One of the fathers of the Internet claims this century could be lost to future historians. I am not sure I agree with Vint Cerf, now a vice president at Google, but I do believe his comments are worth reading and considering.
Data presently stored on outdated technology such as VHS tapes, vinyl records, cassette tapes and floppy disks has already been lost, according Cerf. That is just the beginning, he told a conference last week hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The lack of an electronic storage mechanism that can withstand centuries of time threatens to erode documents and digitally-stored memories through a process he has often referred to as “bit rot.”
You can read more in an article in MarketWatch at http://goo.gl/ETtfgK.
I agree with Vint Cerf that this is a significant problem and the need to preserve data deserves attention. However, the article ignores that fact that corporations, governments, and even non-profits are already preserving their data to make sure it lasts for centuries.
The article seems to assume that once data is created, it is left alone and stored only on the original media. Such an assumption overlooks the fact that any well-run data center periodically copies its data to new media. Information recorded decades ago on punch cards is still available today as it was copied years ago onto disk drives, CD disks, and other long-term media. Even old music recorded years ago on 78-rpm records is now available as MP3 files. If you like old music, you can listen to it on your modern iPod or any other digital devices, even though the music was not originally saved on such a device. No old hand-cranked phonograph is required. The same is true for digital data as well. If the information still has any value, it can be copied time and time again to newly-invented storage media.
The bigger problem is with the information stored in homes and in smaller corporations that do not employ data professionals to keep their data alive and available on modern media. You can fix the problem in your home by simply copying data, home movies, videos, and other media onto new media as it becomes available and always before the old media becomes obsolete.
Data centers have been doing exactly that for more than 50 years. You can do the same. The only problem is that many people will not realize the need and will not update the storage media in time.
What’s in your closet?