A digital dark age may be coming, Google VP warns

digital dark age strike 21st century history internet creator warns vint cerf
Joi Ito/Flickr
Father of the Internet and Google Vice President Vint Cerf has issued a warning to photographers and data storage lovers at large: Physically print your data or risk losing it to a digital dark age.

Cerf spoke at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California, and warned that data could be lost forever in the coming decades, BBC News reported. Photos, documents, software, videogames — anything on your computer is just data, Cerf explained, and computers use various programs or operating systems to access that data. However, as time goes on, these methods of accessing data can become outmoded. Try getting at the data in a floppy disc, or watching a VCR tape, or even loading up a three year old version of Photoshop on your computer now — it’s impossible. As technology advances, various methods of accessing and manipulating data get lost.

The idea of losing all records from the 21st century, disturbs Cerf, so he proposed the creation of a system that both stores data of all sorts and also saves the details necessary to access the data. He calls it Digital Vellum. Emulators do this already for both video game systems and older versions of software, for example. When Macs made the change from a 32-to-64-bit architecture operating system, the new system was made to emulate a 32-bit system, so that older software could still be used.

The task of storing the Internet and its changes over time is, needless to say, something that would take a while to accomplish. In the meantime, however, Cerf suggests making physical copies of what you can, before various apps and operating systems become outmoded. “Print them out, literally,” he said of documents and photographs. Another reason for the worry concerns world history.

“If we don’t find a solution, our 21st century will be an information black hole,” Cerf said. “Future generations will wonder about us, but they will have very great difficulty knowing about us.”

He continues on to say that the Web is increasingly becoming the place where things happen and are documented, but already we have years that are lost. He points out that “if you wanted to see what was on the Web in 1994, you’d have trouble doing that. A lot of the stuff disappears.”


Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.

Problems with installing or updating Windows 10? Here's how to fix them

Upgrading to the newest version of Windows 10 is usually a breeze, but sometimes you run into issues. Never fear though, our guide will help you isolate the issue at hand and solve it in a timely manner.

Printing to PDF in Windows is easy, no matter which method you use

Microsoft's latest operating system makes it easier than ever to print to PDF in Windows, but there are alternative methods for doing so, even if you want to forgo Adobe Acrobat. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.

This A.I.-powered camera follows the action to produce epic selfie videos

Want to capture more epic action selfies? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action. Using a handful of different modes, the camera works to keep the action in the frame.

Sony crams its best camera tech into the new $900 A6400

Love Sony's autofocus, but can't stomach the full-frame price? The Sony A6400 mirrorless camera uses some of the same autofocus technology and the processor of the A9 in a compact, more affordable crop-sensor camera.

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses -- something no phone…

GoPro bumps resolution on Fusion 360 cam to 5.6K with new firmware

Currently available in public beta, Fusion firmware version 2.0 offers a new 5.8K mode that results in 5.6K output when the 360 camera's two hemispheres are stitched together. It also adds support for 24 fps video and RAW time-lapse…

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.