One of the founders of the Internet is stressing the importance of printing pictures for future generations.
Vint Cerf recently warned the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Jose, Calif, the world faces a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” through what he called “bit rot,” where old computer files become unusable due to changing platforms, protocols and file formats.
“If there are photos you really care about, print them out,” said Cerf, in a report by The Guardian. “We digitize things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artifacts that we digitized. If there are photos you really care about, print them out.
“We don’t want our digital lives to fade away. If we want to preserve them, we need to make sure the digital objects we create today can still be rendered far into the future,” he added. Zip drives and floppy disks are obsolete, and CDs and DVDs are fast becoming so, too. Even a simple USB port is becoming scarce. The challenge isn’t just physical storage, but also the ability to access, to read and to translate legacy file formats. For example, the ImagePac file format was used for Kodak Photo CD images, which were very popular in digital imaging and in desktop publishing in the 1990s, long before high-quality digital cameras were affordable. Millions of film images were transferred to Photo CD for archiving purposes; today, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find programs that can even access the Image Pac format. So, not only are optical disc drives becoming scarce, but also the programs to read the data.
Ironically, Cerf’s words are traveling around the world just as Adobe is commemorating the 25th anniversary of the landmark image-editing program, Adobe Photoshop. When introduced, Photoshop fit on one floppy disk; just try and find a computer with a floppy-disk drive! Today, Photoshop is part of a cloud-based subscription service, and perhaps this points to the future. Cloud storage – and more importantly, cloud access – allows new life to be given to digital images, in printed form. Open API and cloud sharing have allowed images – which in the past were trapped in the walled gardens of proprietary photo services – to now be used in a wide range of photo output products. Now we just have to engage the end users into action!