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The Digital Dark Age

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the no-more-scumm-based-games dept.

Media 413

zygan wrote to mention a Fairfax Digital article about the possibility of a digital dark age, as a result of the increasingly short-term lifespan of digital storage. From the article: "It is 2045, he suggests, and his grandchildren are exploring the attic of his old house when they come across a CD-ROM and a letter, which explains that the disk contains a document that provides directions to obtaining the family fortune. The children are excited. 'But they've never seen a CD before - except in old movies - and, even if they found a suitable disk drive, how will they run the software necessary to interpret the information on the disk? How can they read my obsolete digital document?'"

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Nothing to see here. (1, Funny)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634547)

I love how that was the first thing I saw for this story....

this should be soluble. (5, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634549)

Scary article. But probably too true.

In my opinion data archival screams to be handled in as simple an lowest-common-denominator a way as possible. For me, that means text for documents, and picture formats that would seem guaranteed to be around for a long time, if not forever. I'm guessing a good candidate for pictures would be something like jpg. I can't imagine jpg going away or ever being a non-decipherable picture format. Video might be a tougher nut to crack but I would guess some flavor of mpg.

Note that none of these flavors: text; jpg; nor mpg, include or imply any reliance on vendor proprietary formats (yes, I know there's a certain proprietary tinge to the picture and video forms, but they're pretty universal). So, storing and archiving for historical purposes rules out Microsoft and all of their formats. This would especially make sense considering there are already huge compatibility issues with Microsoft documents among their various versions of their products.

Also, for retrieval assurance it no longer makes sense to me to use "dead" or "inert" methods for storage, e.g., tapes, cds, dvds, etc. Instead, at least for my purposes I maintain multiple physical and current storage devices for all of my important data. This has been a recent (last three years) development for me when I started reading about early failures of the supposedly rugged storage.

So, that being the case that introduces (introduced) the need to devise a strategy for forward migration of all of may data so nothing got left behind. Fortunately, this has been mostly easy since right now the "active" storage du jour seems to be hard disk drives, and the capacity has grown sufficiently with each new generation of drives I have been able to simply roll my data forward onto the new drives with the new data with plenty of room to spare.

This shouldn't be an approach foreign to comapanies with reasonably competent data shops either. But maybe a philosophical change. All is not lost, and hopefully all will not be.

Just my $.02. ~

Re:this should be soluble. (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634561)

this should be soluble

That could be a problem. At least a CD won't get damaged by water.

Re:this should be soluble. (1)

damnfuct (861910) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634582)

Well, exactly. If you put directions to your family fortune in some sort of obscure and soon-to-be-obsolete format, you deserve to have it lost. If your kids can't figure out how to open a raw text file, your money is safer missing.

Re:this should be soluble. (2, Insightful)

Cruciform (42896) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634654)

Even resorting to paper these days you want to make sure you've got archival quality equipment.

Some inkjet pages fade considerably in just two years. After a decade they may just be yellowing pages with no discernible content.

Re:this should be soluble. (5, Informative)

merreborn (853723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634752)

I'd think bmp would be preferable to jpg. bmp is to images what .txt is to text (and while ASCII is arbitrary, it's a single substitution cypher, and therefore easily crackable) -- the simplest, uncompressed format. I've written 1-bit (black and white) bitmaps by hand. I couldn't ever hope to do the same in jpeg.

Similar issues with old movies (4, Insightful)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634782)

All too often these are literally rotting away in storage, because the originals are decaying, and the movie companies are unwilling to invest money to rescue them, even though they would sue you for millions if you published these on your own.

Re:this should be soluble. (5, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634800)

I would personally opt for PNG for images, to avoid loss of data. Video almost has to be MPEG, as neither MNG nor APNG have really gone anywhere at this time and the BBC's high definition format isn't getting much adoption yet either. For audio, MP4 would seem the best choice - less loss of data, but more likely to be readable in the far future than Ogg Vorbis (which is a shame) or AIFF (yay! AIFF's gonna die!)

No matter what form you store the data in, if you want it readable in the far future, you've got to remember two things - there's no guarantee ANY specific technology will exist, and there's no guarantee ANY specific timeframe for the reading to take place.

What you want, then, is to do the reverse of the language decoding that has taken place over the years. Imagine yourself faced with a puzzle every bit as baffling as Egyptian Hyroglyphics, only stored at a vastly greater information density and probably in an electronic format. What would you want/need, to be able to recover the data?

Well, there would seem to be a few things that are essential. First, the explorer in the future will need to know the data is there and in what form. So, if you're using optical storage, make that clear (along with frequency). If you're using N-state logic, make it clear what N is. If there are M layers, tell them the value of M. You don't need to know all of the technical information, because all they need is where to start looking.

Secondly, the information needs to be correctly indexed. Languages are broken because types of information can be grouped and identified. The same will be true here. So, produce a contents list with corresponding data formats and/or MIME types, along with the offsets within the medium.

Thirdly, a key is a REALLY good idea - something analogous to the Rosetta Stone. Let's say you're using binary logic and a fairly rudimentary FS on the storage medium with text-based directories. The key would be a printout of the root directory in binary, again in ASCII and a third time as a set of records describing the logical layout. The printout would also need the offset of the directory. From this, it would be trivial for someone in the year 3000 to determine how offsets were calculated, how the data was laid on the disk and how the data is connected.

If physical storage is going to be used, ensure the various media used will last about the same length of time. So, if you're aiming for a hundred years, CDs may just about work. But you must NOT have the CD in contact with sulphides or anything else which will destroy the surface. The CD must be kept cold (but not so cold it is damaged) to slow decomposition. It should also be kept somewhere where accidental exposure to UV is impossible.

If you're keeping paper notes with the data, as I've suggested, the paper must be acid-free and the inks must be long-lasting. Most modern paper is of very low grade, as are most modern inks.

If you're looking more at a time capsule that is for the FAR future (we're talking something that happens AFTER Star Trek), then you've got to be extra careful but it should still be possible. I see no reason why you couldn't have physical storage under ideal conditions which could be retrievable after a thousand years or so. You just have to be very careful on what you choose to use. Same with paper. If you're looking to produce the next Beowulf (no, not the clustering technology), then you're probably going to want to look at vellum or some other extremely high-quality medium. I'd also look up early inks on the Internet and modify a recipe that could be used as a refill for a printer ink cartridge. Many early inks are highly stable (iron oxide is one example) and fade more by damage to the medium than decay of the ink.

f[pppp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634552)

I cannot fail it!!!!

The equipment? (3, Insightful)

Dogers (446369) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634562)

Nevermind the equipment needed to read it, what about the rights they'll need to read it?

And even that's ignoring the fact the CD will long since have self destructed, decaying away..

(From TFA: "Dark age ... the Powerhouse Museum's Matthew Connell with an ancient clay tablet that will probably outlive the 1980s tape in his right hand.".. Probably? Definitely more like!)

Re:The equipment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634619)

Nevemind the rights they'll need to read it, what makes you think CD-R's will last for 40 years?

ebay (2, Funny)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634570)

Maybe they can buy all the necessary components on ebay!

Seriously archeologist have decoded all sorts of dead languages, decoding digital (assuming you can still pick out the bits) would be easier.

...and (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634571)

In the second box is a player, if the fellow had any real fortune.

Besides, I'd have drawn the map on parchment, and tied it up with a string.

Arrr! Ye Mateys...

Re:...and (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634612)

A smart man would have left instructions with his lawyer.


Re:...and (2, Funny)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634700)

OK - let's examine this concept - I have a family fortune - and the only person I'm going to tell the location to is a lawyer???????

Can't I just blow it on hookers and cocaine before I die?

Re:...and (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634787)

Depends upon the lawyer. Here is a counterexample [] .

Duh (1)

oiper (575250) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634574)

Don't you recall the video tombstones [] ? Everybody will have them.

Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634575)

While I could see the media the information is on becomming obsolete, binary is kind of timeless. Things like ASCII and the current compression algorithims I doubt will be 'forgotten' in 40 or so years.

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634662)

ASCII in particular is part of UTF-8, which means it'll last for a long time (first, unicode must completely eliminate other encodings, then, some other unicode encoding will eliminate UTF-8, how long is that going to take? 50 years?).

Doesn't matter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634578)

This example could use a bit of revision. Some CD-Rs only have a life span of two years!

dark age (5, Funny)

foxhound01 (661872) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634580)

They'll take it to that crazy old guy in the corner house with uncut grass in his lawn, for he was once a great programming guru and has a ton of still functioning archaic equipment that requires insanely large amounts of power.

Re:dark age (2, Informative)

Frogbert (589961) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634760)

I think its safe to say, with the number of people who showed up on Qlink using real Commodore 64s reciently, that there will be no shortage of "Crazy old guys" in the near future.

Re:dark age (1)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634839)

Damn kids! Get away from my Amiga! And leave the 3B2 alone!

Let the Internet back it up for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634581)

Works for Linus.

Yeah right (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634585)

Whatever is worthwhile to keep will be migrated to new media. Even if 90% of it is lost odds are 10 times more information will be preserved from this decade than the last. Digital media is cheaper to own and operate.

Re:Yeah right (1)

liangzai (837960) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634829)

Nah, there are tons of movies rotting away in freezers at the *AA associated studios. There is no commercial interest in restoring them and digitizing them, but since THEM have the copyright on it, US will see it be lost forever.

The same applies to digital stuff. People have the only copies and/or the copyright, and it will one day go through the bit bucket because the owner is greedy / mentally insane / depressed / had a fire or what have you.

All the good digital stuff, like Asian 4 You, will eventually go down the same drain as the library in Alexandria.

Huh? (1)

imbezol (588268) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634588)

The directions to a treasure are pretty easy. What the hell are you doing? Writing it with a spray paint brush in some paint program, encrypting it, attaching it to a DRM'd Word Doc, etc?

Easy (2, Insightful)

joe_bruin (266648) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634598)

How can they read my obsolete digital document?

The same way we do it today: emulators. Of course, your cdrom is not going to survive that long, so there's no need to worry about that. Have you considered leaving your legacy carved into stone tablets?

Re:Easy (1)

Norgus (770127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634728)

If I carved my data into a stone tablet at the same data density a cd is burned/pressed surely a CD would last longer.

The times they are a changing (2, Insightful)

Orionetheus (914838) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634603)

Hopefully someone isn't stupid enough to store their will on a CD rom...would you?

Re:The times they are a changing (5, Funny)

dfjunior (774213) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634695)

Hell no!
Zip discs are the *only* reliable way to archive digital data indefinitely

Re:The times they are a changing (1)

SquadBoy (167263) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634726)

*click* :)

Re:The times they are a changing (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634709)

Times are indeed changing. How many family fortunes do you suppose have been lost because some nut stuck the directions of a Zip disk?

But it's the latest and greatest! Everyone will have one in a couple years.

This is a touchy subject. (2, Interesting)

empvirus (881998) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634604)

Really, who knows what the future holds? And who says we won't be able to trace history back to these days and even further? And just because we don't use a media anymore means it is forgotten and no one will ever be able to read the media again. I mean, if one did some digging, I bet he/she would find information to be able to read punch-cards even. Just my 2 cents.

Mediums change (1)

FahrenheitLF (912905) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634606)

I have some old VHS movies that I can no longer watch because I no longer have a VCR. I just watch them on DVD instead. Important information will find it's way into the 22nd century. If it doesn't, it's our own fault, not the medium it is stored to.

Re:Mediums change (1)

zxnos (813588) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634668)

that is totally cool. i need a DVD player that plays old VHS tapes.

Old Computer? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634609)

Well, someone is bound to have an old computer lying around. I know I have an old LP player, and an 8-track player, and I probably won't throw these out. So why throw my computer out?

Huh? (4, Funny)

tktk (540564) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634613)

...they come across a CD-ROM and a letter...

\/\/H47'$ 4 L3773r?

Re:Huh? (1)

zxnos (813588) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634757)

letter: HLr
number: 4743773
symbol: \/\/'$?

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634786)

This is hysterical/insightful.....

a lesson on impermanence (2, Interesting)

puzzled (12525) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634615)

  Each moment arises out of the moment before - call it 'dependent arising'. No object exists in perpetuity - even black holes evaporate over long time spans.

  This being said, our digital storage systems, in a collective sense, are becoming more like a brain and less like an archive. 'Memories' of some importance are in multiple locations and accessible via different search methods. They're also being changed, just as memories of our pasts acquire a patina as we age. Someone took something I wrote in the early 90s on Usenet and added it to their humor site. My flickr content is spreading if the hits are any indication, as are my contributions to YouTube.

  Public records are an important thing, but understand the other, positive things that are happening in the background as the the internet acts less like a database and more like a neural net with each passing day.

Doesn't take that long ... (2, Insightful)

angst_ridden_hipster (23104) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634622)

I have a bunch of old DSDD 40-track hard-sector TRS-80 5.25" floppy disks (NEWDOS/80v2 format) that I'd love be able to read.

Unless I want to build custom hardware, I don't believe it can be done...

And those are only ... uh ... well, OK, twenty to twenty-five years old.

Re:Doesn't take that long ... (2, Insightful)

Murphy Murph (833008) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634763)

Are you suggesting that your TRS-80 had 1% of 1% of 1% the market penetration of CDs?

Apples to oranges my friend.

Besides, what is stopping you from reading that data on an ebayed machine, printing it out and OCRing it?

SESSION #18 - SPEAK LIKE A CHILD (4, Interesting)

infonography (566403) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634626)

Subject of a Cowboy Bebop episode. This is why I watch anime. They actually take some time to examine an idea like where to find a Betamax player 150 years from now. []

I suppose this means (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634630)

That I could throw away my file drawer full of 8" (DS-DD 128K) floppy disks full of 8080/8048/8051 assembly code; but then what do I do with that MDS-235 in my basement?

Give it to me (2, Interesting)

fumanchu32 (671324) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634632)

Just give me the document. I'll print off a hard copy today, that new fangled paper technology looks promising (Assume acid free paper, no sunlight, etc, for you picky individuals). Just leave them a cd with my contact info. I will give them the directions to the family fortune, I promise. You can trust me, I'm a [insert political party of choice here].

This has come across my mind as well (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634636)

I put it in the form of an even more extreme question, "How do you build a 10k year machine?"

Materials science is in its infancy as reactive armor [] will barely keep up with advances in something as simple as an rpg. I say that their trully has not been an advancement in human culture since the iron age where since than we have used carbon steel to build dams to skyscrapers yet always staying within certain paramaters. What we need is a material that ignores all current scales when it comes to building tanks, buildings or space elevators. I am hopeful like the rest of you that such a material as carbon nanotubes may be a step in the right direction but as an engineer who merely uses alloys he knows has certain properties I ask slashdot, "What are some other novel materials of the past 10 years?" I know about fullerenes, aerogel, and magnetic plastics what else is there?

The reason I want to build a 10k year machine is to begin preparatory work on something that can reasonably be able to reach another civilization within 150 ly at less than 1% the speed of light.

Re:This has come across my mind as well (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634737)


Make easy to assemble parts into a can.
Carve direction on how to assemble machine.
Seal can.
Launch can into space and point it at where your object will be in 10K years.

If there is no one there that can put it together, then there isn't anyone there worth getting a messaage to.

Re:This has come across my mind as well (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634785)

You forgot amorphous metal.

5x-10x stronger, tougher, more expensive but intrinsically better.

The format is probably not relevant (4, Informative)

hungrygrue (872970) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634637)

as the CD probably couldn't be read regardless. CDs do not last forever. r_CD-R.htm [] In fact many will be unreadable in as little as 2 years. If you want to archive, print it with good ink on acid free archival paper.

Re:The format is probably not relevant (1)

liangzai (837960) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634779)

Aye. I prefer runestones, although the rune porn is less juicy than MPEG-4.

Interesting - historians' concerns (2, Interesting)

BitterAndDrunk (799378) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634638)

I read an article about 10 months ago about the "death of history" due to the electronic age.
In a nutshell, as we've moved to more digital forms of communication (phone and email), one of the primary methods historians use to piece together older eras is going extinct - the written correspondence from one person to the next.
It was an excellent article; my google-fu sucks apparently because I can't find hide nor hair of it. Curses. No +5 Informative for me.

empyre (1)

l00k (910333) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634640)

People might also be interested in a fairly extensive discussion about these issues that took place on the empyre mailing list [] in February.

Digital dark age is here... (1)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634641)

We live in an age where almost everyone has gotten rid of their 35mm camera and replaced it with a digital camera. Most such people have no idea how to use them. I have a dozen or so family members with 256 meg flash RAM in their digital camera, and it's a good thing because they have no idea how to copy the pictures to their computer. And what if they did manage that? The next inevitable hard drive crash would make them lose all of them anway.

I automatically copy my digital pictures and mini-dv files from my workstation to a server on a nightly basis. Then manually once a week I copy it to a removable hard drive inside a USB controller. Then every few months I make DVD+R backups. I'm still not satisfied - I'm looking into [] as a cheap Internet backup.

Re:Digital dark age is here... (1)

myowntrueself (607117) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634794)

I'm still not satisfied - I'm looking into as a cheap Internet backup

Right, so as in the example in TFA, you'd be leaving what in the attic?

A URL printed on, of course, acid-free paper?

Nice try...

Re:Digital dark age is here... (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634827)

Nice job slipping the referal link in there.

Commission junction, eh?

The tools are not the problem. (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634642)

You'll have no problem obtaining a device capable of reading a CD in 40 years, software to read any file format that ever existed can be obtained from this thing we call "the internet". If it's a particularly esoteric format you might have to spend a little time with it, though with the family fortune at stake that doesn't seem like much.

The main problem is that in 40 years the organic dies on that CDR (I'm assuming) will long have degraded and the disc is completely and utterly unreadable. In fact that only needs about 2 years.

Re:The tools are not the problem. (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634719)

"dyes" is of course what I meant there...

Re:The tools are not the problem. (2, Interesting)

limabone (174795) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634765)

Why do people keep saying CD's die in 2 year/5 years/x years? Has anyone actually had a CD die on them? I have CD's in front of me at this very moment that are over 10 years old and still work great (yes I did in fact test them). Is there some conspiracy by the blank CD manufacturers to make you think all your CD's are going to die so you need to keep transferring the contents from one disk to another forever?

Use an emulator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634650)

'nuff said.

More importantly (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634656)

More importantly...even though they might be able to find whatever software/info they would need to configure something/buy legacy hardware to run it...there's most likely not a chance in hell that the CD would still work after that length of time due to how quickly the information decays on them.

The big long term problem with our increasingly digital world is data decay from all our archived information.

The person would be better off inscribing the information in stone for their descendants to find because at least we know that stuff can last thousands of years.

I think that.. (4, Insightful)

slapout (93640) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634657)

..a more likey outcome is that patents and DRM will lead to a digital dark age.

Directions to a treasure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634661)

Yarrrr!! On this CD be th' directions t' me booty an' some o' me best porn.

2045 is a bit soon. (1)

llamaguy (773335) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634672)

2045 seems a bit soon - after all, we can still get pretty detailed information on the mainframes of the 1950s. Also, CDs are a -very- well known format, and have been for the past 10-15 years at least, so they'll hardly be marked down as insignificant. Now, the formats on said CD could be more problematic, but 8/16-bit Unicode or ASCII are again very well known protocols and text written in them should survive. If my descendants can't figure out how to read a popular hard storage medium or what's on it, I don't want them to have my family fortune.

Easy, just pull out your laser key-fob computer (1)

myth_of_sisyphus (818378) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634674)

Hold the CD-ROM in front of it, the laser will read the bits--even degradaded--figure out the compression scheme and project it onto the back of your retina.

easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634675)

you could hide the data in an internet meme, like the time I took a picture of my unusually large anus so I wouldnt forget my passwords.

Besides the media incompatibility... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634676)

I guess most average CD brands would have deteriorated beyond rescue long before 2045 anyway.

Heck, that's something I have to remind people using CD's for digital photography even now: never buy CD-RW's, always burn new ones. They're so cheap anyway, and you get some redundancy, and there's less risk of them simply going bad from a brand of worse quality than you expected.

As for the article, yes, it's quite important to make the transitions and not miss out more than say 3-4 generations!

Not really a problem (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634679)

people migrate their data to new technologies all the time.

Think about it. A person gets a new computer with the latest technology, then they transfer their data to the new machine.A contant upgrade cyscly.

Same with lerge businesses, they may be using a tape library, but they upgrade there tapes regularly. And if some came out with a 1000 terabytes in a cubic inch of crystal storage device, they would also ahve a way to migrate there clients data. If they didn't they would have a hard time selling any.

CD Rot (2, Informative)

Malicious (567158) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634682)

Don't forget about CD Rot [] . While you'd like to believe that if you put that Treasure Map on a CD so you can find the treasure years from now, chances are... your map will have disspeared on you.

This is why I still get my digital photos developed. Last thing I want is all my treasured memories to become suddenly un-readable someday.

Re:CD Rot (1)

pharwell (854602) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634837)

And as a musician, this is a concern for me. How long will my CD's last? I hope to someday be able to purchase a record cutter. Vinyl LP's will last a very long time if stored properly. Look at the vintage vinyl industry. Beatles records from the 60's are still playable 40 years on, but CD's made in the 80's may already be subject to CD rot.

This is how they read it... (1)

kage.j (721084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634697)

A text file. They can open the thing with a text editor!...I don't think .txt will ever be obsolete.

Re:This is how they read it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634796)

actually, even if the file was in a proprietry word processor format, a "strings"-like program easily extracts the ASCII text, which carries most of the relevant information (except for mathematics - one of the reasons I use LaTeX for mathematical documents)

Let Google worry about it (2, Insightful)

rarewire (636787) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634701)

Make your problem Google's problem: Mail yourself all your archive files to your Gmail account

The Short Answer (1)

Caraig (186934) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634705)

The easy and short answer is to not rely on any middleware: use printed word. If you pack any sort of digital media, it will either degrade or it will not be able to be read. If you pack, say, a PDA, or even a laptop. there's no garauntee that the storage media will survive the decades, either, or that the same electrical power setup will exist then.

On the other hand, a written message on non-acidic paper (probably some kind of vellum,) properly cared for, can last for a long, long time. And you don't need to run it on a computer to read the message. All you need is at least one Mk.0 Eyeball. Of course then you run into the problem of having someone to translate it... but it seems to me that this is a much easier task than trying to find decades-old hardware and trying to reconstruct magnetic bits which may or may not be in the right order.

Here (1)

liangzai (837960) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634712)

People in China still rely heavily on diskettes and other gadgets found in computers from the previous century, and I am sure this is more true in India and in Africa. Thus, in 2045 we need look no farther than the poorer parts of the world to find older equipment. Just look at all the 50s cars found in abundance on Cuba.

The question is rather if the USA exists in 2045. There are other, more important questions as well, and this is a non-issue. People who update technology usually transfer their stuff to their new medium. If they don't it just means it is not worth preserving anyway.

An interesting drawback to digitalization (2, Interesting)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634721)

Reminds me of a discussion I once got into about analog vs. digital storage. Some of the people on the analog side argued that the myth of digital media being everlasting is false -- which it is. Digital media, on their own, should be seen as temporary storage. The true virtue of digital media isn't even the media itself -- it's the content. Content is what can be copied over and over again with no degradation.

Like oral traditions, the chain of copying needs to remain unbroken for any information to truly last forever, outliving "mere mortal" media. As long as P2P networks continue to exist, I can die happily knowing that the sum of mankind's knowledge will be floating around there somewhere... even if it is buried under millions of terabytes worth of lesbian porn. ;P

Offtopic: Poor rendering of Slashdot in Konqueror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13634723)

Wow, Slashdot editors, what did you do to the slashcode with your CSS conversion? I am trying to view it using Linux 2.4 kernel and Konqueror browser, with Java, Javascript, animations, Flash and cookies all disabled the way I usually surf. In the past the Slashdot site always used to render nicely. Now, at work on Internet Explorer it still looks fine, but here at home using Linux/Konqueror there are things like huge blocks of empty or dark space (is some animated advertisement supposed to be running in that space or something?), and weird extraneous lines cutting across the numbers on the page (e.g. if it says "280 out of 360 comments," there are little annoying lines through the numbers).

Weird that the site renders better in IE. And before you ask - it is not my browser - other sites look great as always. Sorry to be off-topic, but thought you guys might want to know.

Who cares? (2, Funny)

Chysn (898420) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634731)

So we're going to lose our information. Who cares? Proton decay will eventually destroy all of it. Sure, that's a long time in the future. You know how things go: it's 10^1032 years away today, but before you know it the kids have moved out and the end of the universe is right around the corner.

Just try and keep those bits in line.

This is important. (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634748)

This is a very important topic, has been mentioned for years, and of course it has already been demonstrated in real life... the BBC Domesday Project of the 80s, where kids across the UK were asked to submit their own descriptions and images of their local area, much in the way of the original Domesday Book of 1086. It was collated on the default school computer, the BBC Micro, and packaged up & sold back to schools on huge laser discs. Except as the 21st century arrived, no-one had any readers. [] A basic example, perhaps, but one that actually happened. As it turned out, they managed to get to the data, after appeals on the web & in the press, and it can be browsed here [] .

Strangely the article barely touched on physical degradation. This is a bigger problem. We don't know how long these cheap late 90s CDs will last. However that's the same for any media, from paper and photos. The advantage we have is we can easily run off an exact clean copy on fresh media - this why I've started to date every CD/DVD I burn.

Dupe? (1)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634753)

Man i thought i saw a similar article somewhere before []

well, if you are looking for (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634764)

a tech story from the past, just go to slashdot...It will be back.

Digital Archeology! (1)

kbahey (102895) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634767)

This is a topic that I thought about a while back, and even wrote an article on [] .

There are also some success stories [] with old media.

I hope our data does not meet the fate of Hieroglyphs: undecipherable for two millenia.

Already happened (1)

slashname3 (739398) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634769)

I have a box with several dozen reels of super 8 movies that were taken by my family many many years ago. Last time I found someone that might be able to convert those reels to digital format the cost was very high.

It is very likely that all of those films are lost at this point.

Re:Already happened (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634809)

There's LOTS of people who will convert that stuff. Shop around for a better price.

Paper (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634775)

That is why paper books are so important.

If stored properly they will last a thousand years..

not an issue (1)

real_smiff (611054) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634776)

reading CDs will be trivial for evermore.. unless something really serious happens to the human race, and then we'll have much bigger things to worry about, like how to build vehicles, or houses. i really find this kind of scenario bizzarre. 2045 is only 40 years away. when was the LP invented? could you build a rudimentary LP player in 10 years? i think so. its only going to get easier.
now, reading old hard disks could be more difficult because both the reader and media are combined, i,e, the interface between the two is not standard, ironically as that should make it simpler?

just reread summary (heh) (1)

real_smiff (611054) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634822)

oh you're talking about degradation of media? oh well if it's gone, it's gone. maybe you can recover some, but thats current tech, and it's digital, so nothing magical is likely to happen there. anything that people care about is naturally being preserved through copying.. p2p could save the world, who'da thunk it ;)

So true! (1)

HexRei (515117) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634781)

...because, you know, nobody has record players, dat tapes, or 5 1/4" drives anymore...right? Come on. At some point, yes, it will become a niche item, but short of a world-wide holocaust it will never be impossible or even preposterously difficult to recover data from old formats.
At worst, you'll send it to a specialty studio to transfer to another format, at best, you'll call up your friend who loves those retro CD's (they just SOUND better than quantum cubes!) and have him transfer it for you.

Not to worry... (1)

PrntlUnit27 (878377) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634788)

In 2045, the debut of Longhorn will take care of this.

not a new concern... (1)

beefguts (529522) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634790)

I refer to this as digital amnesia

Media Evolution and Digital Photography (2, Insightful)

TFGeditor (737839) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634791)

Media evolution and subsequent obsolescence is what keeps may photographers from adopting digital cameras. Slide film images, though not "forever," are certainly more enduring and readily adaptable via scanning to whatever digital storage medium is the current state of the art.

Hardcopy backups (1)

gregmckone (211824) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634792)

Write the location of the paper backup on the CD.

Problem solved.

In any system never build it more complicated than need be, never build a pyramid of dependencies that will have its base knocked out.

This is why depending on a centralized electrical grid instead of decentralized sustainable development is such backward thinking.


Transfering (1)

chriso11 (254041) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634801)

There is one way to go - rely on the HD manufacturers - they have been able to continually improve storage density. Now, the only data I store on optical media is my Ghost files, so that I can rebuild my PC. Everything else is stored on a set of three HDs, which are sync'ed on a pseudo-random basis. One HD is stored away from the home, in case of fire.

I expect in 20 years, everyone will store their data on the internet. In that time, we will trust the internet to hold our data. Why keep local storage, when you would have a fast connection to internet all the time? We will probably be complaining about the evil Google monopoly, which owns the storage on the internet or something.

Pfft. (1)

po8 (187055) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634806)

First of all, you can still buy 60-year-old wire recorders [] . What are the odds that you can't buy a vintage CD drive and enough vintage hardware to bridge it to the present day 50 years from now?

Second of all, any competent engineer with a scanning digitizing optical microscope and a copy of some books from the library on formats could put together a workable CD reader in about a week today. Think how easy it will be in 2045.

Yes, the CD may have degraded hugely by then. But if there's any redundancy in the underlying data, there should be enough left to hit the high spots. Ironically, the scanning microscope plus clever image processing should be way better than a standard CD player at this.

I think all this "legacy data" scare is just hype. I have an 250KB 8" floppy at my house right now that was written around 1975. If I could possibly bring myself to care about its contents, I'm pretty confident I could get the data off without much trouble or expense. But oddly, almost all data I actually care about has migrated right along with me to my 500MB of local storage. I see no reason to expect this situation to change.

Data Worth Saving... (1)

Fortress (763470) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634811)

...should be migrated as formats/media change. Got directions to a family fortune? Don't burn a CD and hide it in the attic. If data is important to you, you should be backing it up regularly anyway, so the dying media problem should take care of itself. As for data formats, just make sure you can access all your data in the programs you use for that data type. That way, when you change programs/formats, presumably some form of converter will translate your important data to the new standard.

That said, I think there will be a burgeoning market in the near future for data-archaeologists that specialize in data recovery from old media. Hold on to your floppy drives!

typo (1)

gregmckone (211824) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634816)

Sustainable generation (sorry not development).

Like solar & wind generation in every town.

Special software to read files? (1)

pherthyl (445706) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634820)

Serves you right for making the treasure map in MS Word!

there is going to be no digital darkage... (2, Insightful)

3seas (184403) | more than 8 years ago | (#13634828)

... except for stuff that has copy protection on it...

why? because anything anybody wants to preserve they will either copy it over to newer larger space media or the archiologist will build the device to read the old media.

if there is any concern its with teh ability of the media to hold data... but we were all told how much better cds are to tape and floppy at holding information....

so its on the media industry to be sued when the truth is exposed....????

cd's are to last at least 100 year???

of course there is always writing it out and storing it in some cave at the dead sea site...
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