Saturday, February 14, 2015

Digital Dark Age

As we celebrate Valentines Day with roses, gifts, dinners, and, of course, pictures, this article jumped out at this morning news reading. The point he makes is a very valid one, if I may say so myself. Having taken more than half a million pictures so far in my life time (without being a professional photographer) I experienced a struggle to regain the valuable memories many times. Who still has floppy disks, or any of the "mass" external storage devices you connected via serial port; how long before the CD or DVD technology goes the same way as all the other devices we relied on so heavily. It is the cloud storage media which is advertised as the next big thing for all your personal needs, data etc. Local storage might be a luxury as well, take the chrome book computer - only the necessary storage for the operating system more or less, the rest is in the cloud. However, no access - no pictures or any other personal data. This is the modern day round robin game which has been played since the inception of the computer age. Hardware capabilities versus Software demands first, than the other way around and now we add the offsite storage, namely the cloud, to this scenario. How is it working for you? If you live in one of the lesser covered areas - not so much ...

BTW A long time ago in a different life, I met Vinton Cerf in Paris. We (the company I worked for) had him as a guest speaker at our venue. Afterwards we wined and dined in the Eiffel tower restaurant.

Father of the Internet, Vint Cerf, Warns of Upcoming “Digital Dark Age,” Says Print Data or Lose it

Cerf is the chief Internet evangelist at Google, and he spoke this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Rather than a world where longevity is a given, Cerf fears a “digital dark age” in which the rapid evolution of technology quickly makes storage formats obsolete thanks to a phenomenon he calls “bit rot.”
“In our zeal to get excited about digitizing, we digitize photographs thinking it’s going to make them last longer, and we might turn out to be wrong,” he said.
Since so much data is now kept in digital format, another problem will be with future generations that struggle to understand our society. Technology is advancing so quickly that old files will be inaccessible.
“If we don’t find a solution our 21st Century will be an information black hole”, Cerf explained. “Future generations will wonder about us but they will have very great difficulty knowing about us.
He continued with his warning saying, “We don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them the same way we preserve books and so on we need to make sure that the digital objects we create will be rendered far into the future.”
He also expressed concern that even this may not be enough as often historians and people do not realize how important documents are until centuries after those that created them have passed away.
“Some people make the argument that the important stuff will be copied and put into new media and so why should we worry,” Cerf said. “But historians will tell you that sometimes documents and transactions images and so on may turn out to have an importance which is not understood for hundreds of years. So failure to preserve them will cause us to lose our perspective.”
Cerf’s proposed solution is something he calls “digital vellum” — essentially, a tool for preserving old technologies so that even obsolete files can be recovered.
But as for now, the father of the internet is giving this advice, “If there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.’

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