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Data Storage

Thanks For the ... Eight-Track, Uncle Alex 633

Uncle Alex writes "My niece just turned one year old and her parents have asked that, instead of the usual gifts, we each contribute something to a time capsule to be opened on her 17th birthday. Multiple members of my family want to contribute digital data — text, video, music files. They came to me (the closest thing to a geek our family has) wondering: what's the best way to save the data to ensure she'll actually be able to see it in 16 years? Software might be out of date, hardware may no longer be used... any suggestions?"
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Thanks For the ... Eight-Track, Uncle Alex

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  • If it's data (Score:2, Informative)

    by Andtalath ( 1074376 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @05:44AM (#29183831)

    Then it should be stored redundantly in several locations, online and off-line and should be checked at several points.

    An actual time-box is not a good idea at all since all tech has a risk of going bad even if not used.

  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:02AM (#29183967) Homepage

    I still have music CDs that I purchased in the 1970's that are still usable :)

    1982 at the earliest.

    But there is a difference between a pressed CD - which can last for a very long time - and a CDR which decays surprisingly quickly.

  • by bamf ( 212 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:07AM (#29183991)

    I still have music CDs that I purchased in the 1970's that are still usable :)

    A pretty good trick since they weren't commercially available until late '82 :)

  • by Time_Warped ( 1266658 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @06:34AM (#29184121)
    I would include a player for any media you have. I am still trying to cope with all my Mom's trays of slides...Oh, and make sure you include descriptions of the participants, I have a lot of old slides of people I presume are cousins, but I am not sure exactly who they are....
  • 20 years ago, an 8track would have been the thing to store information on.

    20 years ago CDs were almost 10 years old, and 8-track was already "20 years ago, and you'd have a hard time finding a player".

  • Risky Proposition (Score:2, Informative)

    by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <(gterich) (at) (> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @07:12AM (#29184329) Journal

    Let's look back 17 years, to 1992. I was just starting college at Georgia Tech. I had a 12MHz 286 with a 40MB RLL hard disk, 360k and 720k floppy drives, and a CGA monitor. I did buy a brand new machine my first quarter - a blazing fast 386 DX-40 with 4MB of Ram, 1.44mb floppy, a 120MB hard disk, and a 800x600 super VGA monitor. it cost over $1000.

    Most everything is still around: the Parallel IDE interface, the floppy drives, and the VGA connector. We've also had some new things: USB, Serial ATA, DVI, and so on, but if you had to find hardware that could read an old hard disk, you could.

    The problem with the time capsule is... well... time. If you leave a hard drive to sit for 17 years, I doubt it would be able to spin up. I think the same would be true for just about any mechanical device.

    How about non-volatile memory, like FLASH? Well, FLASH definitely has a finite retention period - usually 10 to 20 years, so even then you're taking a risk of losing data.

    Optical disk? Well, now we're talking. Archival-quality media stored in controlled, ideal conditions will hold data on the order of 20+ years. It's the controlled, ideal conditions that make it tough. If exposed to heat, humidity, and temperature cycling, even the best archival quality media can be destroyed in a matter of months.

    So, I think the best thing to do would be to maintain the materials unknown to the child until it is time to reveal the time capsule. Either that, or "dig up" the time capsule every few years and refresh the contents by replacing the media on which they are stored.

  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:2, Informative)

    by zaibazu ( 976612 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @07:49AM (#29184509)
    Consumer grade optical media degrade when stored. Planning to exceed 15 years is a huge gamble
  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @08:27AM (#29184847) Homepage

    Archival grade isn't prohibitively expensive and should last a bit longer (some claim 100 years or more so they should last atleast 15 years). CD would probably be your best bet if all data fits on it, since newer media players for Bluray/DVD/HD-DVD/etc all seem to remain backwards compatible with CD.

    How long do things like USB sticks last?

    If you want to be difficult, you could also develop a simple protocol for printing and scanning binary data on paper, then print a definition of the protocol and data. Be sure to use good ink and paper though!

  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:4, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @08:34AM (#29184917) Journal
    Most flash memory only quotes a retention time of a decade or so. Whether that is optimistic or pessimistic is not yet clear.
  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrLang21 ( 900992 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @09:12AM (#29185395)

    What if USB ports disappear like PS/2, Centronics, and serial connections have disappeared?

    This is a non-issue as you have described it. I just built a brand new computer 5 months ago. I was not interested in any of those items listed, yet it has a parallel port, a serial port, and two PS/2 ports. It's actually unfortunate that they don't make a RS-232 flash drive because the serial port is not going anywhere for a very long time. You might need to purchase a special card in the future to have it, but it is far too convenient and easy for use with industrial controls to ever die out.

  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @09:35AM (#29185667) Journal

    >>>I've got some DVDs purchased over 10 years ago that still seem new

    DVD-ROMs or DVD-Rs because they are not the same thing. The ROM uses pits pressed into the disc and theoretically will last forever as long as the pits remain undamaged, but the -R uses a purplish dye that fades with time.

  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdot AT pitabred DOT dyndns DOT org> on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @12:20PM (#29188187) Homepage
    There are plenty of PS/2->USB, DB25(Centronics)->USB and DB9->USB converters available. I don't think you should worry too much about USB going anywhere in only 17 years.
  • Re:Pretty easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chabo ( 880571 ) on Tuesday August 25, 2009 @04:05PM (#29191657) Homepage Journal

    Even if there's no serial port, many motherboards still come with a serial header; the white header on the bottom of this board [] is for a serial port.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser