Print out digital photos or risk losing them, Google boss warns

Submitted by: Greg Selfe 02/26/2015

Google's vice president, Vint Cerf warns we should print off our treasured photos or risk losing them through outdated operating systems.

Vint  CerfSpeaking at a conference in San Jose, California, Mr Cerf warned that the 21st century could become a second 'Dark Ages'. With vast amounts of our data stored digitally, Cerf worries that future generations will be unable to access the old files that we currently depend upon.

At the rapid rate which technology is evolving, it is unlikely that the formats we use now for photos, videos and other documents will be readable by future computers- the equivalent of trying to insert your old family videos on VHS into your Blu-ray player.

Many of us have digitised our VHS tapes to help preserve them for future generations, but what if future generations are unable to read these primitive digital formats?

Cerf’s solution is to create a cloud-based museum which contains snapshots of every piece of software and hardware so that it never becomes obsolete.

"The solution is to take an X-ray snapshot of the content and the application and the operating system together, with a description of the machine that it runs on, and preserve that for long periods of time. And that digital snapshot will recreate the past in the future." He told the BBC’s Pallab Ghosh.

The idea of generations five hundred years from now having little or no record of 21st century human history almost sounds unbelievable.  But it is a prospect which is starting to gather a lot more attention from individuals such as Vint Cert and the digital powerhouses like Google.

But until there is a future proof way of protecting our most important memories, whether it’s our personal family photos or documentary photography of major human events; the most effective way to preserve these moments in time would be to print them out and keep them somewhere safe.

You can watch Vint Cert's interview with the BBC here.