Looming digital dark age

Tom James @ 28-10-2008

The possibility of a digital dark age has been noted before, but I hadn’t realised the problem was this acute, according to Prof Jerome P. McDonough at the University of Illinois:

“Even over the course of 10 years, you can have a rapid enough evolution in the ways people store digital information and the programs they use to access it that file formats can fall out of date,” McDonough said.

Magnetic tape, which stores most of the world’s computer backups, can degrade within a decade. According to the National Archives Web site by the mid-1970s, only two machines could read the data from the 1960 U.S. Census: One was in Japan, the other in the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the data collected from NASA’s 1976 Viking landing on Mars is unreadable and lost forever.

It is a pity – and it highlights the importance of non-proprietary file types.

I imagine extracting data from obsolete formats will become a major industry in the future.

[story at Physorg][image from altemark on flickr]

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4 Responses to “Looming digital dark age”

  1. Tom Marcinko says:

    I imagine extracting data from obsolete formats will become a major industry in the future.

    Can I get some help with my 5-inch KayPro CDM floppies? : )

  2. semicolon says:

    That’s not data, that’s a list of Linux packages. Probably from apt-get on debian.

  3. Zabimaru says:

    @Semicolon: And since when is a list not data? For that matter, since when is a single character not data?

    The moment you realized that there is text on the screen you should have stopped yourself from saying “That’s not data” because right there you started making a fool of yourself.

  4. Uncle B says:

    Fear the electron Pulse weapon! It erases all data and shorts out all “Data Readers” and is no longer in the realm of Alien weapons, but a living reality in many labs! We are much more vulnerable than that! China has invaded the U.S. grid and possibly controls most of it, and certainly monitors key parts of it! Remember! Asian computers and computer experts are not “Microsoft Crippled” and are well able to do things Americans don’t even know about, having been fed Microsoft’s ‘Pablum” all these years! Children in India write gaming programs sold on American markets Goddammit! We are so far behind, so “coddled’ so spoiled, and so slow and indifferent because our propagandists have convinced us we are superior, that we no longer even challenge the notion!Keep in mind: There are more post graduates with IQ’s over 130 in China that speak at least two languages, than there are high school students in the U.S.A., Drop-outs included! P.S. Chinese and Indians don’t take summers off either, and they are hungry, folks, very hungry!Tune in to sdome Chinese sites on the net for the truth! You will be absolutely stunned and blown away! P.S. China does little to enforce Microsoft’s patent B.S. and a working black market copy of anything by Microsoft, or any other firm is readily available on Shanghai streets for pennies! Yes! goddamn! pennies! They all have it, every damned one of them, and for almost free! They don’t have to pay like us!If they invade electronically it will be on stolen copies of our technology – The Irony!

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