A digital dark age might be coming, and with it our most cherished memories taken in photographs lost forever.
That's the message from Vint Cerf, a Google vice-president who has been called a "father of the internet" for his work in defining how data packets travel around the internet. In a meeting at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cerf expressed his concerns that the files we're saving in digital form, particularly photos, will no longer be readable in the future, thanks to things like data rot, the gradual decay of storage media:
We have various formats for digital photographs and movies and those formats need software to correctly render those objects. Sometimes the standards we use to produce those objects fade away and are replaced by other alternatives and then software that is supposed to render images can’t render older formats, so the images are no longer visible.
This is starting to happen to people who are saving a lot of their digital photographs because they are just files of bits. The file system doesn’t know how to interpret them, you need software to do that. Now you’ve lost the photograph in effect.
If there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.
Well-preserved photos and manuscripts have lasted centuries...but Google Drive and Dropbox, where many of us store our photos? Who knows?
Hopefully the digital dark age will go the way of the Y2K scare, but just in case, you might want to head to your favorite photo site and order prints of those irreplaceable memories. [via Peta Pixel and BBC]