Google’s VP Vint Cerf made headlines last week as he warned us of the risks associated with preservation of digital records. And anyone who remembers laserdisc, 8-track cassettes, or zip drives may be familiar with this argument.
Since electronic media emerged, we need to maintain not only the media itself, but the specific hardware and software to access it in future. We may scoff at the archaic sight of a 5.25″ floppy disc, but we would have trouble knowing what it contains and whether it has value.
Some have interpreted Cerf’s comments to mean “print hard copies of all your photographs” – but is that the best way forward, when we now take billions of pictures each month?
Do we need to keep every instagram picture, selfie and tweet? Should we adopt the proposed digital vellum innovation? Or are open document standards – like PDF – more robust and egalitarian? Or do we all need to take a careful look at what we have and make some mature decisions about what’s important, and how to curate it properly?
Perhaps print is a suitable medium for some of our records; after all, the hardware (eyes) and software (reading and language) required to access data in books have been with us for several thousand years .