While driving to the airport this morning at dark o’clock I listened to a rerun of a show I heard Friday night while driving home from the airport. It was a profile of Gordon Bell, senior researcher at Microsoft (and the man behind the VAX architecture at DEC as VP of R&D) and his efforts to log his life using a unique camera which hangs around his neck and snaps a shot of whatever he is looking at every minute. He calls the project MyLifeBits.
Here’s a link to his presentation on the subject.
Bell is working on software to help organize every photo, every conversation, every image from his life. This is more than blogging taken to an extreme, it has significant ramifications for Alzheimer’s victims and people who suffer from memory issues.
The big question is how to store and protect a life’s worth of digital artifacts. I grow more and more paranoid as I move my life into Flickr, my unstable WordPress blog, and other online assets and storage bins. Time to start looking at a broader scale backup plan.
I like On The Media very much.
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Leaving a history of life has always been a challenge and perhaps even more so in this digital age. If we look back into the records that have been left for us from the past the difficulties are obvious. Will the language you use be decipherable in the future? How long did people stare at ancient text until the Rosetta stone was discovered and provide a connection?
The challenges of records left using digital technology are even more frustrating. Who has the equipment to play back a wire recorder? How about a data tape used in 1978 on an STC tape drive? How about those slides our parents took to preserve those moments in the past? What about a 180K floppy drive that came in the first IBM PC? Can you find something to play an 8-track or a Sony BetaMax? How long before the 1.4MB diskette will be unreadable with a standard PC? How much longer before CD’s are such old media that finding a reader will be a frustrating experience. Even if you find the most persistent media will the language you write it in be translatable?
Maybe we need to look back at those artifacts that have persisted over the years to find examples of successful ways to leave a history.
Maybe our descendants will be constantly converting our digital legacy to new media and formats.
Will our efforts to share what we have learned and experienced be valued?
Maybe our contributions will burn brightly and illuminate only to fade away over time, just like us.
Found in a cave in 3021 AD – the dead sea floppies…
Wise words jim. I wrote my first and only novel on a Wang word processor in the spring of 1980 and wound up with floppies the size of old LP album covers. Absolutely useless today.
That’s why I want an online archive with double-belt-suspender redundancy for my stuff.
You aren’t alone
Four years ago I sent out the family 8mm and 16mm film for conversion to DV tape. The boatloads of slides are the next to be sent out.
In digital photography, there’s the uproar over the RAW formats that the camera companies claim as proprietary (Nikon’s NEF, etc). Adobe’s “open
DNG format isn’t that widespread.
the keyword, as always though, is BACKUP. Too often it isn’t format but total loss that gets the average consumer. And local drive or DVD backup doesn’t help in a fire.
I just joined Mozy.com for easy, small file backup. I like it.