The BBC reported today on a new way to store digital data for 1000 years coming out of Japan (BBC NEWS | Technology | ‘Rosetta stone’ offers digital lifeline). Personally, I don’t feel that silicon storage is the best answer to this problem, and “wireless” read-back may be problematic over protracted periods of time.
Something more like a 3-dimensional bar code makes a lot more sense to me. Such a recording device could easily record a lot more data than paper does today, be readable via laser scans, microscope, or other light based mechanisms, and by being a physical representation, could be manufactured out of many different materials.
It’s not to say that silicon might not be a good material, lasting for a long time. The article did not go into detail how the data was recorded but presumably this etched storage device somehow trapped a charge in a particular cell that could be read back electronically – not unlike NAND flash does today but with much better reliability. But it is unclear to me why the article states that humidity surrounding the Digital Rosetta Stone device impairs storage longevity. This seems to imply that even though the device is sealed it still can be impacted by external environmental conditions.
That’s why having a recording device that can be made up of many types of materials makes more sense to me. Such a device could conceivably be etched out of marble, ceramics, steel, or any number of other materials. Marble has lasted for millennia in Greece, Italy, and other places. Of course marble is subject to weather and acid rain. But the point is by having multiple substances that can be used to record data for long periods, all using the same recording format and read-back mechanisms we can insure that any number of them can retain data for a long time in the future. Such a 3d barcode could also be sealed in any transparent media such as glass which also has been known to last centuries.
Today 3d barcodes can be attached to a surface of a cube, but they could just as easily be attached to a plate, disk, or page. Once attached (or printed) they could easily record vast amounts of data.
In my view magnetic storage cannot last for over 50 years, electronic storage will not last over 100 years, and the only thing I know of that can last a 1000 years is some physical mechanism. 3D barcodes easily emerges as the answer to this storage problem.