A fascinating thought piece from the BBC on data. Already many forms of data are difficult to retrieve. This can range from old records (even though vinyl is having a niche resurgence), video and audio cassettes, floppy disks and, more recently, encryption systems from defunct companies. This may have consequences for corporate records and archives but also personal records like photos, sound recordings and videos. The Rosetta Stone allowed hieroglyphics to be deciphered 2000 years after it was written but how likely is it that today’s digital data will be able to be deciphered or read in 200 years let alone 2000 years
History, in other words, has gone online.
While this means unprecedented instant access to vast stores of human knowledge and culture, it also means that mountains of digital data of crucial importance to archivists and future historians are potentially under threat from deletion, corruption, theft, obsolescence and natural or man-made disasters.
In the past, we wrote on stone, wax tablets, parchment, calfskin vellum and paper – anything we could get our hands on. And these hard copies lasted pretty well – some cave paintings survived more than 40,000 years, while Egyptian hieroglyphics date from about 3500BC.