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How Long Do You Want Digital Media To Last? 398

Posted by timothy
from the until-1-day-before-I-need-it dept.
spamfiltertest writes "CNET asks 'Would you like your digital-storage media to last 20 years, 25 years, 30 years, 35 years or 40 years?' If you're an organization or government agency, the U.S. government and an optical-disc industry group would like you to answer that question in a quick survey. I would think that we would like our data to last forever, but maybe it's just me."
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How Long Do You Want Digital Media To Last?

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  • by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:42PM (#12091048) Homepage
    Would you like your digital-storage media to last 20 years, 25 years, 30 years, 35 years or 40 years?
    If you're an organization or government agency, the U.S. government and an optical-disc industry group would like you to answer that question in a quick survey.


    I work in the records department of a two year tech college. We use document imaging hardware and software to store student files on WORM optical media permanently and then we destroy the physical paper files over time.

    We expect that our digital media will far outlast what we have on other permanent storage mediums, such as microfiche, which go back to 1972. If the "antiquated" microfiche can hold up that long why not our records stored on the digital media?

    We realize that no storage method is 100% foolproof (i.e. you can misfile microfiche, lose physical files, misplace pages, etc) but we have put a lot of faith into the setup we currently have. If time has a negative effect on both the originals and backups we could find ourselves reverting to tried and true methods used in years past.

    It's mildly humorous to me that long term data integrity (i.e. "forever") is never mentioned when companies present you with all the benefits of a digital setup. The benefits of the system are great (such as easy access to student information at various sites without any reproduction necessary, security features, etc) but will our microfiche outlast our digital media? I may never know but currently, based on recent discussions about the degradation of digital media over time, it appears that it may.

    I feel sorry for the poor bastards that would have to go back to storing and reproducing everything to and from microfiche if and when we find out that digital media might not have the necessary longevity we require.
    • by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:52PM (#12091196)
      Why would you assume digital media is necessarily going to last longer than older media?

      The trend is not for newer storage methods to outlast older ones by any stretch of the imagination.

      Stone inscriptions, stored reasonably well, will last quite a long time. Books printed with appropriate inks and stored well will also last ages. Comparing to those, "antiquated" media like microfiche will be useless much earlier.

      From what I recall, we use newer media forms not because they last longer but because they're more convenient. You can store information much more densely on a DVD than you can on microfiche, which is in turn a more dense storage form than paper, which was a big improvement over marble and clay tablets.

      If you really want longevity you should take your microfiche and cut the words into sheets of gold.
      • by metlin (258108) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @03:02PM (#12091368) Journal
        I agree.

        For me, I treat digital media like traditional media - particularly books.

        While the digital media maybe flimsy, there is no reasonable reason why the information therein should _not_ survive for more than 40 years.

        At the very least, one can be sure that it would have historical significance. And I'm fairly certain that I would be alive 40+ years from now, which would merit the necessity for me having the media, or atleast the information therein. While the information may eventually become irrelevant, it would at the very least have posterity value.

        Digital information is no different from a library of books - it's just stored digitally. I do expect my books to last as long as possible (hell, books have lasted centuries, if not more). Then why should it be any different for other media?
        • by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @03:28PM (#12091744)

          The difference is that with books, all you will need to read them in 40 years is your mental ability to read, your natural vision, and maybe a set of bifocals.

          In 40 years try to find a way to read your DVD full of MSAccess95 DBs, Word 95 docs, etc. Heck I still have a shoebox full of cassette tapes that (at least used to) have Commodore VIC20 software on them. I've got an 8" floppy-disk that we use as a frisby in the office. None of those have anywhere near the longevity of a book, due to technilogical change, totally seperate from any media degredation. From TFA:

          (One should consider the issues of digital obsolescence and migration - Is 100 years (or 'forever') really practical for typical long-term digital storage strategies? While you may need to preserve data for a particular length of time, is it really necessary to preserve that data on any particular technology or can it be migrated to newer technologies?).

          • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @03:45PM (#12092004) Homepage Journal
            "The difference is that with books, all you will need to read them in 40 years is your mental ability to read, your natural vision, and maybe a set of bifocals....In 40 years try to find a way to read your DVD full of MSAccess95 DBs, Word 95 docs, etc."

            I second that. Even on a more basic note...even if you had the ability to read the content (word 95, msaccess...etc.)..what if you don't have a DVD player to read from? Sound hard to believe? Not really.

            One example I recently read about...during the compilation of the Led Zeppelin DVD and CD sets..they were going through the archives, and found much of the sound of the concerts they were trying to save and reformat, was on old 2" analog tape of some kind. As I understand the story, they had methods of baking the tapes to get them unstuck and playable for transfer, but, they ran into the problem of trying to find a tape player for the media!! They had to look worldwide and had a very difficult time finding one that was functional and high enough in fidelity.

            And c'mon...this for concerts recorded only 30+ years ago in the 70's.

            Stuff recorded on todays DVD standard...well, could possibly be hard in 40 years to find a player backwards compatible enough to read today's media....

            • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @04:17PM (#12092520) Homepage Journal
              I want my digital media to be waiting for me...

              When I'm extracted from the CryoPod in 3056.

            • "Stuff recorded on todays DVD standard...well, could possibly be hard in 40 years to find a player backwards compatible enough to read today's media...."

              Unlikely. CDs have been around for almost 25 years, and all proposed next-gen drives (Blue-Ray and HD-DVD) will have CD and DVD compatibility.

              Moreover, people have large collections of DVD movies, which alone will ensure the availability of DVD drives for years to come.

              VHS is 29 years old, and you can still buy players. Heck, even Laserdisc and Betamax p
              • But, I still have my paper tape from Teletype that was hooked up by 110 baud modem to an HP2000F!

                I can use a flash light to read to the holes...

                And realy I do have the 30 year old paper tape!
              • CDs have been around for almost 25 years, and all proposed next-gen drives (Blue-Ray and HD-DVD) will have CD and DVD compatibility.

                Yes, the technology is likely to be supported, but what what will happen to the disks that you already have? Will they still be readable 5 years from now? 10 years? 20?

                Let me tell you: they won't. And copying the data to new media (say, every year) sometimes it not an option.

                I stopped using CD-Rs for storing my important data when some 2-3 year old not-so-cheap disks starte
            • Right now, I'm currently in a project to copy all of my Vinyl LPs to digital media, via my old turntable, a preamp, and Audacity.

              I'm not sure how much longer my turntable will hold out.

              I heard that NASA was having a similar problem a few years back, GIGABYTES of date from space-probes was being lost because it was stored on tape (magnetic?) for which there were only a few readers available, so the media was degrading at a higher rate than they could recover it, given the volume of data, and throughput of
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @03:13PM (#12091521)
        If you really want longevity you should take your microfiche and cut the words into sheets of gold.

        I did, but this Joseph Smith guy dug them up and completely mistranslated them.
    • You can always upgrade/copy/replace your digital media as opposed to regular paper files. Say your DVD's have a life of 20years, well, in 15 years you can copy a bunch DVD's into the new media and keep upgrading constantly.
      • well, in 15 years you can copy a bunch DVD's into the new media and keep upgrading constantly.

        This works fine if you are dealing with a fairly limited amount of data but what happens if you are a library, the Census Bureau, or some other agency that may have longer storage requirements. Hopefully the organizations that require massive amounts of data to be stored essentially "forever" have considered the task of migrating from the "current" media to "future" media. I'd hate to be the organization that
    • by jimbro2k (800351) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @03:00PM (#12091324)
      Stone - lasts about a million years. Clay - 100 years - (10,000 years if burned!!) Parchment/Vellum - 1000 years unless eaten by bugs. Papyrus/Paper - 500 years, MUCH longer if kept dry. Acidic Paper - 100 years or less. Notice the trend - it is NOT toward longer-lived media. Volitility seems to trump Archivability every time, and possibly for different reasons in each age.
    • I feel sorry for the poor bastards that would have to go back to storing and reproducing everything to and from microfiche if and when we find out that digital media might not have the necessary longevity we require.

      I feel sorry for our society and culture when I think of how much information and content is now only available digitally. Don't get me wrong, digital is good: it provides quick access, easy searching, etc. However, It is still new technology (especially with the constant advances in materi

    • To me the real answer to this question of how long our media should last is "Long enough for us to move it to the next most convenient and efficient format". The storage we have now is impressive but any forward-thinking person would reasonably assume that it will be outdone and become obsolete relatively soon. Of course most organizations will choose not to ride the wave of new technology for cost reasons, so that has to be factored in as well.
    • I work in the records department of a two year tech college. We use document imaging hardware and software to store student files on WORM optical media permanently and then we destroy the physical paper files over time.

      We expect that our digital media will far outlast what we have on other permanent storage mediums, such as microfiche, which go back to 1972. If the "antiquated" microfiche can hold up that long why not our records stored on the digital media?


      The Research Libraries Group (RLG) anticipat
    • Optical media doesn't last forever by any stretch of the imagination. Figure your WORM media disks will have a shelf life of 20-30 years.
  • Not always forever (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DustyShadow (691635)
    I would think that we would like our data to last forever, but maybe it's just me.

    My company recently started deleting our email after 90 days. One of the reasons I heard was to protect us in lawsuits.
    • You work for Diebold [eff.org]?
    • That's a little different situation.
      That's records management, and yeah, it's best to delete stuff after a period of time. Business wise.

      As a home user though, I want my backup cd's and dvd's to be there until I get rid of them.
      I don't want to have my digital photo albums start decaying after 10 years.
      I have some already at 6 years old.
      • While I would like media to last forever, it's been pretty consistent over the last 50 years or so that media formats tend to have a maximum lifespan of about 15 years before they become obsolete. Right now, CD is being replaced by DVD which will be replaced by something else in about 5 years. Tried to buy a 5-1/4 floppy drive lately? So, I think it's pretty realistic that every 10 years or so you'll need to migrate all of your digital archives to a new format. As such, if your media is rated for 20 yea
    • by Rosyna (80334)
      One of the reasons I heard was to protect us in lawsuits.

      Which is often the reason. I imagine the government cares because there is a statute of limitations on how long information can remain classified. So if the physical media the records are kept on expires before the statute of limitations comes into affect, there is no records for them to release.

      But lawsuits are a huge reason, as you said, when computer records are involved. You keep everything that could incriminate you on age sensitive media and
  • Any other questions?
    • Making the data on the media last forever isn't really that much of a problem. What isn't addressed, and is much more important, is: How long can I still get parts for my vintage Mark I media reader when the manufacturer is much more interested in selling me a brand new non-compatible Mark XX in a couple dozen years?
    • I want the data to last for ever. The media? Meh. 10-20 years is probably enough. I'm guessing before long everything I have will be on a backed up harddrive and transferred from one to the next every five years.
  • by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:42PM (#12091052)
    Yeah, I'd like my digital media to last forever.

    While they're at it, can they make my car run forever? I also want to stay young forever, if that's not too much trouble.
    • 53.3 Years (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      53.3 years... because 640 months should be enough for anyone.
    • When God was designing the human being, he was faced with the same set of tradeoffs that face designers everywhere. He could design around the tradeoffs better than anyone else, of course, since he made the universe with those rules in the first place.

      You can choose from good, fast, or cheap. God was under both time and budget pressures, because there were 7 days allocated for the project, and he had already used up 5 of them. If he was to get a day off, 'fast' had to be one of the compromises.

      So, he had
    • Yeah, I'd like my digital media to last forever.

      While they're at it, can they make my car run forever? I also want to stay young forever, if that's not too much trouble.


      Sure it would be nice if our bodies or car lasted forever, but if your 1900 Model T still ran like it did in 1900 would you still want to drive it to and from work every day? I wouldn't.

      Now data is a different story. It is very common for data in one form or another to outlive a human life. Although its not that old, I am listening to
    • Pixel perfect until the feds come knock on the door.
  • Make it.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:42PM (#12091053) Journal
    Make it last as long as possible. Any media set to self destruct after a set date is no use to anyone. Make the best you can and keep inproving it.
    • Re:Make it.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by avandesande (143899) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:56PM (#12091262) Journal
      Obviously there is a cost/benfit balance here...

      if you want you could probably etch your data on a block of gold, but what would that cost?
    • Re:Make it.. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GreyPoopon (411036)
      Make it last as long as possible. Any media set to self destruct after a set date is no use to anyone. Make the best you can and keep inproving it.

      I think the whole reason for the survey is that it's not cost-feasible to make long-lasting media, and that the efforts to drive prices ever-lower will also product media of lower quality. If you want long lasting media, you're going to have to pay for it. Personally, I'd be OK if they made two (or more) different grades. I don't need most of my computer fil

    • Re:Make it.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by antifoidulus (807088)
      Well, there is a cost/benefit analysis here. Media that lasts longer will probably cost you more. Do you want to pay that cost? For example, childhood photos are something most people want to keep for a very, very long time, but the production reports of ConGyps Co's Colorado factory for the month of May 1987 probably aren't anything that people 100 years from now would have any sort of interest in. Should they have to pay extra for longevity you want for your photos though?
    • by Skyshadow (508) *
      In my experience, the real limitation in terms of data storage isn't the media so much as it is the hardware.

      When is the last time you saw a 5.25" disk drive? How easy is it to find a Jaz drive these days? WORM reader? Something that will read your old files stored on analog cassette tape? I could go on naming defunct storage media solutions for half the day.

      The only real solution for long-term storage is to keep the files "live" on a system someplace. Under and other arrangement even if the *media* the

      • >When is the last time you saw a 5.25" disk drive?

        Every time I go home, I have 2 of them yet.

        >Something that will read your old files stored on analog cassette tape?

        Got 1 backup tape reader, for reading files off my backup tapes and my Dad's backup tapes. Never really used a cassette reader, but I do have paper tapes and punched cards still.

        >This became a major concern to me once I switched over to all digital photography.

        One reason I still use FILM, 100 years and the film is still there.

        I k
    • Nobody's suggesting that the media be "set to self destruct". The question here is, what should be the balance of the tradeoff between cost and resistance to natural wear and decay? If you use better materials and more exacting tolerances, the disks will last longer but also cost more. So which would you prefer- a $30 pack of 30 CDRs that last 30 years, or a $50 pack of 30 CDRs that last 50 years?
    • Any media set to self destruct after a set date is no use to anyone

      Well, unless you're a secret agent of some sort.
  • Secrets? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kneecarrot (646291) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:43PM (#12091055)
    Sometimes I think it would be great to have optical storage last forever. But then I think about my grandchildren going through my CDs years from now and stumbling on all my porn. Hmm... not good.
  • by GweiLeong (846704) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:43PM (#12091057)
    Ya I really want my grandkids finding the 60 year old pr0n pix/vidz of grandma the day before we go into the home.
  • forever, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sum.zero (807087) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:43PM (#12091065)
    i want it locked up in some archaic and obsolete drm so that i can't get at it anyway.

    sum.zero
    • Nah that's not going to happen. Before your DRM last a year, some corporation would have changed it 3x and make them all incompatible.

  • by ites (600337) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:44PM (#12091073) Journal
    So that the media will destruct at the moment I die. This will save my heirs from a lot of unnecessary work and embarrasment.
  • ...are they asking how long I want the rights to use it? Or how long the file should retain its integrity? Or ... something else? I guess the intent of the question is irrelevent. In all those cases, if I paid for it I expect it to last at least as long as I do.
  • does it matter? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevinx (790831) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:44PM (#12091088)
    In 25 - 30 years, the data on that disk probably won't be readable by the current software available. Just like that 8-track that you will never find a car to use in. To keep your data current you'd have to convert and rearchieve every so many years.
    • Re:does it matter? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! (33014) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:56PM (#12091254) Homepage Journal
      Well, there are companies that will transfer your old 8 tracks onto CD. Some of them will even recover audio from your grandpa's old wire spool recordings. That's an audio technology so old I doubt one slashdot reader in a thousand has even seen one. It was obsoleted by the tape cassette in 1963.

      I think we'll see CD media be readable by the consumer for at least ten or fifteen years. The consumer will probably be able to get a CD/DVD reader if he so desires for ten or fifteen years after that -- after all CD and DVD are popular formats, unlike 8 track which was never very successful.

      After that, I'm sure there will be companies that will be able to read your old optical media into the quantum dust specks or whatever they'll be using in fifty years. If your CD-Rs last that long -- which they probably won't unless you are very careful about storing them.
    • Well, I doubt you're right about software. I'm sure there will be emulators available. The question will be whether there is any currently available hardware that will be able to read the ancient disks. An old dvdr probably won't fit into the slot of your standard 2.5 exabyte holocube reader.

    • ... had better be readable in 25 years by the software that exists then. If for no other reason, because so much of UNIX is based on text files.

      Now, the text files of 25 years from now may well not use 8-bit characters (think Unicode here). So current text files may in fact not be directly readable by the current software in 25 years (though I would bet that there will be some software in 25 years that still has an "import old 8-bit files" option, again on UNIX/Linux if nowhere else).

      HTML will almost ce
    • Just like that 8-track that you will never find a car to use in.

      The 8-track is a low fidelity end user thing that seemed neat to someone at sometime.

      However, I would bet that any commercially available recording that has made it on 8-track is stored on some other more standard media that is still usable today.
    • I would think that the software to read old media would be easy to come by, but the hard part is finding the right hardware to interface older with modern hardware.

      For example, I have an old 20mb 5.25" drive with a logical edge connector. I don't think any modern system uses that kind of connector anymore, and though I have IDE controller cards that have it, they're all ISA cards. When was the last time you saw an ISA slot on a P4/AMD64 motherboard?

  • I don't want any data storage that lasts past the statute of limitations. Of course, at that point, it probably doesn't matter anymore.
  • by PxM (855264) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:46PM (#12091109)
    Wouldn't it be better to switch to a RAID style hard drive system? As long as the data can be transferred quickly (no CD swapping) I don't need the hardware to last for decades if I can move the data over to another system without a problem before it fails. The whole point of digital data is so that it can be replicated and transfered rather than for the hardware to last forever. In the future, we could just have multiple personal petabyte data archives in various places that store all of our personal information where the physical system isn't such a big deal because bandwith makes it easy to move the data to my PDA or to my bank's digital data vault.

    --
    Or try a free Nintendo DS, GC, PS2, Xbox. [freegamingsystems.com] (you only need 4 referrals)
    Wired article as proof [wired.com]
    • by garcia (6573) * on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:55PM (#12091243) Homepage
      As long as the data can be transferred quickly (no CD swapping) I don't need the hardware to last for decades if I can move the data over to another system without a problem before it fails. The whole point of digital data is so that it can be replicated and transfered rather than for the hardware to last forever.

      The whole point of storing data on WORM media is to prove that the data remained unaltered during storage.

      You want to be able to have an audit trail that shows any modifications (timestamps included) to the records. You also want to make sure that images that were stored were unaltered ("photoshopped"). You want to make sure that an exact copy of the information was stored and remains exact for the life of the media.

      If it's not stored on write once media then that can't be guaranteed.
    • Wouldn't it be better to switch to a RAID style hard drive system? As long as the data can be transferred quickly (no CD swapping) I don't need the hardware to last for decades if I can move the data over to another system without a problem before it fails.

      Erh, food for thought : 1) Major power surge burning out most electronics. 2) A careless administrator (you?) drops the entire server on the floor from 1 meter 3) The fire alarm goes, and drenches everything in water. 4) The machines gets massively o

      • Local fires won't damage the offsite backups ("my bank's digital data vault") if the bank has the backup scattered all around the world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:46PM (#12091112)
    I want the MTTF to be a known quantity. If the CDs (soon to be DVDs) that I store my family pictures and videos on has limited lifetime, I'd like to know what it is so that I can refresh the media to avoid losing data.

    The length of time isn't terribly important, as long as it doesn't make the cost of new media too high (e.g. DVDs aren't too expensive, so if I have to reburn them every five years or move to the next media format at that point, that is a good use of money and time).

  • 100+ years (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plopez (54068) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:48PM (#12091147) Journal
    The company I work for uses USGS data going back to about 1900. It is interesting to think that data collected 100+ years ago may outlive data currently being gathered....
  • As long as needed. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tribbin (565963)
    It must at least last until you are sure you don't need the data anymore.
  • How long? (Score:3, Funny)

    by genjo (810561) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:49PM (#12091150) Homepage
    At least until the FBI gives my servers back to me. They DO give them back, right?
  • by zoomba (227393) <mfc131&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:50PM (#12091169) Homepage
    If you're a business that specializes in the massive backup or translation of data from one medium to another, you probably want media to last a few years at most. That way, organizations are constantly coming to them with stores of data that they need re-recorded.

    Pretty much the only way to make your media last forever is to have it stored in a solid state (like being etched into the surface of a DVD) and then sealed and stored in a moistureless, airless, lightless temperature controlled environment. But with all the talk about self-destructing DVDs and CDs that the recording industries are trying to push, I don't think even that's possible.

    CONVERT ALL YOUR DATA INTO BINARY AND THEN LASER ETCH IT INTO GLASS! THEN SANDWICH IT BETWEEN TWO OTHER LAYERS OF GLASS AND HIDE IT ON A MOUNTAINTOP! YOU MUST SAVE YOUR PR0N COLLECTION FOR ALIENS TO DISCOVER AFTER WE'VE BLOWN OURSELVES TO ATOMS!!

    This rant was brought to you by the Reynolds Society for Tin Foil Hats... Remember, only Reynolds Wrap brand tin foil can protect you from the strongest of the alien mind-control rays!
  • I want all of my data to die with me. (Except my will [blogspost.com] (living or otherwise). That should stay around a bit longer. Maybe on a floppy.) That way, I will be remembered for what I was eating and wearing when I fell over dead rather than all the inflammatory shit I've written over the years.
  • Data != Media (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:50PM (#12091177) Homepage Journal
    While data is obviously stored on media, talking about the lifetime of data is not the same as talking about the lifetime of media. So, the original poster's "forever" comment is unrelated to the survey he links to.

    If you have media that you know won't last over 30 years, just copy it onto new media at the 20-25 year point. In most cases, that's not that big of a deal. Besides, by the time that 20-25 year mark rolls around, it's very likely that you'd want to convert to a faster "online" media anyway, like holographic storage.
  • by BeBoxer (14448) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:51PM (#12091191)
    I'm not sure it's realistic. One nice thing about digital storage is you can copy it to new media with no loss at all. A book, or painting, or photograph, might last longer (in theory). But when it does wear out it can't be magically duplicated like bits can.

    So if you want stuff to last forever, each generation of people needs to convert the old stuff into a new format. But if you are only doing this once a generation, it's not that big of a deal. You could even make it a family tradition, the passing of the old to the new. Assuming of course that you actually care about keeping something 'forever'.
  • "Very soon, but not less that a week."

    "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
  • by NetDanzr (619387) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:53PM (#12091204)
    I'd like the media to last at least a few years after the copyright protection expires. Only that way we can legally guarantee that many great works don't disappear alltogether, as the copyright owners keep them in storage, and their media become unusable before enthusiasts can legally get and preserve them for the future. So currently, I'm looking for a roughly 100 years media lifetime.
  • To have all of my digital pictures. 100 years would be nice. Just set a reasonable price and I'll buy it.
    • To have all of my digital pictures. 100 years would be nice. Just set a reasonable price and I'll buy it.

      I suggest picking out your favorites and get them printed onto Fuji Crystal Archive paper. These will last for your grandkids to view in case the digital bits are lost somehow.

      Personally, I bought the negatives from my wedding photographer and made several silver halide prints onto traditional B&W fiber paper. I toned then in selenium. These should last several hundred years assuming no natura
  • I don't know if it's related to the idea that teenagers think they are immortal, but "forever" is a long time. How much of that information will have any value in 40 years?

    3.5" floppies took about 2 decades to become obsolete, do they seriously expect this new standard to last 40 years without the need/request to transfer everything to another format?
  • How long? (Score:2, Funny)

    by killmenow (184444)
    I was going to pontificate about usefulness of data and a bunch of crap like that until I realized how simple the answer to this question really is:

    42
  • by karvind (833059) <karvind@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:56PM (#12091256) Journal
    Earlier slashdot [slashdot.org] story regarding NIST study about potential lifespan of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs.
  • Until the next trial
  • by redelm (54142) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:56PM (#12091269) Homepage
    I expect expensive commercial movie DVDs to last my lifetime. I expect extortionately expensive music CDs to last my grandchildren's lifetime. I expect the backup CDs I burn to last 2 backup cycles, say 3 months.

    I will not "archive" materials. If it's important, it stays online, migrated & backed-up. If it's no longer important -- delete. Online (HD) isn't that expensive. Archives can get lost or corrupted. Or readers may no longer be available.

  • Tiered costs? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by startleman (567255) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @02:58PM (#12091297)
    I think that the story makes a good point, namely that some Data / Format migration is inevitible.
    Therefore, optical storage producers would be smart to offer several "levels" of guaranteed life, and you could purchase based on how long you think you need you need your data to live. e.g. price per unit... 5 years: 1 dollar, 10 years: $1.50, 20 years: $2.00 etc.
  • I'll go with the "forever" option, or at least a long long time. Yes, older technologies can be migrated to newer technologies, but that is irrelevent. There is no way today we can make the decision about what will be of interest 1000 years from now. The only way to get the data of today to 1000 years from now is for the storage medium to last 1000 years.
  • The preservation of our data is the understory of what it is to be human. No preservation = no humanity. All we are is just "dust in the wind".

  • ... is already available. You only need two components:

    1. A punch card reader; and
    2. Punch cards made out of that plastic that lasts for a length of time statistically indistinguishable from forever.

    Presto! Permanent media.

  • CDs last 3-5 years
    Floppies last 4-5 years

    The problem isn't storage, it's READING the data stored in an old format. We have many miles of census data stored on punch cards and paper tapes, but don't have the machines to read them anymore - at least not in quantity.

    So making it last isn't important - I can still play my records, but it's hard to find needles to play them.
  • Fast, cheap, good. Pick any two.
  • DVDA? (Score:2, Funny)

    by DaPhoenix (318174)
    Why would the porn industry be interested in conducting a survey of the lifetime of digital media?

    I say porn industry because its DVDA.org... Double vag... come on, you all watch southpark.
  • so when it starts to degrade, someone can make another copy if necessary.
  • If you want to maintain a text, store it digitally and redundantly. You can keep a text for thousands of years, assuming people continue to maintain redundant copies, purely because digital files can be copied with no degradation. Paper will fade, and manual copying of text is prone to human error. As long as you keep sufficiently redundant digital copies, you'll be fine.
  • 40+ Years:

    Artistic creations (photographs, movies, etc) which cannot be replaced are now stored almost exclusively in digital form. Having media decay with time creates an ongoing job of having to continuously re-copy data. Should you miss any, it's gone forever. In my estimation, this is even more important for families that want to maintain an historical record of their lives for posterity. I've recently come across writings and records of my ancestors dating back several hundred years, and it's a wond
  • by Laoping (398603) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @03:20PM (#12091610)
    So for me I think of it this way. My parents and grand parents have only a few pics of the gererations that came before. Some really old picutres we have came from around 1910. The pictures are for the most part not in very good share. I see these pictures of these people who were loved deeply by the people I love and I wish I could know them better.

    Now I have a nice digital camera(Canon Digital Rebel) that was expensive, but I got it for a good reason. I am about to get married and do the whole family thing. I hope someday that a great-grand kids over maybe even a further down the line will be able to look at all the pictures I will take and maybe understand a little better where they came from, what the world was like, and how pretty there great grandma was:)
  • Making it line up neatly with copyright? Life of the owner, plus 75 years? That way, when copyright expires, the media will just self-destruct, and there will be nothing to fall back into the public domain. Of course, as we simply keep extending copyright, it'll mean that media will never self-destruct.
  • I mean, is anyone nowadays looking at cavewoman pr0n? That's how we'll look to humans 50,000 years from now.
  • by alhaz (11039) on Wednesday March 30, 2005 @04:08PM (#12092347) Homepage

    Professional archivists tend to recommend that data be turned over onto new media every 5 years regardless of how well it's weathering the years.

    But the truth is that, paradoxically, the most critical data tends to be the least likely to be refreshed, because access to it is typically quite limited.

    Our own department of defense doesn't know where it stashed all of it's nuclear materials over the years. Why? because they recorded it on a magnetic tape, put the tape in a vault, and had someone stand in front of the vault with a gun for 40 years, and now the tape has turned to goo, and in other cases the tape seems readable but there is no technology available to read it.

    We should always strive for and recommend rigorous archival policies, but we should also strive for media that can possibly withstand the ages should some knucklehead put it in a concrete box or just forget about it completely for a few decades instead.
  • 10.000 years (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eminence (225397) <akbrandt@gmaiPASCALl.com minus language> on Thursday March 31, 2005 @04:22AM (#12098153) Homepage
    Some people have already approached the problem of making some data readable after a very long period of time - The Roseta Project [rosettaproject.org]. While their medium isn't digital, it is extremely durable and technology independent. It only takes a conscious observer to be able to (gradually) read it. Great idea.

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