Thursday, June 04, 2015

Writing in the Sand

Writing in the Sand. Chris Erickson. June 4, 2015.
Recently I have been sorting through some family photographs from long ago. One image, digitally born, was taken on a family holiday at a beach. In the sand we had written a birthday greeting to our son. The greeting, which only lasted a short time, was erased by the wind and waves. The snapshot is all that is left of the original message.

It reminded me of the problems we now face regarding digital content.   Like writing on the beach, our digital data is based on electric or magnetic charges on wafers of sand. The messages are likewise temporary,  erased before long by the elements.

There are lots of problems encountered in preserving digital content, but it seems the first problem is that we entrust our permanent messages to temporary media. We then rely on complex procedures to lengthen the life of the temporary media. Or wring our hands when the media fail. What do we expect when we use magnetic based media while sitting on the world's largest magnet?

What will help? I suggest that we change our mind set and stop writing our precious, permanent  content to temporary media.  (And I am not suggesting that we go towards unique one-of solutions that must be created in a lab at enormous cost.) There are few options that can be used, but if we decide to make this our goal there will be more innovation in the area.  One option that does exist right now is the M-Disc technology. It was designed at our university with permanent storage in mind; cost effective digital storage that can be created by anyone that does not degrade over time and is unaffected by the elements. There will be other permanent solutions for storage, metadata, and access if we look for them.

Let's decide to move towards permanence and find solutions that last more than a few years and do not need constant care.

No comments: