Digital preservation lasts until the heat death of the universe or five years

October 4, 2016

(Whichever comes first)

Here are my notes and references from my lightning talk. The slides for the talk itself can be found on DropBox. Warning this is about ~150MB!

Here’s the article that inspired this talk, Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Information, written by Jeff Rothenberg waaay back in 1995 for Scientific American.

The year is 2045, and my grandchildren (as yet unborn) are exploring the attic of my house (as yet unbought). They find a letter dated 1995 and a CD-ROM (compact disk). The letter claims that the disk contains a document that provides the key to obtaining my fortune (as yet unearned). My grandchildren are understandably excited, but they have never seen a CD before—except in old movies—and even if they can somehow find a suitable disk drive, how will they run the software necessary to interpret the information on the disk? How can they read my obsolete digital document?

If you want to read more by Mr. Rothenberg about digital longevity, he has a web page for it. And here, at the Council on Library and Information Resources. If video is more your thing, on YouTube: How Far We’ve Come. Just so you know that there are other views, and other voices, Rothenberg still Wrong.


On the scale of our data collections.

Lost data.

Legacy systems.

Digital preservation


All the feels

Digital Preservation Lasts Until the Heat Death of the Universe or Five Years - October 4, 2016 - Ken Mayer