We are on the edge of a new dark age. According to one person, “Our 21st Century will be an information black hole.” The ravings of a Luddite? The rantings of a computer-hating lunatic? Hardly, these were the words of Google Vice President and Internet pioneer, Vint Cerf. At a recent speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cerf warned that a second dark age may be looming because the majority of our documents and images are now kept in digital formats.
Cerf spoke specifically of the potential loss of personal photographs. According to Cerf:
We have various formats for digital photographs and movies and those formats need software to correctly render those objects. Sometimes the standards we use to produce those objects fade away and are replaced by other alternatives and then software that is supposed to render images can’t render older formats, so the images are no longer visible.
Foolishness, you say? Well, when was the last time you listened to those eight-track or cassette tapes? Do you have any documents or images stored on floppy disks? If so, you may want to know that the upcoming update to Microsoft’s operating system (Microsoft 10) will no longer provide support for reading floppy disks. Unfortunately, the problem is not solved by backing up your data. It is possible to have perfectly good image data and no way to view it. What will happen when someone comes up with a format supperior to JPEG for saving images and new software no longer supports reading those “antiquated” JPEG files?
You may conclude that you don’t have any photos that are so important that they need to survive for generations. But, you may want to rethink that attitude. Remember the first time that you looked at photos of yourself, your parents or grandparents as youngsters. Those old, faded, black and white pieces of paper probably brought you a great deal of joy. It would be a shame if your grandchildren, or their children didn’t have the same opportunity to see what your life was like.
So, what can you do? According to Cerf, “If there are pictures that you really, really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.” That’s right, one of the most prominent men of the digital world is telling you to make physical prints of your images!
There is no need to make prints of every photo you make. But there are probably a few images that you would like to keep for future generations. You know the ones: the pictures of you and your spouse together, the shots of your child with their first car, graduation pictures, birthdays. They are all worth keeping. Even those landscape and cityscape shots may be important. That lighthouse or old barn is unlikely to be there forever and don’t you love seeing those old photos of how your town looked in the “old days”?
Fortunately, you have several options for making inexpensive copies of your images. I’m sure that you are aware that Costco, Target, and several other retail outlets will print your photos for a small fee. Or, with an inexpensive printer, you can print them yourself?
It may seem like a lot of work to make those prints. But how much will your history be worth to your loved ones? Maybe it’s worth a little money or work to shine some light into the coming “dark age.”