A new way to stop digital decay
The Economist’s Technology Quarterly on a virtual computer that can “read” all previous media and software formats, preserving dgital media into the future.
“Digital media lasts forever, or five years, whichever comes first.” Here’s an example of how a wonderful digital preservation project ran into that 5-year wall:
In 1986, for example, 900 years after the Domesday book, the BBC launched a project to compile data about Britain, including maps, video and text. The results were recorded on laserdiscs that could only be read by a special system based around a BBC Micro home computer. But since the disks were unreadable on any other system, this pioneering example of multimedia was nearly lost for ever. It took two and a half years of patient work with one of the few surviving machines to move the data on to a modern PC (it can be seen online at www.domesday1986.com).
Researchers at the National Library of the Netherlands are constructing a computer that can read all prior media formats.