Kind of an ugly term, data rot. But an even uglier concept, since it refers to what might happen to the precious things we’re putting on audiotape, CD, and DVD — things we happily thought would last through the next millennium. It’s not a new worry — just keeps coming up as we think about the future. The problems that arise seem to be two, in particular: .the changing machinery we use to read our data (our articles, photos, diaries, songs, films, journals); and the way we store our data (with possible repercussions from temperature, humidity, light, and mold). Think for a second about the old 8-track tape player; when was the last time you had an 8-track cartridge in your hands? The going rule these days is to make sure you move your data about every eight to ten years, transferring it from an older to a newer medium — like from VHS to DVD, or from audiotape to digital storage. But … is there another way to preserve our history without having to do all this?
There is. Place your memories, thoughts, photos, letters, hopes and dreams into one of the oldest media on the planet: a book! This may be old-fashioned. But think of the history of books. There is a small historic membership library in Salem, MA, for example, that houses a book published in 1498. You can still hold it, turn its pages, and read it (if you read Latin). That, dear reader, is longevity! Not that all books today will last. But with moderate care, books are still the longest lasting, least worrisome, and most satisfying (to me) medium into which to deposit a life history. It’s still the first choice of many historians. It’s still mine. (October 18, 2010)