We will lose today’s digital legacy – dire warning from a father of the Internet

UniStAndrews

Keynote address at special University event

Dr Vint Cerf, a father of the Internet, will explain the need for “digital vellum” to preserve today’s Internet information for future generations in a keynote address at the University of St Andrews today (Monday June 22).

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His talk is the highlight of a special event “The Internet @ 100” hosted and organised by the School of Computer Science which features talks throughout the day by world-famous researchers.

Dr Cerf, a Google vice-president who on Wednesday (June 24) will be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of St Andrews, has expressed concerns that all the images and documents we have been saving on computers for decades will eventually be lost as hardware and software become obsolete.

Under the title “Digital Dark Age? Digital Vellum” Dr Cerf will argue at his sold-out lecture that unless we establish a regime for preserving digital content on long-lived media (or copy to new media) and capture application and operating system software as well as machine hardware emulation capability, we are destined to lose access to digital content over time.

He will argue that in a thousand years, there may be little information available about the emails, tweets, blogs and web pages of the 21st Century and warn there are technical, legal and financial challenges that will interfere with our ability to conserve/preserve digital formats, functional machine descriptions, operating systems and application code.

The organiser of “The Internet @ 100” event Professor Saleem Bhatti said:

“We are delighted to be holding this special event in honour of Dr Cerf’s visit to the University.

“The Internet is, of course, not 100 years old. It is not even quite 50 years old. However, the talks at this event will summarise some of its history, comment on its current state, and look forward to what it might look like at 100 years old.

“Dr Cerf’s talk will consider a real problem he perceives for the future – that the information we have now may be lost unless we think ahead about the longevity of the applications and data we use today.”

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