Thursday, June 25, 2015

Storing Digital Data for Eternity

Storing Digital Data for Eternity. Betsy Isaacson. Newsweek Tech & Science. June 22, 2015.
“People think by digitizing photographs, maps, we have preserved them forever, but we’ve only preserved them forever if we can continue to read the bits that encode them.” An example of data loss is NASA's Viking probes, where mission data were saved on magnetic tape. After 10 years, no one had the skills or software to read the data, and a portion of the data was permanently lost. The moral of this is to be skeptical of the promises of technology. Cloud technologies may feel safe, but there is no guarantee that the data will continue to exist.

There are some projects underway to build storage for digital data that doesn’t degrade. Some of these use quartz glass (which is ultra expensive with lasers that cost over $100,000); DNA (too slow to be practical to load data, and so complex that only only specialized labs can manage it, and as volatile as magnetic tapes); metal etched disks that can be read with an optical microscope; and the Long Server, an ever-growing database of file-conversion resources. And Vint Cerf's suggestion of creating “digital vellum,” a technique for packing and storing digital files along with all the code that’s needed to decrypt them.

1 comment:

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