Warning of a new digital Dark Age from Goggle's VP

5 posts / 0 new
Last post
Ken Porter
Ken Porter's picture
Warning of a new digital Dark Age from Goggle's VP

Came across this interesting story from an interview with Vint Cerf, internet pioneer & Goggle's VP. He talks about a digital Dark Age that could be looming where so much information (including pictures) could be lost or become unusable to future generations. Not unlike the Medieval Dark Ages where few historical records survived. One takeaway, print your pictures if you want them to survive for future generations.


John Hulburt
John Hulburt's picture

Interesting commentary. Food for thought.

Anton Largiader
Anton Largiader's picture

The digital/print distinction here isn't that meaningful. Plenty of photographs from only a few decades ago are severely compromised because the latest and greatest print technology just didn't last. I think the '70s were kind of a low point for this, at least in snapshot form (by far the most popular printing, I suspect). We have photos from before that which have lasted well, and after that as well, but in both my family and my wife's the prints from the '70s are pretty bad.

My concern with digital isn't so much the preservation; it's the identification of what is important. If someone dies with a library of 500,000 images, no one is going to search out the great ones and after two generations no one will know who is who. Far better to leave a library of 1000 that are carefully selected and documented. There are prints on the walls of my ancestral home which have been there all my life. No one who is alive knows who some of the people are.

Robert Fehnel
Robert Fehnel's picture

The one part of the article that stood out to me is the backwards compatibility. In my experience in a chemistry lab, software rarely supports old (perhaps only a few years old) equipment. This means that money has to be constantly spent to not only update software but hardware as well. In photography the hardware seems to dictate the compatibility not the software. For instance if a new camera comes out an old version of photoshop and its associated camera raw will not support this new version of raw. When i bought my D7100 CS5 and its camera raw would not work and i had to upgrade to CS6. If backward compatibility becomes an issue then there will be real issues i think of keeping the data.


As Anton mentions the bigger issue is that many times only the person who took an image and within one generation may know who it is. After that the sort of oral history of an image is lost. This requires good documentation. With that said that can be lost as well even with prints. There are photos of many generations of my family that may be known, mainly because my grandmother documented many of the images while including newspaper trimmings or other pertinent information. The same must hold true going forward with digitally saved images.


Also I would like to keep records of old photographs and scan them digitally to keep them in case the old versions deteriorate.  This is a project I keep planning to do but have yet to start.  


Gerry Bishop
Gerry Bishop's picture

Very much agree with Anton's comments about the devaluing of images through hoarding. Those who don't destroy 95% of their images are taking themselves too seriously and the art of photography not seriously enough.