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Europeans Bury "Digital DNA" Inside a Mountain

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-must-remember-this dept.

Data Storage 161

adeelarshad82 writes "In a secret bunker deep in the Swiss Alps, European researchers deposited a 'digital genome' that will provide the blueprint for future generations to read data stored using defunct technology. The sealed box containing the key to unpick defunct digital formats will be locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 ton door strong enough to resist nuclear attack at the data storage facility, known as the Swiss Fort Knox. The capsule is the culmination of the four-year 'Planets' project, which draws on the expertise of 16 European libraries, archives, and research institutions, to preserve the world's digital assets as hardware and software is superseded at a blistering pace. The project hopes to preserve 'data DNA,' the information and tools required to access and read historical digital material and prevent digital memory loss into the next century."

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Quick... destroy it!. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256598)

Future generations of purist can use it as a reference for "cleansings".

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (2, Interesting)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256850)

Let's be real here. We're doing this so that anthropologists from other spacefaring civilizations will be able to read all the stories about us plowing ourselves to hell.

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (0, Offtopic)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256880)

Blowing. What the hell are you trying to say, typo gnomes?

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256964)

They are saying we will die off to unsustainable farming?

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257246)

Let's just say that you wouldn't want Monsanto's license server to go offline...

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (0, Offtopic)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257808)

*taps sig thoughtfully*

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (0, Offtopic)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257366)

I just assumed you meant that humanity would at some point finally give up our weapons and beat our swords into plowshares...then we would beat each other to death with those plowshares.

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (1)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257730)

Hopefully they'll understand the languages that are contained on all that data....

Re:Quick... destroy it!. (2, Insightful)

spazdor (902907) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257798)

Well, naturally we'll also archive a copy of all the Rosetta Stone(tm) language packages.

Hide it in cockroach genomes (1)

SlideGuitar (445691) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257800)

Single safe = single point of failure. Distribute the information as noncoding dna in the genomes of cockroaches. That'll last.

Do niggers like Europe? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256604)

I'm curious..

Fuck you PC World. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256606)

Would it have killed you to include the slightest mention of what "the key to unpick defunct digital formats" is in an article discussing how the Europeans have stashed one away?

Re:Fuck you PC World. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256728)

The key is a COBOL program written on punchcard.

Re:Fuck you PC World. (5, Funny)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256846)

It's the Elvish word for 'friend'

Re:Fuck you PC World. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257960)

Dwarvish*

Re:Fuck you PC World. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32258068)

No, Elvish. The mines were the Dwarves', but the entrance the Fellowship used was meant for the Elves, from the Second Age when they were on better terms with the Dwarves.

Re:Fuck you PC World. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256956)

They've cryogenically frozen one of the members of Deviance

I sincerely hope I'm wrong (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257064)

This is mostly a joke, but not 100% a joke. I sincerely hope it's not true. However, the thought occurs to me that maybe this "key" is nothing more than, say, a copy of Windows 98 on floppy discs. Seriously, without more information about this supposed "key" we have no way to know if those involved actually did include something that might really be useful to future generations who want to get at the data or if they did something as stupid as what I suggested.

Re:I sincerely hope I'm wrong (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257868)

Donno what they put there but if it was me I would have put:
  • dvd player
  • connected to HDTV set
  • dynamo to power them
  • case full of pr0n

Nothing else actually deserves to be stahsed away and protected. I mean frankly what artifacts of every day life that you see around actually deserve to be saved for future generations? None! Or you mean some Hollywood shit or all speeches of Reagan do?

Re:Fuck you PC World. (5, Informative)

J.J. Dane (1562629) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257376)

http://www.ifs.tuwien.ac.at/dp/timecapsule/timecapsule.html [tuwien.ac.at] has a bit more meat on it

Re:Fuck you PC World. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32258188)

BA-C0-14?

Re:Fuck you PC World. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257998)

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

Re:Fuck you PC World. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32258020)

The key is 1 -- 2 -- 3 -- 4 -- 5

Re:Fuck you PC World. (4, Insightful)

h00manist (800926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32258224)

Would it have killed you to include the slightest mention of what "the key to unpick defunct digital formats" is in an article discussing how the Europeans have stashed one away?

Can't be mentioned, it's a stash of software, much of it copyrighted, abandonware with no clear owners, old versions of software with no proper redistribution licence, etc. Emulators for old platforms, with copyright and patent issues. And a bunch of old equipment, with as much specifications and manuals as possible. So in order to provide information to future generations, this generation's laws had to be somewhat ignored.

Frankly... (3, Insightful)

raving griff (1157645) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256626)

If we are taking such precautions to insure that this data key will not be destroyed, would not in the worst case scenario virtually every piece of data that ISN'T buried under a mountain be gone too?

Re:Frankly... (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256740)

I suspect that the logic(aside from the fact that it simply isn't economic to store everything in blast vaults), is that today's cheap, common, ubiquitous digital formats are widespread enough to more or less protect themselves through sheer numbers(can you imagine how much of the earth's surface you'd have to nuke to get rid of all the XP install CDs?); but that the incentives and technology required for them to be readable and useful in a few decades, or after a modest nuclear exchange or something, are actually quite rare. Thus, you put the work and money into building the reading/decoding tech, and just bury that.

Re:Frankly... (2, Funny)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256922)

can you imagine how much of the earth's surface you'd have to nuke to get rid of all the XP install CDs?

Dear God, you'd have to nuke the entire freakin' planet!

Re:Frankly... (4, Funny)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256938)

From orbit, no less.

Re:Frankly... (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257000)

Its the only way to be sure.

Re:Frankly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32258124)

Don't you see? We COULDN'T be sure!

Oh god, we're screwed, man!

Re:Frankly... (4, Funny)

gdshaw (1015745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256992)

can you imagine how much of the earth's surface you'd have to nuke to get rid of all the XP install CDs?

A noble objective to be sure, but I for one believe that GNU/Linux can and should achieve world domination peacefully.

Re:Frankly... (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257464)

I suspect that the logic(aside from the fact that it simply isn't economic to store everything in blast vaults), is that today's cheap, common, ubiquitous digital formats are widespread enough to more or less protect themselves through sheer numbers(can you imagine how much of the earth's surface you'd have to nuke to get rid of all the AOL install CDs?); but that the incentives and technology required for them to be readable and useful in a few decades, or after a modest nuclear exchange or something, are actually quite rare. Thus, you put the work and money into building the reading/decoding tech, and just bury that.

FTFY

Hmm. (5, Funny)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256674)

"The sealed box containing the key to unpick defunct digital formats will be locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 ton door"..."the information and tools required to access and read historical digital material and prevent digital memory loss into the next century."

Perhaps they should include the calculations they used to equate 25 years with 90 years.

Re:Hmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257306)

will be locked away for the next quarter of a century

Read: we intend to open the vault in 25 years

prevent digital memory loss into the next century.

Read: the data should still be readable in 90 years.

Perhaps you should learn to read?

Re:Hmm. (1)

Robin47 (1379745) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257434)

"The sealed box containing the key to unpick defunct digital formats will be locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 ton door"..."the information and tools required to access and read historical digital material and prevent digital memory loss into the next century."

Perhaps they should include the calculations they used to equate 25 years with 90 years.

Those calculations are the key.

What if... (3, Interesting)

EdtheFox (959194) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256684)

What if future generations never find it after the apocalypse? After all, it is in a secret bunker deep in the Swiss Alps

Re:What if... (3, Insightful)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257242)

Or what if they do find it and can't figure out how to use the key? Even a written language can become undecipherable after enough time passes. Now they think they can ensure digital access to an unknown future generation with technology we can't imagine? At the very least that requires electricity analogous to what we have now, and - now I'm talking hundreds of years - just the idea of encoding data in 1's and 0's. By then we'll just be imprinting information in viscous goop and reading it by dipping our finger in the goop and tasting it. Try that with any current storage media.

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257874)

... we'll just be imprinting information in viscous goop and reading it by dipping our finger in the goop and tasting it. Try that with any current storage media.

mmmm... Delicious knowledge...

AACS + CSS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256702)

So, will it include information on how to crack AACS and CSS? No wonder they are locking the door until we have a new format...

The Key? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256716)

I think the "key" they're talking about, is basically a file format descriptor. Basically they're storing the opposite of what the patent-infringement-lobby in Hollywood (see: Why they went to California instead of paying Edison Company) does. Basically the anti-DRM.

Re:The Key? (1)

Leperous (773048) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256810)

Ok, but this begs a simple question: how is the information describing the file formats itself encoded?

Re:The Key? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32256966)

Omg... we forgot to include an ASCII chart!!! Omg, what a Latin characters anyway? OMG!!! What is a chart!!!

Re:The Key? (1)

The_countess (813638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257038)

its encoded in English (and maybe German, French, Spanish and Chinese)? and on paper maybe? or maybe a clay tablet. or a golden one.

Re:The Key? (2, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257060)

Ok, but this begs a simple question: how is the information describing the file formats itself encoded?

It's printed on surplus thermal fax paper from the 70's. That stuff will last forever!

Re:The Key? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257814)

Just a demonstration of why the most important thing about data preservation is choosing the right technology: I went to Wendy's last week and found out the hard way that they use thermal paper to print their receipts. By the time I got to where you're going, the heat from the food had turned my receipt into a charcoal-grey blob with indistinct writing....

Acid-free paper goes a long way, but ultimately they need to put acid-free paper maps TO the vault all over the place, paint them on sides of buildings, etc. so that if civilization collapses, somebody millennia from now will be able to find the vault. Either that or they need to bury it near a population center so that people will actually be LOOKING for it. This, of course, assumes that they expect civilization to collapse. If they don't, then there's really no point to doing any of this.

It's not like we can't find hardware to read legacy digital media from the late 1970s or early 1980s on. The reason it's hard to find stuff before that is because A. stuff wasn't standardized before that point, and B. it wasn't prevalent enough. Thus, out of the triple-digit instances of a particular model of mainframe tape drive, a single-digit number of them might still be functional, and that single-digit number might be zero. When you have hardware that was built in the millions of units, this is not nearly as common a problem. Also, now that data formats have largely converged to a set of broadly deployed standards, chances are, any records of value are periodically carried forward to newer hardware anyway, making this largely moot. The exceptions are mostly government jobs. :-)

Re:The Key? (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257842)

Err... by the time I got to where I was going.... This is what happens when you completely rewrite a sentence one too many times.

Re:The Key? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#32258026)

Acid-free paper goes a long way, but ultimately they need to put acid-free paper maps TO the vault all over the place, paint them on sides of buildings, etc. so that if civilization collapses, somebody millennia from now will be able to find the vault.

Hey, perhaps they should store all the stuff in a MySQL database. I've heard that it's ACID-free as well.

Re:The Key? (1)

PTFD5023 (1481209) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257902)

Naaaah, they saved it as a PDF file and saved it to an iPad.

Ogg Theora with XviD inside? (1)

MattGWU (86623) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256720)

Do they have Ogg Theora? I ask because I have some videos I transcoded a year or two ago and....

That's what They say... (2, Funny)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256732)

Always been wondering what those Swiss are doing under those mountains. Storing information about data formats, sure. This is propaganda straight from Them - They want you to believe this to secure what is *really* down there. Data formats, right - They could as well hang out a sign reading "The content of this underground bunker complex is BORING. Don't go there, you'd only waste your time." Something up in Their propaganda department lately? I am used to better work.

Re:That's what They say... (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256980)

Always been wondering what those Swiss are doing under those mountains.

This is just a ploy, a cover, for there ultimate goal [wikipedia.org] .

Re:That's what They say... (2, Funny)

kalyptein (313110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257180)

Ah yes, I see the Swiss delved too greedily and too deep...

Re:That's what They say... (1)

InterGuru (50986) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257344)

The Swiss have long protected all their military force in underground bunkers. This is one reason Hitler did not attack them. For details, see The Swiss Army by John McPhee. [bookwormhole.net]

When I lived there 25 years ago all houses and workplaces a nuclear bomb shelters.

Re:That's what They say... (2, Informative)

piquadratCH (749309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32258006)

The Swiss have long protected all their military force in underground bunkers. This is one reason Hitler did not attack them.

Could you please stop spreading false information that historians debunked decades ago? Thanks.

Nothing new (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256738)

It's been done before, in various guises. The BBC Domesday project springs to mind, and numerous digital timecapsules.

It seems to me that such projects have a lot in common with SETI searches - somehow providing information to someone who may not have the capability to decode it until they understand the entire message anyway. It always gets me that in such projects they don't do simple things before they lock stuff away, or send a message, like: give a bunch of (non-computing) students the devices / data and don't tell them what it is, how it works. Make sure they've never heard of the project you're working on, then lock them in a room with the data / devices and see what they do. If they can't decode it completely, your project is too elaborate and will not meet its aims. If they only decode it because of their knowledge of the area, then get someone else. Until an average mathematician / physicist / whatever can decode it, it's too complicated to be decoded by a post-nuclear generation and / or ET considering their inherent communication problems in some circumstances anyway.

I have a good feeling that the Voyager golden records would never be completely decoded in such circumstances.

Re:Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257334)

I have a good feeling that the Voyager golden records would never be completely decoded in such circumstances.

Yeah, but so what? You'd probably have done the exact same thing... well I'll freely admit I would have. That was Carl Sagan's baby, and he was basically doing it to get laid by impressing his girlfriend and then wife.

Re:Nothing new (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257784)

Yes, but if the golden records are played backwards, they're actually Rainbow's 1978 Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, which should provide sufficient warning to any semi-intelligent species out there. R.I.P. R.J.D. :/

Re:Nothing new (1)

symes (835608) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257786)

There is another issue worth considering - perhaps if current human endeavours wreak mahem on Earth then surely it would be perhaps quite a good idea to start afresh.

"using defunct technology" (0, Flamebait)

milonssecretsn (1392667) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256756)

They are burying a Windows machine?

Does this include the DRM keys? (2, Interesting)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256782)

Does this include the DRM keys to all the defunct DRM schemes that were supposed to let you access the songs, video and books that you had bought, but went out of business and took the keys to your data with them! Or is this just a copy of the DVD Rebook and other such information on the various and sundry formats!

Re:Does this include the DRM keys? (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257100)

Let's hope that there are enough pirated CDs and DVDs :)

Encrypted formats? (1)

ThisIsAnonymous (1146121) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256796)

I guess they will stash a copy of AnyDVD somewhere in the vault as well...

Did they remember... (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256806)

Did they remember to include information on how to read the BBC Doomsday project laserdiscs?

I believe the required laserdisc players went out of production something more than 10 years ago and spare parts stopped being manufactured something like 5 years ago.

Re:Did they remember... (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256970)

Don't forget CEDs [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Did they remember... (1)

The_countess (813638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257076)

provided the level of technology hasn't gone down too far, or has sufficient recovered after a doomsday event, I'm guessing figuring how to read the dots of those disks isn't going to be all that much of a problem. provided they printen a ascii table on one side, it should be all set.

Re:Did they remember... (1)

Antony T Curtis (89990) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257484)

Reading the "dots" wouldn't help you in seeing the image data stored on a laserdisc: It's not a binary format.

Can't escape moore's law... in 8yrs (2, Insightful)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256822)

...pretty much everything today can be stored on a home server in 8yrs.

With distributed technology, cloud servers, and bit torrent, to spend a few million to store a few formats and keycodes on moving tectonic plates seems a bit illogical. Humans didn't do it 10000 years ago and we still figured out what happened back then.

Re:Can't escape moore's law... in 8yrs (3, Insightful)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256988)

Humans didn't do it 10000 years ago and we still figured out what happened back then.

Don't forget the cave paintings, scrolls, clay tablets and the like. (:

Re:Can't escape moore's law... in 8yrs (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257356)

Please refresh my memory - how did they build Stonehenge? The great pyramids? Lightsabers?

I wonder... (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256856)

We have heard of cloning by grabbing the DNA from a cell and putting it into an embryo or stem cell or whatever. But have we ever sequenced DNA, transferred the data, used it to replicate a DNA molecule, and then make a living organism from it? If we can do that, then recording DNA is good. If we can't, perhaps we ought to first work on the restoration process. We could literally seed and populate distant worlds with DNA from our planet by building a tiny factory with a database and sending it out to land on various planets in other star systems and galaxies.

Hope they don't lose the key to the door (4, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256884)

It's all very well having nuke-proof bunkers and thick steel doors. But at some point someone's gotta get in there (presuming they think out digital formats are worth decoding - they could be in for a bit of a disappointment) to get the keys. If the future society gets into such a state where it's lost all the external copies of these keys it's probably not going to be too good at looking after physical means of access.

I can just imaging after the next war / asteroid / depression / pandemic all these people standing outside this massive steel door, wondering what the hell was inside it?

Re:Hope they don't lose the key to the door (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257110)

Just write "Contains neither canned goods nor ammunition" on the door in a variety of common world languages, as well as the pictograms used in McDonald's procedural documentation(mankind's last written language during the apocalypse, dontcha know), and the rabble should ignore it.

Re:Hope they don't lose the key to the door (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257132)

Were making these for the aliens.

Re:Hope they don't lose the key to the door (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257290)

People have been able to figure out how to break rock for a very long time.

The barrier to entry keeps out those who panic, yet rewards diligent effort in future.

Hallelujah? (1)

Snarkalicious (1589343) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256910)

Let the great age of Apple IIe emulation last forevermore.

Lack of foresight (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256936)

In twenty-five years, there will be no way to decode the data format they used to store their data about decoding data formats. :P

wow...vaguest story ever. (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256952)

we may as well have decided to pack unicorn farts into old lorries and drive them through candy mountain to the fairy princess....apply the word 'digital' 'cloud' or 'virtualization' anywhere in the aformentioned statement you feel it will produce the most revenue.

On a tangentally related note... (2, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256984)

Since TFA was a bit light on the details, who wants to do some speculating on how they would preserve digital data for the long term?

With modern CNC/rapid prototyping tech, stone or fired clay tablets could actually be surprisingly painless, if still rather bulky. Printing with good toner on high quality paper(or something paper-esque but more durable, like Tyvek) would last pretty well, and be a lot smaller.

The more important decision would probably be how to express yourself: You'd probably want to use common world languages and math as much as possible. If you have to include binaries, you might even describe your own simple VM. If you needed better storage density, you could plaintext a description of, say, a barcode format, assuming that the future will have optical sensors good enough for the purpose, and then store the rest as barcodes printed/etched onto tablets...

And don't forget (1)

GreenSquirrel2 (1814454) | more than 4 years ago | (#32256990)

to hide the pass key to the door somewhere safe.

Re:And don't forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257728)

No need: the combination to the vault door is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Great idea, but... (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257142)

The only flaw in their plan: the documents describing how to read these formats are stored on eight-inch floppies.

Obligatory xkcd reference: http://xkcd.com/593/ (2, Interesting)

zill (1690130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257164)

In 3010 AD, archaeologists discovered a sealed vault hidden deep under the Earth - full of technologies that are defective by design, algorithms engineered to restrict the users on how they can enjoy their own media, even rootkits disguised as music CDs.

What did they find? DRM Hell.

They need some parity mountains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257244)

Perhaps even a mountain range with stored keys. A single cosmic meteor could take out a mountain with no redundancy.

Torrent Time Capsule? (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257260)

The internet was initially designed to keep working in the event of a nuclear war, as it avoids having a single point of failure. Why not do the same with the "digital genome"? Distribute the "capsule" amongst thousands - millions? - of computers and update it every few months or so. Invite volunteers to participate SETI@Home style. Each participating PC / smartphone / game console / etc. etc. could hold manageable portions if it that could be readily reassembled. Store copies offline in the storage media of your choice. Deposit the instructions on assembling and using the capsule in both digital format, paper, and microfiche in libraries worldwide.

.

Loooong term storage (4, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257362)

I've been thinking about long term storage solutions for a while, and if we're looking at solutions that would survive floods, EMPs etc., pretty much all methods we have available today are done for. Also they require access to readers that may be ruined for whatever reasons.

Essentially I keep coming back to punch-cards or similar. Not into paper, but into something like anodized titanium [wikipedia.org] . The colour spectrum available there could allow something like 4 or 8 bit encoding per dot. Not entirely sure about how small you can make the dots, nor how close together you can put them if you want more than just two colours.

It'd be somewhat human readable, in that you just need a microscope to view the dots, and then it's just the usual translation method of course. And you could store a simple "dictionary" of cards with large dots + words/characters to make it easy to translate (a Rosetta Stone). And since it's titanium it's unlikely to be affected by the usual disasters. It doesn't melt until 1,668 C, so it's probably going to be quite stable in most types of fires, it pretty resistant to acids, the anodizing should go through the metal, so even sandblasting it won't remove the information (unless you cut through it of course).

Depending on the size of the dots, I think you could even make a simple credit card sized object, that you could show to a web cam to use as a private key for private/public key encryption, logging on to your workstation, getting in to a secure facility and so on.

And if done properly, you could probably disguise the key if necessary. You can already get custom backs/covers for your iPod/iPhone. Why not get one with this kind of back on it? Hide the key via something like steganography, making every n pixel a part of the key.

Re:Loooong term storage (4, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257524)

Why not paper?

Documents on papyrus and parchment will last 2000+ years if properly stored.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_sea_scrolls [wikipedia.org]

Re:Loooong term storage (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257710)

If properly stored. Notice the possible disasters I mentioned? Or even if you store them properly. What happens when you start looking at them? Accidents happen.

And just how small can you make the characters, to make them readable later? The smaller the ink dot, the easier it is for it do disappear over time.

Re:Loooong term storage (2, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257846)

Water - there are metal, stone, plastic casks that will remain water resistant over time. Or in a container in a salt mine, cave system, or geographically located where it won't flood. Like Jordan/Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were. Or...Black Hills of South Dakota, Wasatch range of Utah, Yucca Mountain, Missouri Karst.

EMP - Paper/parchment is remarkably resistant to EMP. I mean, a fractional orbital bombardment system with a multi-megaton nuke could go off over the US and all the paper would remain usable.

Multiple copies in storage in multiple locations.

Re:Loooong term storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257642)

the anodizing should go through the metal, so even sandblasting it won't remove the information (unless you cut through it of course).

You fail to understand what anodizing is.

Re:Loooong term storage (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257774)

Not at all.

Just because titanium anodic films cannot be made thicker than about 300 nm, doesn't mean they can't ... uhm ... you know ... make you a 600 nm thick card?

*clears throat*

Okay, so that was me forgetting a rather basic fact.

I suspect it was because I started out with the punch card idea. The hole goes straight through ... so if we replace the hole with a colour, that'll work as well ...

what's the use for this anyway? (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257522)

for one, I highly doubt that documentation for existing format will disappear, especially in an increasingly connected world where digital versions of documentations allow copying multiple times of that documentation in a perfect way in many different location... this is better-and-more-redundant-than-raid storage.

further, let's suppose that some catastrophe destroys the file format spec... well there is a high probability that the data will be destroyed too

even further... I highly doubt that the same brilliant minds that dwelve in the crypto analysis realm would not be able to reverse engineer simple formats if it came to that.

further, the library would be obsolete if it is not continuously updated

now, having multiple redundant copies of the library of congress (and other countries equivalents) at several locations (including file format), continuously being updated, that's something we could strive for... especially since storage is becoming cheaper. we just need to make sure it is stored on a durable storage medium

ideally we'd include storage somewhere off the planet, that way even if a disaster messed up all our archive on earth, future generations would be able to retrieve it

swiss fort knox really exists! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257548)

at the data storage facility, known as the Swiss Fort Knox.

When I read that, I immediately thought that must be journalist speak with the intelligence level turned way down for the mass media. However, it seems to really exist:

http://www.swissfortknox.ch/swissfortknox-english/index.html [swissfortknox.ch]

"highest protection against ... " Blah blah blah long list of unlikely events. But it seems to exclude the extremely likely event of landslides and avalanches.

Doom! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257622)

Vatican library closed, library books being sent down to mines, seed banks and DNA in mountains. Must be pretty bad, whatever is coming! ;-)

Luckily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32257690)

Those future alien researchers will recognize that the key is stored in ADF, as 880% of the alternate universes settled on the Amiga as platform of choice about 2.8 billion years ago. The earthly phenomenon of the Amiga was actually an accidental technology transfer brought about by a bizarre gardening accident.

In related news... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257734)

...locked away for the next quarter of a century behind a 3-1/2 ton door strong enough to resist nuclear attack...

Researchers reported that the combination to the door has been misplaced, possibly inside the vault itself. When asked, the grad-student replied, "Dude, I though you had it."

hmmm (1)

squinty_s (1738438) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257946)

Crystal skull anyone?

Rosetta Disk, Language Archive (3, Informative)

grendelb (309720) | more than 4 years ago | (#32257982)

The Long Now Foundation [longnow.org] is thinking about and working on projects like The Rosetta Disk [rosettaproject.org] , which crams a bunch of languages onto a 4 inch metal disk. "This is an archive of over 1,500 human languages assembled in the year 02008 C.E. Magnify 1,000 times to find over 13,000 pages of language documentation. The text begins at eye-readable scale and spirals down to nano-scale. This tapered ring of languages is intended to maximize the number of people that will be able to read something immediately upon picking up the Disk, as well as implying the directions for using it—‘get a magnifier and there is more.’" That's just part of their "10,000 year library."

"Digital DNA"? (1)

twmcneil (942300) | more than 4 years ago | (#32258084)

"Digital DNA" I don't know if I should snicker or barf. Hey Reuters, Don't give up your day job... Uh oh.

Floppies (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 4 years ago | (#32258120)

I was at my parents' house over the weekend helping clean out the garage, and we found boxes and boxes of 5.25 and 3.5 floppies, in single, double, and high density, containing all kinds of memories of my childhood, including hundreds of disks of files I downloaded from BBSes, utilities, programs, games, school papers written in Deskmate and Scripsit (on my COCO3!), and so on.

I've spent the last 3 days trying to recover data from them, but only about 5% of the disks are still readable. I wish I had done something like this as technology advanced over the years. I currently have all of my data going back to about 1996... but not much before that.

Waste of money (4, Insightful)

guspasho (941623) | more than 4 years ago | (#32258150)

The summary says they are trying to preserve data into the next century. It seems to me if you want to ensure the availability of information into the next century, the least efficient thing you could do is lock it in a highly-protected vault deep under a mountain that nobody can get to. Instead you ought to be distributing the information far and wide in as many formats as possible. Post it on Wikipedia and various other sites that are likely to be preserved and distributed themselves. Print lots of physical copies and put them in all the libraries around the world. Otherwise you're just hoarding it.

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