Data preservation in a digital age

As Bruce Sterling and Richard Kadrey's Dead Media Project has shown, information may last a lot longer that our ability to read it. For example, try reading an old WordPerfect file stored on a 5 1/4 inch floppy from the days of MS-DOS.

What to do about preserving information amidst the constant flux of file formats, software applications, storage hardware, and operating systems? The National Archives and Records Administration has awarded Lockheed Martin a $308 million, six-year contract to build an system to preserve federal electronic records in a media, software, and hardware-independent fashion. We'll see.

A different approach to information preservation is being taken by the Rosetta Project of the Long Now Foundation. As fifty to ninety percent of the world's 7,000-odd languages are predicted to disappear in the next century, they are attempting to create a near permanent physical archive of 1,000 of them, in the form of a large number of micro-etched 3" nickel disks scattered about as heirlooms.

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