Long term off-site storage "Time capsule" ideas

Posted on 2009-04-16
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
Okay, so we have a requirement to offsite some tapes for 20 years - I won't get into that.  Lets just say "third party requirements."

So we are preparing to send this off soon... and our team is in general consensus that it would be fun to add a few 'extras' in for when this case comes back some day.

The obvious one is a picture of the team.  We're looking for more ideas - consider this the primary topic of conversation for this thread.  Suggestions can be silly or sincere, and anything in between.

There isn't much extra room - its a small briefcase sized case with lots of foam inserts to protect the tapes.  A regular sized newspaper would be too large and bulky, although maybe the front page might make it in.  Figure about a foot by six inches by maybe two or three inches at best, minus the size of a couple tape cartridge cases.

One idea I joked about would be a twinkie - bonus points if anyone can offer any real documented evidence regarding the long term storage of a twinkie (still in original wrapper, sealed in a zip-lock bag), good or bad, but specifically that it:
1) would not be likely to destroy the tapes
2) would not be likely to be massively moldy
3) would either still be good, or how it would be expected to 'decompose' (e.g. the Simpsons episode where home pulls the twinkie out of the safe and gets drunk)

Environment woud be controlled as whatever would be expected at a typical commercial off-site storage company.

This is not meant to be a 'proper' time capsule (the building already has one of those), but something fun for the future team of our project (assuming we still have funding in 20 years!) to discover.

I'm posting this to normal groups instead of the lounge as this is actually a serious question that will be implemented - however if a mod chooses to extend to that area as well that would be okay I suppose, but I am looking for legitimate silly & not-so-silly ideas, not the general goofiness and distractability that tends to happen in the lounge.  I chose groups based on the likelihood that someone has already done/seen this kind of thing in the storage area, and that this fits well into 'miscellaneous.'
Question by:Paranormastic
    LVL 23

    Accepted Solution

    In reality, Twinkies' shelf life is more like 25 days, says Theresa Cogswell, who calls herself the Twinkie guru and is vice president for research and development at Interstate Bakeries Corp., the parent company of Hostess. She admits she got a good laugh out of the 30-year-old Twinkie story but says she wouldn't want to eat one quite that old. "You can eat older Twinkies, but they're just not as good as when they're fresh. Then they're awesome."
    information found at
    LVL 47

    Assisted Solution

    Couple of CDs with data pulled off a number of sites.

    Say for example samples, snapshots of Digg, Slashdot, the news sites etc etc.
    LVL 27

    Assisted Solution

    A cell phone (minus the battery). Imagine what it will look like to the eyes of those standing with "future" technology. Maybe worse than a rotary phone where size and functionality are concerned.

    A photo of the Mars rovers. (We might have people up there when they open the capsule)

    A copy of this question and the answers.

    LVL 31

    Assisted Solution

    I think it ironic that the idea of encapsulating the Domesday Book in electronic format has resulted in a product that less than 20 years later was in danger of becoming inaccessible.  Compare that with the original which is still going strong.
    LVL 39

    Assisted Solution

    I personally think it would be funny to include a small piece of current "technology".  

    Think of the mass of information that can be held on something as simple as a flash drive.  A screen print of "Google" to see what it looks like today.  A picture of a "personal computer".  A picture of current TVs.  I would think about compacting information down in mass quantities.

    The next things to consider are the degradation of any such storage mechanism.  Will it will work 20 years from now.  

    Then consider the possibility that the USB port will be so obsolete 20 years from now that it will be useless.  Imagine if you opened a "time capsule" with a beta-max tape in it right now.  So now you have to try to think of several means to persist this information.  Maybe put it on CD, DVD and Flash.  

    Another thing I think would be a nice letter stating a little bit on how useful each of these technologies are to you right now, while acknowledging the fact that they may be useless when it is opened.  It could also serve as an inventory of what was placed on each of the forms of media in the event that the media is rendered useless.

    The last thing that I would do is, on the letter, tell them that there is a secret message embedded somewhere in the capsule.  It could be in the capsule, or on one of the forms of media.  The trick is that you would not actually include any such secret message.  Kind of a "you think your generation is so smart" joke.
    LVL 31

    Author Comment

    >> The trick is that you would not actually include any such secret message.  Kind of a "you think your generation is so smart" joke.

    lol that's great!  I like it.

    Another thing I'm thinking of putting in - which the picture of the computer idea led to - is putting in the monthly ad for the local computer store - the pricing and specs I think might be interesting to the geeks of the future.

    We already have a 'museum of technology' that was started by our recently retired manager, who worked here for 37 years and was one of the main players in developing anything IT around here.  We have old Apple IIe, etc. and some pics aging back - hopefully the new curator will maintain this and expand it over time.

    >> A photo of the Mars rovers. (We might have people up there when they open the capsule)
    I think a projection of NASA's intended dates for Mars will be more amusing/interesting for how far off they will be.  I remember reading Odyssey magazine as a kid not long before the Challenger disaster that projected people on the moon in 2012 I think, and Mars in 2020.  Now last I heard I think we're hoping for the beginnings of moon colonization in 2020 - I'm not sure I believe that is going to occur that quickly.

    Love the Twinkie article -very amusing!  They only mention the 'shelf life' but don't get into what happens if one were to actually keep one around for 20 years.  Are we in danger of a big green pile of moldy twinkiee goo exploding from the ziplock back, giving birth to a new breed of supermutants when the case is finally opened?
    LVL 31

    Author Comment

    Starting off well... keep em' coming!

    lol if wasn't for the cost I would put a gameboy DS in there with mario kart - the people opening it will probably be kids right now!
    LVL 39

    Assisted Solution

    I think the problem with the DS would be the battery.  There's a good chance the battery would degrade to the point of non-function after 20 years.  WELL worth a shot though.  I still love playing the old NES games that I grew up on 20+ years ago.

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