Bit rot

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
Tom Schum
Tom Schum Forum Pro • Posts: 11,251
Re: Bit rot

I've also called it "data evaporation", when data stored as a pattern of electron charge or as a pattern of magnetic polarization basically evaporates when the charge bleeds off over a period of years.  This is such a touchy subject that you will have trouble finding much about it on the internet.  USB sticks nowadays are pretty good but not recommended for long term storage.  Magnetic rotating platter storage is still considered the best for long term.

I saw data evaporation in a laser that simply stopped working because the program, stored in 20-year old EPROM devices, got spontaneously corrupted.

In cloud-based storage you can be pretty sure your data will survive, unless you stop paying the fees!  This is because most cloud storage is RAID, I believe.  Of course the cloud might be hacked, in which case all your data will be lost forever.

In your own private storage, RAIDs can prevent losses but only so long as you keep them working.  This is usually done with software that is beyond your control, software that one day might stop being updated.  And, one power supply glitch can fry all your drives at once.

With photographic film, you might or might not lose image data, but if the chemical processing is not ideal, lifetime issues come into play.  And, of course, you need a way to view the images you have stored.

When all is said and done, it seems to me that the best advice, advice I've been hearing for years, is "save your images as archival prints".  Of course you have to store them in an archival way, and keep the environment from destroying them.  A little flood in the basement can end it all.  If not, in future centuries your descendants living in caves or orbiting Saturn can still view the prints directly.  That is, if they have eyes like ours...

I remember seeing data CDs you could buy that advertised 600 year stability.  Great, but can you read them in a CD reader at that point?  Highly doubtful CD readers will still exist.

This goes on and on.  Maybe the Egyptians had the best idea:  paint on a wall in an underground crypt in a dry country, then hide the crypt.

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Tom Schum
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