In the snowy Swiss Alps, behind a 3.5-ton door that could withstand a nuclear attack and beyond a maze of passageways, scientists are depositing a capsule containing everything future generations will need to decipher our data.
The facility is the Swiss Fort Knox and the researchers are those of Planets, a project funded partially by the European Union with the aim of ensuring "long-term access to our digital cultural and scientific assets". As one of the project's leaders noted, Einstein's paper notes are still readable today; Stephen Hawking's digital ones, seven decades on, might not be.
Today, four years after their project began, the Planets team deposited a capsule deep into the heart of the Swiss Fort Knox compound, containing punch-cards, microfilm, floppy discs, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, USB and Blu Ray media. They wanted to give the researchers of the future everything they might need to reconstruct our media and salvage our histories, regardless of how different their technological landscape looks.
Andreas Rauber, a Viennese professor and partner of the Planets team, explains:
Unlike hieroglyphics carved in stone or ink on parchment, digital data has a shelf life of years not millennia. Failure to implement adequate digital preservation measures now could cost us billions in the future.
But digital preservation isn't only a matter of economics. As we explored in our Memory Forever theme week, our society is increasingly trusting hard drives to do the work that brains - and paper - once did, and while that's working out for the present, there's no telling what to expect when it comes time to access our digital past. Be glad that some people are thinking ahead. [Planets Project and Swiss Fort Knox via PC Mag]
Image Swiss Fort Knox