Support Long-term Thinking
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Digital Time Capsule Buried in Swiss Alps

by Heather Ryan on June 3rd, 02010

In order to demonstrate digital impermanence, scientists from the European Planets Project deposited a time capsule containing five of today’s most common types of digital objects into the Swiss Fort Knox data center. The time capsule contains a JPEG photograph, a message in Java source code, a short film in .MOV format, a web-page in HTML and a brochure in PDF.

According to the Planets website, the deposited box also included..

…conversion tools that were used to migrate the objects as well as software to open and view/use these objects and supporting software all the way down to an operating system; descriptions of the file formats, of the file systems and encodings used on the storage media; and description of all these objects and their relationship to supporting technology and recognised standards.

The TimeCapsule will be available to researchers in the future to investigate how much of its content will still be or can be made accessible and usable with the information provided.  An online version will make it possible to see the contents of the TimeCapsule and experiment with technology to preserve them. Replicas will be available to libraries, archives, science museums and others for research and public exhibit.

The Planets TimeCapsule will demonstrate in ten, 20, 30, 50 and hundreds of years the fragility of digital data and the ability of technology to overcome it.