There are a lot of advantages to digital media such as photos, movies, music, books, and more. They’re relatively easy to carry with you, take up much less room than their non-digital equivalents (CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, paperbacks, hardbacks, etc.). However, there’s a danger that our “digital footprint” could be lost to future generations.
A MarketWatch article reported that Vint Cerf, who is largely considered one of the founding fathers of the Internet, warned of this at a recent conference hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He said that the lack of an electronic storage mechanism that can withstand centuries of time threatens to erode documents and digitally-stored memories through a process he has often referred to as “bit rot.”
Cerf warned that as hardware such as disk readers and CD players used to access data on old-fashioned discs and tapes becomes outdated, everything from home movies to presidential memos could become unreadable. Think that’s ridiculous? Try opening an AppleWorks document from, say 1990. Or opening a Pages document created in 2005 on the most recent version of Apple’s software.
Cloud technologies like Apple’s iCloud and cloud-based storage solutions like Box and Dropbox, may serve as a partial solution. However, Cerf said there’s a need to develop a system to ensure digital bits can be easily accessed hundreds of years down the road. He says that if some sort of solution isn’t found, this tech-savvy generation could be known as a “digital Dark Age” to future historians.