Jerome P. McDonough, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, is concerned about data. Your data, the government's data, the world's data: he is so concerned about it that he and other information specialists can see a potential digital dark age where data from the present isn't being transferred to new media as quickly as it is being lost.
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.
While not many of you are using magnetic tape as part of your daily data manipulation routines, the point is well taken. Media is not immortal and methods change. While helping clear out my technophile grandfather's estate I found numerous examples of extremely outdated media tucked away here and there. It was difficult to procure the proper devices let alone modern drivers and software to peek into his old media. What strategies do you have to address future proofing your data? It's certainly a more in depth topic than simply backing data up, but worthy of consideration given how much of our lives have been digitised. Photo by wonderferret.