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'digital Genome' Safeguards Dying Data Formats

By Reuters

May 19, 2010

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European researchers have deposited a "digital genome" time capsule inside a data storage facility known as the Swiss Fort Knox, which contains a blueprint that future generations can use to read data stored using obsolete technology.

The capsule is the result of the four-year Planets project, which was launched to preserve the world's digital assets as technology changes. "The time capsule being deposited inside Swiss Fort Knox contains the digital equivalent of the genetic code of different data formats," says British Library archivist Adam Farquhar.

Planets project researchers note that the European Union alone loses at least three billion euros worth of digital information every year. "Unlike hieroglyphics carved in stone or ink on parchment, digital data has a shelf life of years, not millennia," says University of Technology of Vienna professor Andreas Rauber.

The project aims to preserve data DNA, the information and tools to access and read historical digital material and prevent digital memory loss into the next century. "If we can nail the next 100 years, we figure we will be able to nail the next 100 years as well," Farquhar says.

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