Vint Cerf, Google’s vice president, has recently issued a warning that will hit home with you. Cerf has stated that an entire century of digital data could be wiped out quickly. Cerf’s warning is backed by reason too. Each second that passes sees thousands of digital photos uploaded to various social media sites, but those photos are hardly ever backed up, printed, or kept elsewhere.
This combined with the fact that technology changes quickly, making previous technology obsolete, means that a good number of photographs (important moments snapped digitally) could be gone forever as soon as the tides of technology turn. But photos of important family milestones aren’t the only problem.
The scarier, perhaps, issue here is that historians won’t have any information about our lives, the way we lived, how we lived, or anything else. Pieces of paper have survived the tests of time, and this is how we know about past cultures, but what happens when all of that information goes up in digital smoke?
Attempts at Preservation
Over the past few years, a few different organizations and individuals have tried (somewhat desperately and fleetingly) to preserve some information from our age. This is how various Tweets have been archived by the US Library of Congress (a deal struck between the two groups back in 2010), but this is far from being enough.
Music, politics files, government files, and everything published online, and only online risks being lost forever. Already, great music recorded on now obsolete media (like CDs, Eight Tracks, and Tapes) have disappeared forever. What happens when music that’s solely recorded in a digital sense dissipates?
The result will be a lost time, a dark ages, a gap in history. The quest now is trying to find a suitable way to store and record all of that digital information for good. In order to do this, though, those looking to restore the data have to also find technology that won’t be obsolete in the near future, and that’s really hard to do. Plus, old digital information that has been stored through technology that no longer functions has to be retrieved and copied, another difficult feat.
Paper Might Actually Be Best
Even though paper can burn, can be ruined with water, and can rot, information that has been recorded on paper over the centuries has survived for the most part. Plus, paper can be read at any time, and doesn’t require any new or modern digital technology to understand or preserve it. But, who’s going to record everything that’s happening in our digital age on paper? So far, nobody.
You can do something about those important family milestones you’ve kept stored digitally, though. Make the effort to go through everything you snap with your phone once per month. Pick out the ones that you care the most about, and have those photos printed.
There are plenty of services that will print digital photos for you, and you can proceed to put those in a photo album the old school (but disappearance-free) way. You can do the same for any digital photos that you have - and for the future, consider snapping some photos the old way with a non-digital camera. Hopefully, you can restore some of those memories for years to come.