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The Life of storage

ckonrad1 asked
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Last Modified: 2013-11-15
Please provide some information on the lifetimes of various forms of digital storage and what new technologies are being developed in this area.

Archealogists can find writings on stone that are thousands of years old and learn an incredible amount of information about that culture. What is going to come of our digital civilization a few thousand years from now, will scientists find a dark age in human history? There seems to be a trend that has been occuring for a long time to make everything digital.  I am no exception, i prefer digital, but what is going to happen to all the products of human creativity thousands of years from now? Are they worth preserving? If we digitize all our art and writings, can they be preserved in a way that will allow future civilizations to enjoy? They could be backed up over and over again but how long can data be backed up before it starts to become corrupted? Would that be a problem? etc etc.

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Have you tried http:Philosophy_Religion ?

One of the problems with CONSUMER digital storage media is that they often have a limited "lifespan"

For example, the "shelf life" data-retention of the common USB thumb drives is around 10-years.
Contrast that with DVD recordable media, which is projected to be up to 100 years.
"Stamped" CD/DVD media is likely much longer than that.

Does data get "corrupted through repeated duplication? Well, that depends. With analog media that certainly does happen. With digital, it is far less likely to happen, though it still can. With digital, there is the added benifit of "error correction" not often found or suitable for analog.

Now, let's suppose that you had digital info on a USB "thumb drive", and that every 5-years you transferred that to a NEW thumb drive of the time. Theoretically, you should suffer no data loss and could do that for many thousands of years I suppose, if not indefinitely.
This is a bit heavy for this early in the morning !!!

One of the big issues that we are seeing now, let alone 1000 years from now is how to ready the media from 20 years ago. Any got any old XLT tapes but no drives to play them in? What about 8-track. Who still has a working 8-track player in their car !?!?!?

With a record, the media is easy to understand and retreive. With a painting on the wall, or on canvas, it is easy to see. Same with writing. I may be shot here amoung the techies, but I am still a big fan of the written word and pictures. Digital has a definite place in our culture and it will certainly be something that will stick around for many 100's or maybe 1000's of years in some format. However, I still like to read a book (I can't stand those e-books btw).

Currently, media does have a shelf life. There will be someone in the year 3500 that will find an old DLT-IV tape and read the data off it. He will see loads of bizzare documents about network designs and accountancy practices by management consultants and not have a clue what it says or means. So, nothing will change there !!!

Any reason for this deep theological discussion? Are you planning to archive something in the vaults for the next race to populate this earth?

IPKON Networks Ltd


philosphy-religion? i dont know it didnt cross my mind i guess that there is a philosophial nature to my question, but i am more interested in getting some scientific answers.


lol, no not populating any other planets here, just worried about things like music and art, writings etc. I agree that people wil most likely appreciate the written word and paintings made with real paint. I'm not worried about something that is useless or obsolete disappearing like someones tax records from 1000 years ago on a flash drive lol, just worried things that  have aesthetic value like music will dissapear. I think the preservation of things like that is interesting and i would be interested in hearing about any kind of projects people are working on to make some form of technology that can preserve those things. I suppose digitil music could be trasnferred over to new media over and over again.  What about your family photos, i think one of the things technology should be oriented towards is making out lives better. Being able to have a way to pass your photos and family moves on to generation down the lines even thouasnds of years into the future would be pretty amazing.  Imagine, people thousands of ywars from  now being able to actually SEE there ancestors in home videos? Teh preservation of stories is something that most indiginous cultures cherish. I think they have the right idea. It would be great to have like a central archive that is managed by a professional oganization that people could choose to submit things like that to, art music, pictures,movies. Like a bank vault of human history. That would be something.


i mean pretty much whatever medium something is stored on there entropy is going to have an effect on it right? Even at absolute zero there is corrosion isnt there? If data could be stored in a way where it would not be corrupted, it was basically unbreakable and fireproof, that would require some pretty amazing material. That would be pretty interesting.
Distinguished Expert 2019

you can look at it this way  a book or painting has also a limited life span, and even a much shorter one than a tape, cd, or memory. It all depends on how it is kept and preserved.
i would imagine, that 99 % of books and paintings are lost now, only those who were kept in a good environment would survive. you can do this for the digital media too (keep them in a plastic mold in the dark)
so, imho, for everything there is a cure to be found, you only have to apply it.

Technology is a dynamic & continous process and the digital technology of today will be obsolete by tomorrow or dont you see it that way?

Keeping data with a technology for thousand of years is a possiblity but with the change factor being so Constant and obvious the technology will be replaced before it stays a 100 years under utilization of potentials you will say!

I am into Fibre Optics and in this technology I see a future for the storage technology.

An optimistic view to Dynamic Technology! Right?


Obsolete in terms of market or obsolete in terms of practicality, those are 2 different things. Technology changes of course but if a storage medium could be designed that would last a very long time then why would it become obsolete? Only because a new medium is developed that is more pratical in terms of the goal of preserving the data, yet is that really the interest of people creating new technologies or is it market? My grandmother has a vacuum she bought 57 years ago and it still works great in fact it works better than most of the cheao plasitic ones you can but today. Its funny because people always tell her to buy a new o ne and she dosent understand why. This is just a simple and funny example. The point is we live in a society that jus doesnt realize change is inevitable but wants it to happen for no reason at all e.g. if you dont get rid of your old vabuum cleaner you are somehow not being progressive, which is just nonsense. Change is great when its practical change, not just change to keep consumers from getting board so they keep buying all the crap that is for sale

Back to the main point though. Researchers dig up remnants of ancient civilizations because its important. For some reason humanity needs to know where it came from, we need to know who are. There is an entire branch of science dedicated to discovering human history but not much in regards to preserving it. That seems like a contradiction to me. We live in a very disposable society, the negative aspects of that are a topic of another area on this website as are the philosophical aspects of what i am saying. Yet technologically, where is humanity headed in terms of preserving the vital information that future generations will want to know? Why shouldnt a new technology be developed for storage that would last for 1000 years with almost 100% certainty? It wouldnt be a negative thing. In fact it would be a positive thing, and when a new technology comes along that works better and more pratically, then the technology could be upgraded. The idea that i am talking about of having a central long term archive of human cililization might sound kind of "sci fi" because many authors like H.G Wells and Arthur C Clarke etc have included things like that in there books, but its a striking idea, and i think its important.

<<The idea that i am talking about of having a central long term archive of ....... but its a striking idea, and i think its important.>>  I do agree and accept the importance of your point.

I also quite understand your instance of the vaccum cleaner, but in the computer industry as far as i know if any technology will replace an existing one it has always been better from magnetic drums to tapes to 5 1/4 floppy to 3.5 floppy to cdroms, dvdroms ...   can you feel the progression?
It has to be better to be accepted!

My point actually was not to shift the focus of your discussion from the point but just to express my view on what i believe is the inevitable in the storage world i.e a case where the storage media is changed from time to time as the technology improves so that b4 a device designed for a thousand years lives 10% of its (1000 years) life it is replaced by a better technology. (This is actually my perception of the future of the storage media)

I mentioned earlier that i see a future for the storage media with Optics. A step in that direction is the Holographic Storage device. you can get more about it here


I believe after going through the links above you should see something worth holding on.

All d best


yeah i have read about holographic storage that is pretty interesting stuff., so you work in that industry?
No I'm not into the holographic storage industry I'm currently dealing with fibre optics. I guess optics is the meeting point.

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