We do everything in our power to prevent our short lives from turning into oblivion once we die. Whole buildings, paintings and companies are created to in a bid leave our stamp on something more permanent than ourselves.

Currently, we leave behind more than ever; millions of digital pictures, websites and documents. There is something soothing about sharing and storing precious memories, but online data may not be as permanent as we would like to think.

The documentary The End of Memory looks into today’s storage solutions. As storage technologies developed and became more sophisticated, their life expectancy actually declined. Film lasts a century, and vinyl half a century, on average. CDs were considered to be indestructible, until 2003, when LNE researchers debunked this idea. LNE’s Jacques Perdereau found that oxidisation decreased the lifespan of 15% of tested CDs to between one and five years, with the remaining 85% lasting only 20 years.

cds

Other means of storage, Flash drives and SD cards, can store our archives safely for more than a millennium, but solely if each disk is used only once to save data. A flash drive is capable of a limited number of rewrites before it crashes. So, the SD card of your camera will not last that long.

Cloud storage is the newest mainstream storage medium. These ‘clouds’ are actually data centres that use disks. The only way to keep cloud data safe is to repeatedly copy the data to several data centres across the globe, so that if a hard disk crashes, or a fire takes out a whole centre, your data remains.

Long term storage needs are not just vanity, but also essential for our existence.

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