keeper who is responsible for making sure the media is kept up to date. Obviously keeping a local and online copy of the same data. A few gigs of up-to-date memories shouldn't be that much work seeing as it's only 16 years. Figure a format conversion every 3-4 years, not too bad.

The hardest part probably will be getting the rest of the family to convert their 'analog'-ish memories/thoughts/ideas into a digital medium.

just my 2c (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183755)

adding the appropriate player and instruction manuals? ;)

Bow chicka wow wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183759)

17 huh? how about a naked picture of me.....

Re:Bow chicka wow wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184083)

No need. You'll probably still have the same one on file as "current" at the dating service.

MP4 Player (0)

JohnHegarty (453016) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183763)

Put everything in a cheap MP4 player.

If you are lucky some form of USB will still exist , and you can save off the date. If not you can play it on the player.

Make sure you include an AC charger , just in case.

Re:MP4 Player (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184147)

Clearly you need to include some sort of hand cranking device... Just in case civilization collapses and the electrical grid was taken out and they need to repopulate the world with little Billy from next door.

iPods are cheaper and cheaper... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183765)

Why not include the necessary hardware? Collect everyone's data, and load it onto a small video-compatible media player with included headphones. Surely it'll need a charge, but I can't imagine THAT technology will have changed.

Perhaps... (0, Redundant)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183767)

Put it all on a USB memory stick, and when you next come to buy a new PC or laptop simply keep the old one in a box somewhere (suitably protected against dust and moisture). If for some reason in 16 years you find that USB sticks have become obselete and your files are totally outdated you can just get the old equipment out, fire it up and you're all set.

Re:Perhaps... (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183829)

better yet, upload all the data to Google and store only the (randomly generated) password to the account in the capsule.

Re:Perhaps... (2, Funny)

Xiph1980 (944189) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183865)

Yeah, and there's absolutely no chance that google won't exist in 15 years....

Re:Perhaps... (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183911)

As odd as it may sound, this may be one of the more sophisticated ideas.

Yes, many services fold over times. Just use all of them. At least one will probably survive. It might pay, though, to keep monitoring such services and move the data if you happen to run out of backups. But that, essentially, perverts the idea of a time capsule. The interesting part of opening such a thing isn't just the old info, it's the very idea that these old parts have been sitting there for years/decades, untouched and stored.

Re:Perhaps... (2, Funny)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183941)

of course not. gods are eternal.

Re:Perhaps... (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184155)

Bad idea.

Data on USB sticks decays in several years.

Keep it simple (5, Insightful)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183769)

Get a plain writing book with acid-free paper and each write a personal story, message, commentary etc. Attach photos on stable stock paper together with personal items such as a slip of wallpaper or slither of wood etc. from her first bedroom, a dried flower from the garden, small items that conjure up the day/year she was born etc.

  Store in a sealed box in a dry, safe, dust-free environment

Much more unique, personal and tactile. /Even geeks need to know when to stop

Re:Keep it simple (2, Insightful)

gafisher (865473) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184091)

Well said. Recordings of any sort will be available independently if they have merit -- we can watch "Casablanca" or listen to Caruso though the media on which they were generated, and even the media on which our parents experienced them, are gone. Far better to recommend a performance and let the recipient search it out than to include a recording likely to become unusable. The exception is personal recordings such as home movies or spoken greetings; if these are to be part of the "bequest" then for each item include in the time capsule a promise from a family member who will keep a currently playable version; it will be far more meaningful for the recipient to seek out Uncle Alex to hear Great-Grandma's greeting, Aunt Mary for the home movie of the First Birthday party, etc. This keeps the family actively involved as well as at least promoting, though not ensuring, a reunion of sorts when the Time Capsule comes due and becomes not just a box of old stuff but a *living* inheritance.

Why put data in a capsule? (4, Insightful)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183771)

Physical objects should go into the capsule, not data. The reason we do that is because it's difficult to keep archived objects pristine and from getting lost. With data, you can store it in multiple places and always retrieve a bit for bit exact copy. Not so with physical objects.

Paper. (3, Insightful)

CdXiminez (807199) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183773)

Write it down.
I can still read a book a hundred years old, I can't read a C64-floppy twenty years old.

Re:Paper. (1)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183811)

Multiple members of my family want to contribute digital data â" text, video, music files.

right, write it all down... in binary.

Re:Paper. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183931)

Your point being?

What is writing? Encoding of information. Nothing else. You take information, you formulate it in words, you use an alphabet of letter (or symbols representing syllables or words, depending on your alphabet) and you write those down.

The most sensible way to long-term store this kind of information would actually be a printout of the hexdump along with a format description how it can be decoded again.

Re:Paper. (1)

psykopatpastorn (1497155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183839)

the floppies are allright

USB (1)

Leynos (172919) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183781)

I think a USB mass storage device will probably be quite safe, given that RS-232 and IDE are still fairly common despite being far more than 16 years old.

USB mass storage devices have pretty much entrenched themselves in the modern day psyche as the de-facto replacement for the floppy disc.

My guess is that even if we are on USB 5.0 or whatever by then, there will still be some form of backwards compatibility in place (cf the b/c employed in USB 3.0).

Online storage may be ubiquitous in 16 years time, but there will always be computers without access to the internet somewhere in the world, for whom removable storage will be a necessity.

Re:USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184105)

Actually, a storage device with RS232 capability might be a good idea - it's slow, but is so simple to handle that a future programmer shouldn't have any trouble writing something to decipher it (you can describe binary and include an ASCII chart, should someone decide to have a crack at it in 200 years).

use the internet (1)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183785)

Why bother finding a medium and risk damage to it? Just upload your content somewhere (or multiple places) it can't get lost. Or have the waybackmachine archive it. Then put the link(s) on a piece of paper, laminate it and you're good to go.

Re:use the internet (1)

idhx (1608687) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183819)

Hmm... I'd be ill at ease if I were to retreive data that was stored somewhere on the internet 16 years ago. Things move to fast on the net for this to be a good solution

Re:use the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183845)

Google may help find it early, and could open up privacy concerns. Take it one step further to prevent early retrieval: Encrypt the data and put the decryption key on the paper. Then just hope that technology doesn't advance to the point that it can be cracked before the date the capsule is opened.

Bundle the hardware (1)

idhx (1608687) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183791)

Since you mention photos and music, why don't you just bundle the necessary hardware : you could put all the music and audio in an mp3 player, the photos one one of those digital frames, or just get an archos or something that does it all. I don't think it should be too difficult to find a correct power source in 16 years. Though obviously, if you want to be able to retrieve the data from the hardware, as opposed to just playing / watching / ... it, that would be more difficult.

virtual machines (0, Redundant)

martas (1439879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183793)

store a virtual machine (in an open format) along with the data, containing all the software necessary to view the media they want to include. then 16 years from now, only 2 things will be needed to make it all work - VM software that uses that open format, and hardware that can read whatever storage device you decide to use.

player itself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183801)

if you want to stay with digital data, put it on datatape and bury the player along with the tape and a cheap laptop ready configured for the tapeplayer. Don't forget to take the batteries out, since that'll kill the system in two years.

If you want to make it more durable, make it airtight and make sure the air in there has as low humidity as possible (diver shops that can fill tanks have a pressure system that dries the air completely before filling them into the bottles). This eliminates corrosion.

Good luck!

Slashdot account (5, Funny)

auric_dude (610172) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183821)

Open an account for her right now and place the username password combination in the time capsule. Once 17 she will then be able to ask slashdot how to read all the ancient media and have a geekish low account number when viewed fro 16 years into the future.

Re:Slashdot account (1)

Odinlake (1057938) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183889)

will someone with points mod this post up for me :-P

Re:Slashdot account (4, Funny)

Lally Singh (3427) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183897)

They're not worth as much as you think...

Re:Slashdot account (5, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183919)


Re:Slashdot account (2, Funny)

consonant (896763) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184109)

Just like us early-adopter sub-mega-UID folks!

If it's data (2, Informative)

Andtalath (1074376) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183831)

Then it should be stored redundantly in several locations, online and off-line and should be checked at several points.

An actual time-box is not a good idea at all since all tech has a risk of going bad even if not used.

Standards!!! (1)

MathFox (686808) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183835)

For the data format: stick to documented standards. ASCII or UTF-8 Unicode will do great for the text of a document; (X)HTML is likely to be available too; PDF maybe. For pictures I'ld bet on JPEG or an uncompressed RGB format, for moving images on MPEG2. There is nothing wrong with storing files in multiple formats for redundancy.
The medium is another issue. Would a CD-R be readable after 15 years? A CD-RW may be more reliable, but can you find a CD-ROM player at that time? A USB stick or SD card are "new" media where readers are likely to be available, but little is known about long-term data persistence. Having a backup of the data on an actively backed up computer does not sound like a bad idea at all.

Summary: with more baskets, the likelihood of remaining eggs increases.

Re:Standards!!! (1)

Tuoqui (1091447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184185)

Considering DVD players are backwards compatible with CDs and the Blu-Ray type things are backwards compatible with DVDs and CD's I'd say yes there would be a method to read a CD 15 years from now.

Physical media? How noughties (1)

kobotronic (240246) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183841)

If stored properly, I would expect a conventional 'archival grade' DVD to be readable - at least have recoverable data - in that time. However, in 16 years few teenagers or even private households will have any use or exposure to physical media of any kind - blue-ray, DVDs and CDs relics of pre-wired times on par with 78rpm discs and dead sea scrolls. Only greybearded nerds and specialty data recovery / conversion places will probably even have operational, attached optical drives. Teenagers certainly won't. The 2025 equivalent to cellphones and cloud services will cover all their data access needs. But - it will be possible to find a data conversion place in a nearby stripmall that for a modest charge will copy contents of optical media to your account. Expect intellectual property zombies to have agents monitoring such recovery processes and possibly interfering with any licensed content you might choose to include.

Re:Physical media? How noughties (1)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184031)

Expect intellectual property zombies to have agents monitoring such recovery processes and possibly interfering with any licensed content you might choose to include.

So you're predicting that within the next 16 years the film and music industry will begin using the undead in their war against copyright infringement? A bold prediction my friend...bold indeed.

Re:Physical media? How noughties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184113)

I hadn't realised until I read that comment that the teenagers of the mid-2020's are being born right now. There's something terrifying about that thought. I'm not supposed to feel old yet, I'm only 21!

An incandescent light bulb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183847)

They will be outlawed in 16 years, for sure - and probably be quite the collector's items.

Port your favorite.. (1)

Lally Singh (3427) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183859)

x86 emulator to the Apple IIc, then put one in the box. It's the only way to be sure.

16 years (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183863)

Well, think what was around 16 years ago (1993) and project forward:

The compact disc had been invented for a little over 13 years and was still going strong (and would do until five-ten years after that).

Thinkpads were available with CD etc. (although we're talking 486's here because the Pentium was JUST coming out)

So if you dug up an old 486 with some CD's now, how hard would it be to get running? How hard if your particular units didn't work? Not very.

Now project 16 years into the future - buy yourself some *new* reliable technology (CD was in its infancy as a computer format in 1993). Make it as standard and popular as possible. Throw in a device that's still likely to be passed around on second-hand websites like eBay just in case. Hell, I can still buy ZX Spectrums for little more than a few dollars, and that was 25 years ago. Hedge your bets... use a Blu-Ray AND DVD for everything you want to put in there. Throw in some Windows / Linux / Open Source / freeware to read the data (don't do a BBC Domesday project and have to decode the software as well as find the hardware).

If you wanna be ultra-sure... throw in a Gumstix or something small and capable of playing the media (you could use USB memory in this case, or CompactFlash or similar). Hardware easily survives 16 years if you look after it or don't touch it. The data media may not (especially writable media) so project it forward with each transition of your own personal data.

And most importantly - backup, backup, backup. Include *two* of each device, and two copies of the data in two different media, on two seperate discs/flashs and keep a copy on your home machine to "upgrade" to the next new format.

Geek pretentiousness (1)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183867)

You guys do realize that 3.5 inch floppies have been publicly available for 22 years right? And the USB devices for 13 years? Even if you used a floppy it wouldn't be *that* hard to access in 16 years, and the USB standard isn't exactly on its way out at the moment.

It always amazes me how pretentious geeks can be, assuming all the technology of today will be some sort of arcane relic mere months or years from now.

Re:Geek pretentiousness (4, Insightful)

koiransuklaa (1502579) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184009)

Do you realize that you're a looking at it with 20/20 hindsight? Yes, the 3.5" floppy did all right but loads of other media did not. I've used 8" floppies, 5 1/4" floppies, Iomega zipdrives, several sorts of tape drives, half a dozen different memory card standards... none of those were seen as fringe technologies at the time.

In other words: No, all technology will not be an arcane relic in 16 years but _many_ technologies will be. The trick is choosing the right one.

Re:Geek pretentiousness (1)

kobotronic (240246) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184027)

Floppies are probably a bad example. NASA has famously had lots of grief trying to find equipment to decipher their archaic floppies from the beginning of the space shuttle project. Today I would be hard pressed to find anyone with a working 5.25" drive capable of reading my old late-80s highschool documents. I doubt the discs are actually physically readable by anoyone. With the dwindling interest fewer and fewer specialty places will support the tech and so it will become ever more expensive to recover data locked in these archaic formats. Flash-based storage media with USB interfaces would, given their ubiquity today probably be readable using common adapter equipment in 2025, but I don't know if the physical medium is immune to degradation over time.

The technology replacement pace is anything but linear. We're experiencing a very rapid transition from physical media to online storage, and new, ever more abstract frameworks and access concepts. Who can tell what Google Wave 3.0 look like and how we'll be accessing it? The change involved here does not compare to the evolution that led from reel-to-reel decks to cassette tapes. Certainly there will be oldtimers and troglodytes suspiciously hanging on to local physical media in 16 years - distrusting or otherwise rejecting the communal content cloud. Teenagers will have fully embraced it, knowing no alternative and shaping ever more inscrutable further evolution.

There is no such thing (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183877)

Recently it was mentioned on a documentary I've seen: 10,000 years of evolution, and the best thing to conserve information we came up with was stone tablets.

It's unfortunately true. The more sophisticated our means of storage are, the more brittle and frail they are. Essentially, you would have to bury not only the medium but also the means to play them back. The tricky part is finding out "where to stop".

"Thanks for the 8track" was a quite good tagline for this problem. 20 years ago, an 8track would have been the thing to store information on. Today, you would have a hard time finding a player. And the problem gets worse with every year. Magnetic tapes, VHS or Beta, dominated the video market for over two decades. DVD didn't dominate for one. BluRay is probably going to be replaced before long. The time between generations of players is shrinking quickly. Soon we'll see, if you're not an early adopter, you're already lagging a generation behind.

The most sensible way, and a worthy geek project too, would be to create a playback device made entirly from standard off the shelf parts that you may sensibly assume to be still available in a few decades, put the packing list along with the content you want to preserve into the box and make sure you also store your content in a way that survives the test of time.

You only have to bridge about two decades. It would be a very interesting project to try something like that with the goal to make information last millenia.

Re:There is no such thing (1)

tagno25 (1518033) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184129)

The most sensible way, and a worthy geek project too, would be to create a playback device made entirly from standard off the shelf parts that you may sensibly assume to be still available in a few decades, put the packing list along with the content you want to preserve into the box and make sure you also store your content in a way that survives the test of time.

Include instructions, in paper, on how to build an open source hardware playback device with parts, that have been around a wile, you can buy from digikey (or similar shops).

mass media (1)

johncandale (1430587) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183883)

text, video, music files.

Use the most popular media formant. I.E. DVD's. And not data DVD's, standard encoded DVD's that can be played on any walmart DVD set top box. The sheer millions of them around will assure something will be around or able to to be bought used super cheap to watch the Video and Music files. The trick is you'll have to order a pressed DVD, not a burned one, to make sure it will last that long. You can easily store Text on their too. Granted it would be in image formant, hard to transfer, but for a birthday gift it's fine.

Think back 17 years (0, Flamebait)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183885)

Think back to 1992, what did we use?

And what are we still using today?

CD !!

I still have music CDs that I purchased in the 1970's that are still usable :)

Re:Think back 17 years (3, Informative)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183967)

I still have music CDs that I purchased in the 1970's that are still usable :)

1982 at the earliest.

But there is a difference between a pressed CD - which can last for a very long time - and a CDR which decays surprisingly quickly.

Re:Think back 17 years (1)

JJJK (1029630) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183969)

Unfortunately there is a difference between CD-R's and pressed CD's. The best Idea would probably be to keep the data redundant on multiple CD-R's (from different manufacturers) and other media like USB sticks (as some already mentioned). If you can, check for integrity every 5 years or so even if that kind of destroys that "time capsule" -idea.

Re:Think back 17 years (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184125)

Encrypt it with something which will still be well-known in 16 years - AES-128, for example - and put the key in the time capsule (pencil on paper then laminate; or stamp into metal) along with some copies of media. Keep some encrypted copies out of the capsule and use them for regular integrity checks and duplication.

Re:Think back 17 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183975)

Really? Considering that audio CDs have only been commercially available since October 1982, I find your claim hard to believe.

Re:Think back 17 years (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183979)

So he could have used CD 17 years ago.
Will CD ( for data storage ) really be readable in 17 years ?

I tend to agree with other poster - the mainstream equivalent of the CD in 92 is probably the USB drive.
Mainstream enough yet not old enough to survive a few more years.

Also there is a big difference between commercial CD and burned ones.
I did the exercise a few years back and I already had to try a few computer before being able to read the backup made circa 2000.

Re:Think back 17 years (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183981)

That's impressive considering the first CDs were only available in 1982 or 1983. Must've been a pre-order...

Re:Think back 17 years (4, Informative)

bamf (212) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183991)

I still have music CDs that I purchased in the 1970's that are still usable :)

A pretty good trick since they weren't commercially available until late '82 :)

Mylar tape (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183913)

The data density is pretty low, but it's awfully durable.


Re:Mylar tape (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184053)

For those who don't remember this technology, mylar tape is punched tape like ticker tape. Ticker tape is the paper version. If the machinery is no longer around to read it, it can be read by hand. Most Mylar tape has 9 rows of holes. The small holes near the center are the clock. The other 8 bits were ASCII. If memory serves me, there were 3 bits, clock, then 5 bits. The clock was off center so the tape could not be threaded in upside down or tail first from a tape that was not rewound.

A quick google search turned up a confirmation. The clock row was called the S row for Sprocket.

When characters were written there was great care in selecting the placement of bits to insure accuracy of numeric computations. Character skewing was less a problem the nearer the Read/Write Head was to the timing sprocket pulse. The sprocket pulse (position S) was in the center or near center as there were 8 bits in total with the sprocket pulse. The check pulse to insure the bit count was odd (position 1) and the 4 lower bits (positions 4,5,6,7), which included the vital numeric characters, were crowded next to the sprocket pulse. The remaining 2 bits (positions 2,3) were for the alphabetic and special characters and were located on the outer edges of the tape. The bit numbering positions on tape were 3,5,1,S,6,7,4,2. []

The media question is easy... (2, Funny)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183927)

USB is like... the best standard ever. Just have everyone throw everything on a flash stick. In 16 years, if there is not just yet another faster version of it that is backward compatible with all the old ones, then you can personally come over here and slap me with a rolled up newspaper.

The files are a little tougher, but it's hard to imagine .jpg, .mpg, and .mp3 ever not being supported. Those are standards which are also more likely to be updated than ditched, I think.

Re:The media question is easy... (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183965)

Wish I'd thought of this while writing the first post, but another benefit of using a flash stick is that, if you're only writing stuff to it once and then sticking it in a box, it'll be more durable than an optical disc of any kind. Discs can melt, warp, get scratches, crack, and some writeables seem to have crappy, degradable media.

Re:The media question is easy... (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184023)

It feels weird to keep replying to myself, but a techie friend of mine has pointed out that flash memory does degrade over time even when not in use, although the rate is slow enough that any corruption should be manageable if you still choose that. If you don't want to take the risk, we determined that a USB hard drive would be the best alternative. As with the flash, the plug itself is definitely going to be able to get stuck in something, and if for whatever weird reason the drive itself won't play with future hardware, then it won't be that hard to find a retro machine that will still talk to it. If all else fails, the poor girl can just pay to have the data recovered professionally. Expensive, but those platters aren't just going to rot away, so everything will be on there.

Re:The media question is easy... (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184183)

Hmm, flash memory degrades over time but a hard drive wouldn't?! How do you think data is encoded on the platters of the hard drive?

All of this has been asked before [] , and will be asked again.

gold! (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183937)

just carve stuff on a piece of gold and use the cravings for cheesecake! Your niece will thank you for it trust me!

CD-R (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183943)


Unreliable as they are, a good expensive CD-R is probably your safest bet.
Kept in a cold, dark place they are supposed to last more then a hundred years (well, this is marketing, but hopefully they'll last 20).
I think it's fair to hope that the optical disk drives of the future will keep reading CD-R

Solid state disks have a data retention of 10 years, so they are a no-go.
Traditional HD are no better, and I wouldn't trust them to start spinning after 16 years still.
I think DVD-R are not even as good.

Then, of course, you'll better back-up everything on the internet in case things go wrong...

use paper and describe the algorithm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29183971)

You don't need to go as far as [] .

But he managed to put 500k of Data onto a single sheet of A4 paper.

Implementing an algorithm, which decodes such data should still be possible in 16 years (if the supplied USB stick doesn't work any longer).

Just be sure to document the algorithm on paper as well :)

good luck

Analogue! (2, Interesting)

slim (1652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29183993)

The most sensible thing would be digital files, with a maintenance schedule -- migrate to a new medium every so often.

However if the requirement absolutely requires that a physical medium is locked up or buried for 17 years, then I'd go for analogue media with tangible encodings:

  • For text and images, paper and ink (for longer periods, carve stone or etch metal!)
  • For audio, get some vinyl pressed
  • For video, 8mm film

It may not be easy to play the vinyl or the 8mm film in 17 years -- but it will be possible, and decay is less likely to be catastrophic.

12cm shiny disk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184041)

we have been using 12cm shiny disks that read with a laser for over 25 years. some of the details have changed (CD, CD-R, DVD, blueray), but all the readers can still read the original CD. I guess the average 1st world house hold has a few hundred 12cm shiny disks that they will keep wanting to read. I'd expect in 25 years time we will still have some medium that uses the same size disk, and where the readers can still read all previous versions.

if you get archive grad CR-R you should be fine.

Assume advanced teck in the future (1)

smallfeet (609452) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184047)

Beam the messages into space and just assume there will be faster then light travel by then.

USB or DVD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184071)

USB is safe, but I would say, put it all on a DVD and get one of the rich uncles to put a portable DVD player in the captual with it so that the device is there.

Save the players, not just the medium. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184085)

What you ought to do, is get a decent (but definitely used) computer that has all the multimedia capability to play the disks / files / whatever you are storing. Complete with operating system and necessary software. It sounds like overkill, but it's pretty inexpensive these days, especially used.

Just make sure you put it all (computer AND media) in a consistently cool, dark, and dry place. Temperature variations and strong light are the most likely culprits for ruining media (and anything else, for that matter), so bury it all somewhere deep, in several nested vacuum packs, and with plenty of silica gel to keep it dry.

I recommend stone or fired clay tablets (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184093)

CDs and DVDs have been proven to be unreliable, electronic devices won't last that long, paper is prone to water ingress, so go back to ancient tech which you know survives... its the only way to be sure.

CD's are still around but to be sure... (3, Informative)

Time_Warped (1266658) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184121)

I would include a player for any media you have. I am still trying to cope with all my Mom's trays of slides...Oh, and make sure you include descriptions of the participants, I have a lot of old slides of people I presume are cousins, but I am not sure exactly who they are....

whatever you do ... (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184135)

... make sure that anything that uses batteries has the batteries removed. Otherwise you'll likely find ruined electronics in 16 years from leakage.

EPROM chip? (1)

pengipengi (1352837) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184139)

I guess that electricity is still avalible in 16 years.
I guess that people can read datasheets.
I guess people still remember the binary system.

Then, keep it simple: Use a EPROM-chip with paralell address, paralell data. Print the datasheet for the chip on paper and a description of the file system. (Design one simple by yourself, or use tar and print it's specification).

Worst case: They have to get someone to design the hardware themselfs... I could build a reader for that here with a small microcontroller in 30 minutes. It's really simple actually...

But use it just as an option if some other more modern techonology fails, like USB flashdrive... Redundancy...

hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29184163)

Store the hardware/software needed to read the data with the data. Storing a record works fine if there is also a record player.

3,5" floppies (1)

freedumb2000 (966222) | more than 5 years ago | (#29184171)

They will be retro hip again.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?