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	<!-- date published or updated -->
	<time pubdate datetime="2006-10-26T17:10:00+01:00">
		<sup>5:10<abbr>pm</abbr> • 2006</sup>
		<abbr title="October">Oct</abbr> 26
	</time>
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<section>
<h1>In the Future, the Past Won’t Be Present</h1>
<aside>
	This article was <a href="http://osnews.com/story/16304/In_the_Future_the_Past_Won_t_Be_Present" rel="external">originally published</a> on <a href="http://osnews.com" rel="external">osnews.com</a>
</aside>
<p>
	<strong>History</strong> tends to leave behind mostly two kinds of information - the irrelevant and the biased.
	Archaeologists are either digging up people’s thrown away junk, or reading some emperor’s pompous account of his
	great deeds.
</p><p>
	The archaeology of the future will involve carefully extracting random 1s and 0s off of media and theorising what it
	 all could mean. In the reckless and fast moving digital world, many stumbling blocks have been created that would
	drastically inhibit future generations learning about our ancient digital existence.
</p>
<dl>
	<dt><abbr title="Recordable CDs">CD-Rs</abbr> and DVDs rot</dt>
	<dd>
		Sony’s original claim that your CDs would be good forever was a little optimistic. CDs and DVDs,
		especially <abbr title="recordable CDs">CD-Rs</abbr> and <abbr title="recordable DVDs">DVD±Rs</abbr> are
		susceptible to literal bit-rot. Some cheap <abbr title="recordable CDs">CD-Rs</abbr> don’t even last five
		years.
	</dd>
	<dt>Forgotten sockets</dt>
	<dd>
		will also pose a problem. It’s not very easy to get hold of a board with an <abbr>E-ISA</abbr> slot as it
		is. Imagine how hard it is going to be to find a motherboard with <abbr>PATA</abbr> in 25 years. Connecting
		wireless devices that use a long dead proprietary protocol may be even harder.
	</dd>
	<dt>Online services no longer available</dt>
	<dd>
		<p>
			More and more, our digital lives are being stored on the Internet. Not everything about a person
			can be found on one machine. It would take masses of data collected from numerous sources to hope
			to build a profile on a unknown person. In the same vein, having our data scattered far and wide
			would increase the chances of at least something being found, rather than all your eggs in one
			basket.
		</p><p>
			More and more, operating systems are overstepping the mark with their role in computing. It has
			become common for the operating system to dictate how and where your software will work, or not
			work. Microsoft Windows will enter a reduced mode when it detects a change in hardware, and has to
			be reactivated. There is no guarantee that in the future, the servers needed to activate an old
			unsupported version of Windows will even be around anymore, let alone Microsoft themselves in
			their current form.
		</p>
	</dd>
	<dt>Ties to hardware</dt>
	<dd>
		Some operating systems such as Mac OS X or Amiga OS will not boot on anything but their original hardware.
		In the near future <dfn title="trusted platform">TPM</dfn> modules may severely restrict the ability to
		access old and forgotten data without the original hardware. Advances in computing in the future may mean
		that all this can be emulated and hacked, but that is still based on the notion that some selfless hacker
		will do the work, because Microsoft, Sony or Apple certainly won’t.
	</dd>
	<dt>The Law</dt>
	<dd>
		<p>
			Companies have been faster to establish themselves in the digital realm then the government, and
			the law. We have seen with shocking speed, large corporations move in and start laying down their
			own laws how they see fit. If you want their goods, (and you do) you have to agree to any terms
			they dream up, and there is not enough governing agencies or laws to protect you in the same way
			you have protection against unlawful advertising and practices on the TV and in stores.
		</p><p>
			What’s more, corporations are pushing the government to create laws that protect <em>them</em>
			and not you, against these practices. The <dfn title="digital millennium copyright act">DMCA</dfn>
			means that in North America it is a crime to reverse engineer any protection schemes to provide
			interoperability. In the near future, there may be attempts to produce software or hardware to
			ensure that data that is falling out of accessibility (due to corporations discontinuing support
			for products and services), may be blocked by legal action; ensuring that only the parent company
			has the key to unlock your data, and only when it suits them.
		</p>
	</dd>
	<dt><dfn title="Digital Rights Management">DRM</dfn></dt>
	<dd>
		It goes without saying that as the speed of processing increases, cracking DRM will be easier, especially
		if quantum computing becomes a reality. That said, DRM still places a lock on our digital data, which is
		getting increasingly difficult to break, even to the point of being illegal (as above).
	</dd>
	<dt>Magnetic media</dt>
	<dd>
		Magnetic media fades over time. Though this is obviously stated, it is last in this list for a reason. Even
		if <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid_state_drive" rel="external">solid-state</a> hard disks
		become common, the data on them is still subject to many of the problems listed above; namely DRM, and
		proprietary software / formats. The data could be around forever, but that still implies little to its
		accessibility. Many floppy disks and magnetic media from the ’80s is beginning to fade away already.
	</dd>
</dl>


<h2>Data That Never Dies</h2>
<p>
	Surely all of this highlights the need for open-source software like Linux? However, this is still based on the
	naïve assumption that just because the code is open, it will be around forever. People still need to host and store
	the code and provide access via the Internet, often underfunded. If you can’t get the code easily anymore, how
	open is it?
</p><p>
	More so, Linux, and nearly all open-source software runs on proprietary processors and hardware. It can be
	recompiled  to run on other <abbr title="processor architectures">arcs</abbr>, provided that you have the source,
	the compiler, and the compiler is updated for the new <abbr title="processor architecture">arc</abbr> (and the
	compiler is compiled and running on the new <abbr title="processor architecture">arc</abbr>). In the far future,
	where so much has been changed, even old Linux source code and data could be so alien to new computers that is no
	longer usable. That is also based on the assumption that open source operating systems will even be possible in the
	future, given the barrage of attacks from the law, Trusted Computing and proprietary hardware that is protected by
	DMCA. Open-source software may very well be either the dominant type of software in the future, or nearly wiped out.
	Its future is not guaranteed at all just because it is open.
</p><p>
	If you have something you want to say to the future, then you’re better off writing it on a piece of paper and 
	putting it away safely. The way things are going, we will be lucky if <em>any</em> of our digital data is readable
	in 100 years, but your piece of paper could easily still be around.
</p>
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