Vint Cerf – Digital Vellum – Everything on the Internet maybe erased!


Vint Cerf: “Everything we do will be ERASED! You can’t even find the last two times I said this.”

Vint Cerf (one of the fathers of the Internet) has stated quite rightly that the speed technology is moving may make what we do right now online irrelevant.

Here is why….

I will ask you a few questions.

Anyone remember 8-Tracks? Anyone remember slideshow projectors? Cylinder Gramophones anyone? What about Floppy Disk Drives, what about a audio cassette tape or even a video cassette (scary) – what about in 100 years what will happen to the Facebook or Wikipedia posts of today, or your holiday snaps for your great great grandchildren, how will they be able to view them (bring back archival printing is a good idea!)? You see the problem!

As the medium degrades, has errors, disintegrates, social unrest can destroy data, hackers and so on are the problems of today. But the big worry is that, as technology advances, the means by which we access old data is slowly lost, a bit like trying to play a Dream Cast disk on Windows 10. Without the compatible machine and means to view it, it is lost. I mean there are 108 missing episodes of the UK’S National Treasure Doctor Who from the 1960s. That’s not that long ago and the BBC!

To put it another way

Vint Cerf is predicting a ‘Digital Dark Age’ this means future generations will not be able to view content created today, primarily because technology is moving too fast, and the hardware, and software used today will become obsolete very quickly. As I mentioned above about viewing a slide without a slide projector, sure you can do it, but what if there are no slide projectors being made, or the slides fade, or maybe even people no longer know what that is over time, it is hoped that an idea entitled ‘Digital Vellum’ may go some way in securing all that. For this to work all programs, data and emulators will need to be bunched. In other words, in 100 years time, a researcher not only gets a program on the device of the day, but the technology would be included to view and make sense of it.

For example, a copy of a Microsoft word document + Microsoft Word + Windows Operating System + Some future Emulator updated all the time to access this package through the technology of the day, that would have to includes translation tools, and perhaps other additional tools – yes all of this would be required to read this one document! Makes perfect sense if you think about it. I have a Swann security camera that packages a viewer with any captured footage, so if sent, the recipient can view the video clip. The same would apply to most of what is currently on the net. a php file is pointless without a browser and .CSS/Templates and a server, and perhaps as MySQL database + an operating system to make all this function. All that would need to be placed into a click-and-go-package (assuming they still ‘click’ in 100 years time ;). The problem is in 100 years you would need an archive with trillions of searchable documents globally, most of which would be dumped for the important historical data, this has always been the case, and why I have no idea what a serf (pun intended) was doing in a village 1000 years ago – it is lost forever and so will your photos, knowledge, blogs and tweets – it will be like you never existed online. The truth is much of what we say now will in time be lost and like the Rosetta Stone without the key will be undecipherable. Bummer!

Then again everything on Twitter will be lost after all, who would want to reread that stream of nonsense anyway – so every cloud ‘n’ all that.

So even this will be gone – maybe I should pack it all in now eh?

Links – The Register BBC News