Data Capsule.

Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

How can I store a laptop and CDs so that it will boot
and read data after, say, 50 years of complete neglect?

In particular, the laptop and data will have to endure:

* Being hermetically sealed.
* Possibly seasonal swings of temperature.
* No maintenance whatsoever.
* Time.

======================================================

Why??

I was thinking of a project, the name of which escapes me,
that attempted to store a vast amount of data for future
generations. The problem was that the computer they used
was some proprietary thing that died out, and they are
rapidly running out of hardware capable of reading the
media they used, some sort of laser disk.

Clearly to have any hope of really long term storage,
one needs to:

1. Use hardware that is as standard as possible.
2. Store the hardware with the data.

I intend to build a time capsule. I will invite all my
friends to contribute data to it in CD-ROM (or 1.44
floppy) format. I will hermetically seal the data plus
a laptop and store it somewhere, possibly underground.

The laptop I have is a Panasonic CF-25. It is ruggedized,
has a proven reliability track record, and features
standard hardware. (IDE, CD-ROM, 1.44 floppy, serial,
parallel). I figure if nothing else, one should be able
to cobble together a serial port decades in the future
to export data.

The laptop will have (at least) four operating systems on
it: Win98, Win2000(server?), WinXP, Linux (a reliable
version). It will also contain programs to read, use, and
export the data (mp3 players, picture viewers, Office
applications) as well as documentation for future users
who may wonder what Windows is.

My time-scale is 20 to 50 years.

My thought is to start with four packages:

Laptop
Power supply, cables, & other hardware.
Spool of CD-ROMs.
Paper documentation to get people started.

Wrap each of them multiple times with plastic
(like saran wrap). Put a layer of iron-based "tin foil"
in between. Put these in a sealable, water-tight, non-rusting
container (pelican case?). Store it or bury it somewhere
safe.

Any suggestions?

..wk.
16 answers Last reply
More about data capsule
  1. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    William Korvine <none@hotmail.com> wrote:
    >How can I store a laptop and CDs so that it will boot
    >and read data after, say, 50 years of complete neglect?

    You can't. CD-R disks aren't good for that long.
  2. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    William Korvine wrote:
    >
    > <absurdities snipped>
    >
    > Any suggestions?

    Get yourself a pen and some paper and start writing. <g>

    Notan
  3. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    William Korvine <none@hotmail.com> wrote
    > I intend to build a time capsule. I will invite all my
    > friends to contribute data to it in CD-ROM (or 1.44
    > floppy) format.

    Both decay to uselessness in less than ten years. The only
    form of mass storage that lasts more than ten years (in fact,
    lasts more than 100 years) is flash. Compact Flash cards can
    both physically connect and boot as ordinary IDE hard drives
    with this adapter:
    http://www.tapr.org/tapr/html/Fcfa.html

    The cheapest compact flash in the world is here:
    http://www.newegg.com/app/viewProductDesc.asp?description=20-171-074&depa=1


    > I will hermetically seal the data plus
    > a laptop and store it somewhere, possibly underground.

    You should include chemical desiccants to absorb moisture.
    You may want to, additionally, nitrogen flush the capsule
    as you are sealing it.


    > The laptop will have (at least) four operating systems on
    > it: Win98, Win2000(server?), WinXP, Linux (a reliable
    > version). It will also contain programs to read, use, and
    > export the data (mp3 players, picture viewers, Office
    > applications) as well as documentation for future users
    > who may wonder what Windows is.

    You may want to also set it up as a web server so it can
    simply be connected to a network and people can access the
    information with standard web browsers.


    > My time-scale is 20 to 50 years.

    Hopefully, web browsers will still conform to early HTML
    standards 50 years from now. Ditto for physical network
    connectors.


    > Wrap each of them multiple times with plastic
    > (like saran wrap). Put a layer of iron-based "tin foil"
    > in between. Put these in a sealable, water-tight, non-rusting
    > container (pelican case?). Store it or bury it somewhere
    > safe.
    >
    > Any suggestions?

    Waterproof containers tend to use rubber or synthetic rubber
    to seal the cracks. Over time, both of these dry out (or rot)
    and fail. Encasing it in a solid block of glass would work
    (dip it in the glass while molten and let the glass harden
    around it) pretty well, except that people might be averse
    to breaking the glass to open it. A russian-dolls approach
    with nitrogen-flushed sealed containers might work alright
    since the outside containers would take the brunt of the
    corrosion/drying effects and thus hopefully spare the
    inner containers and their seals.

    Also, contractor suppliers may be able to point you to
    weather sealing materials designed to last 50 years.


    > Store it or bury it somewhere safe.
    Nowhere is safe. See the nuclear waste discussions:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/know_nukes/


    You might want to try an abandoned salt mine or a local
    landmark, though.
  4. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    "William Korvine" <none@hotmail.com> wrote in message
    news:Xns95519CCC3FDFBnonehotmailcom@66.185.95.104...
    > How can I store a laptop and CDs so that it will boot
    > and read data after, say, 50 years of complete neglect?
    >
    > In particular, the laptop and data will have to endure:
    >
    > * Being hermetically sealed.
    > * Possibly seasonal swings of temperature.
    > * No maintenance whatsoever.
    > * Time.
    >
    > ======================================================
    >
    > Why??
    >
    > I was thinking of a project, the name of which escapes me,
    > that attempted to store a vast amount of data for future
    > generations. The problem was that the computer they used
    > was some proprietary thing that died out, and they are
    > rapidly running out of hardware capable of reading the
    > media they used, some sort of laser disk.
    >
    > Clearly to have any hope of really long term storage,
    > one needs to:
    >
    > 1. Use hardware that is as standard as possible.
    > 2. Store the hardware with the data.
    >
    > I intend to build a time capsule. I will invite all my
    > friends to contribute data to it in CD-ROM (or 1.44
    > floppy) format. I will hermetically seal the data plus
    > a laptop and store it somewhere, possibly underground.
    >
    > The laptop I have is a Panasonic CF-25. It is ruggedized,
    > has a proven reliability track record, and features
    > standard hardware. (IDE, CD-ROM, 1.44 floppy, serial,
    > parallel). I figure if nothing else, one should be able
    > to cobble together a serial port decades in the future
    > to export data.
    >
    > The laptop will have (at least) four operating systems on
    > it: Win98, Win2000(server?), WinXP, Linux (a reliable
    > version). It will also contain programs to read, use, and
    > export the data (mp3 players, picture viewers, Office
    > applications) as well as documentation for future users
    > who may wonder what Windows is.
    >
    > My time-scale is 20 to 50 years.
    >
    > My thought is to start with four packages:
    >
    > Laptop
    > Power supply, cables, & other hardware.
    > Spool of CD-ROMs.
    > Paper documentation to get people started.
    >
    > Wrap each of them multiple times with plastic
    > (like saran wrap). Put a layer of iron-based "tin foil"
    > in between. Put these in a sealable, water-tight, non-rusting
    > container (pelican case?). Store it or bury it somewhere
    > safe.
    >
    > Any suggestions?
    >
    > .wk.

    I don't think the Battery for the laptop will be good in 50 years time, and
    might leak and damage the other archive material.

    Why not just put this important data onto CD-R's have have a routine of
    making fresh copies each year?
  5. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Amusingly, someone created a data data-capsule.
    It used Digital Video Disk (I think) and when they dug it up some years
    later the problem was finding a drive still in existence to read the thing.

    So basically, longevity re data is changing with technology.
    Sure, MO may give a 50yr or 100yr life - reality is your piece of media
    may not and getting a drive in 50yrs may be somewhat difficult. There
    are not a lot of punched tape readers around the Internet for example.
    So data is as much that required to access the thing, which in turn is
    also the software & hardware to interpret the data formats & such.

    As for thermal cycling, hermetically sealing etc.
    That's basically data stored in an oil-rig stainless pipe - with silica gel
    or arguably the stuff that maintains a humidity level vs counters it.

    You can get "unusually rugged" laptop drives - Hitachi do some for vehicle
    use (original design brief) that tolerance -20oC & 85oC *operating*. They
    are limited to 20GB in capacity, there's a feebler 60oC op-temp version.

    Paper, oddly enough, is still favoured for long-term archiving since it is
    machine readable (with effort) & easily maintained in human readable form.
    Where you can upgrade the technology around the data every few years,
    then technology wins out - re density, speed of retrieval and so on.

    I think the IT industry has given up trying to create a storage device
    that creates data readable for 100yrs - since there are so many other
    factors involved in being "readable" 100yrs from now. Thus it is more
    a metric of the ability to still read data some time into the future, in terms
    of safety factor - although like CDR claims & DVD claims "it varies". So
    many other factors come into play - your storage device may be great at
    writing & reading your disk, but other drives can't read it. Your media
    may be that one that is defective - so redundancy in types of media is
    very important as you start to extend the storage life.

    If the data-capsule can be "tech refreshed every 5yrs" it's cheap, stick
    a DVD or MO in the thing - in 5yrs a DVD2 or something and so on.

    A lot of people have lost data on obsolete media technologies not due
    to the reliability of the technology, but obsolescence - no readers left.
    Data Recovery make a living out of that segment, not just HD failures.

    Age testing, HALT, isn't too good at predicting data-capsule apps since
    the distribution of results & confounding factors makes it impossible. It
    is worth noting the pyramids etc still remain - but it took quite some
    time for all the enscription methods to be fully identified & translated :-)
    --
    Dorothy Bradbury
    www.stores.ebay.co.uk/panaflofan for quiet Panaflo fans & other items
    www.dorothybradbury.co.uk (free delivery)
  6. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    "Dorothy Bradbury" <dorothy.bradbury@ntlworld.com> writes:
    > So basically, longevity re data is changing with technology.
    > Sure, MO may give a 50yr or 100yr life - reality is your piece of media
    > may not and getting a drive in 50yrs may be somewhat difficult. There
    > are not a lot of punched tape readers around the Internet for example.

    That's a myth; while most people don't have punched tape readers on
    their personal computers these days, there's tons of them around and
    anyone who suddenly needed some punched tape could locate a reader
    with a phone call or two, or could make their own with easily
    available parts.

    > I think the IT industry has given up trying to create a storage
    > device that creates data readable for 100yrs - since there are so
    > many other factors involved in being "readable" 100yrs from
    > now.

    Try this: http://www.rosettaproject.org/live/disk
  7. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Paul Rubin <http://phr.cx@NOSPAM.invalid> wrote:
    >Try this: http://www.rosettaproject.org/live/disk

    Great idea, any recent news? /*We are printing the 1.0 Version of the
    Rosetta Disk in Fall 2002*/ and /*If you would like to be notified
    when disks are available*/

    I want a few disks, and maybe even the containers, though I suspect
    that if you have to ask about the price you already can't afford it.
  8. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    callen@efn.org (Chris Allen) wrote in
    news:698c89aa.0408262053.2dd6bdd1@posting.google.com:

    > William Korvine <none@hotmail.com> wrote
    >> I intend to build a time capsule. I will invite all my
    >> friends to contribute data to it in CD-ROM (or 1.44
    >> floppy) format.
    >
    > Both decay to uselessness in less than ten years. The only
    > form of mass storage that lasts more than ten years (in fact,
    > lasts more than 100 years) is flash. Compact Flash cards can
    > both physically connect and boot as ordinary IDE hard drives
    > with this adapter:
    > http://www.tapr.org/tapr/html/Fcfa.html

    I didn't know a lot of that information. I'm surprised about the
    10 year shelf life of CD-ROM anbd floppies. In fact, I have shoeboxes
    full of 20+ year old 5.25 that have surprised me by working flawlessly.

    Do you know the shelf life of modern hard disks???

    >> I will hermetically seal the data plus
    >> a laptop and store it somewhere, possibly underground.
    >
    > You should include chemical desiccants to absorb moisture.
    > You may want to, additionally, nitrogen flush the capsule
    > as you are sealing it.

    Yes, I thought of both of those (or close, I was thinking Argon).

    > Encasing it in a solid block of glass would work...
    > (dip it in the glass while molten and let the glass harden
    > around it) pretty well, except that people might be averse
    > to breaking the glass to open it. A russian-dolls approach
    > with nitrogen-flushed sealed containers might work alright
    > since the outside containers would take the brunt of the
    > corrosion/drying effects and thus hopefully spare the
    > inner containers and their seals.

    Actually, we're getting a little more expensive that I'd prefer
    for what amounts to a hobby project.

    >> Store it or bury it somewhere safe.

    > Nowhere is safe. See the nuclear waste discussions:
    > You might want to try an abandoned salt mine or a local
    > landmark, though.

    Actually, I'm leaning towards just chucking it behind the
    wine-rack in the cellar.

    Thanks for your help.

    ..wk.
  9. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Paul Rubin wrote:
    >
    > "Dorothy Bradbury" <dorothy.bradbury@ntlworld.com> writes:
    > > So basically, longevity re data is changing with technology.
    > > Sure, MO may give a 50yr or 100yr life - reality is your piece of media
    > > may not and getting a drive in 50yrs may be somewhat difficult. There
    > > are not a lot of punched tape readers around the Internet for example.
    >
    > That's a myth; while most people don't have punched tape readers on
    > their personal computers these days, there's tons of them around and
    > anyone who suddenly needed some punched tape could locate a reader
    > with a phone call or two, or could make their own with easily
    > available parts.

    I actually found some old tapes, not too long ago.

    Old, yellow(er), brittle, cracked, etc.

    You'd have to make sure they were kept in a *very*
    controlled environment.

    Notan
  10. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    William Korvine <korvine@hotmail.com> wrote:
    > callen@efn.org (Chris Allen) wrote in
    > news:698c89aa.0408262053.2dd6bdd1@posting.google.com:
    >
    >> William Korvine <none@hotmail.com> wrote
    >>> I intend to build a time capsule. I will invite all my
    >>> friends to contribute data to it in CD-ROM (or 1.44
    >>> floppy) format.
    >>
    >> Both decay to uselessness in less than ten years. The only

    I doubt this too.
    I have a largish number of CDs recorded in 97, all of which read just
    fine.
    If they were all (or even most) going to die before 10 years, I'd
    expect some not to read now.

    >> form of mass storage that lasts more than ten years (in fact,
    >> lasts more than 100 years) is flash. Compact Flash cards can
    >> both physically connect and boot as ordinary IDE hard drives
    >> with this adapter:
    >> http://www.tapr.org/tapr/html/Fcfa.html
    >
    > I didn't know a lot of that information. I'm surprised about the
    > 10 year shelf life of CD-ROM anbd floppies. In fact, I have shoeboxes
    > full of 20+ year old 5.25 that have surprised me by working flawlessly.

    Try 3.25" disks.
    I have shoeboxes of disks that won't read or format without errors.
    >
    > Do you know the shelf life of modern hard disks???

    This would worry me.
    Mechanically, they are likely not to start up.
    I'd go with flash.

    I'd also be wary about laptops, there are some fairly stressed capacitors
    in the power supplies.
    Even unused, these may dry out, or become useless enough not to start
    the laptop.
    Other concerns would be gasses leaking out of and into the backlight tube.
  11. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Ian Stirling <root@mauve.demon.co.uk> writes:
    > This would worry me. Mechanically, they are likely not to start up.
    > I'd go with flash.

    I wouldn't go with flash. Data leaks out of flash over the years.
  12. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Paul Rubin wrote
    > Ian Stirling <root@mauve.demon.co.uk> writes:
    > > I'd go with flash.
    > I wouldn't go with flash. Data leaks out of flash over the years.

    13,700 web pages say differently:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=flash+memory+%22100+years%22+data

    --
    Data retention is rated at greater than 100 years
    --
  13. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Paul Rubin <http://phr.cx@nospam.invalid> wrote:
    > Ian Stirling <root@mauve.demon.co.uk> writes:
    >> This would worry me. Mechanically, they are likely not to start up.
    >> I'd go with flash.
    >
    > I wouldn't go with flash. Data leaks out of flash over the years.

    I'd rate it as unquestionably better than floppies or hard drives,
    which may well not survive even 10 years idle.
    And combined with ECC, it may work quite well.

    The alternatives are pretty much worse.
    A CD may well be readable after 50 years, if it's not succumbed to the
    various maladies they can, but will the CD drive start up after 50
    years of sitting in the same position?

    I'd also be worried about taking a standard motherboard or bit of
    general consumer electronics and expecting it to work after more than
    10 years.
    I'd want to first audit it for stuff likely to fail, such as
    cheap electrolytics/..., and replace them with more likely to be
    durable ones.
    As long as you keep it nice and dry, almost all of the other
    components apart from batteries, that arn't moving should be fine.
  14. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    William Korvine <none@hotmail.com> writes:
    > How can I store a laptop and CDs so that it will boot
    > and read data after, say, 50 years of complete neglect?

    Forget it.

    > I was thinking of a project, the name of which escapes me,
    > that attempted to store a vast amount of data for future
    > generations. The problem was that the computer they used
    > was some proprietary thing that died out, and they are
    > rapidly running out of hardware capable of reading the
    > media they used, some sort of laser disk.

    See http://www.rosettaproject.org

    > 1. Use hardware that is as standard as possible.
    > 2. Store the hardware with the data.

    Forget the computer, it will not work. Use something like the Rosetta
    disk, or ordinary microfilm and an optical viewer.

    > Any suggestions?

    Don't count on the computer still working. It won't. Why do you think
    a computer will do any good anyway?

    The right way to make sure data stays around is to make lots of copies
    and distribute them all over the place, not take one copy and bury it
    super-securely in some hole in the ground where nobody will find it
    anyway. You're much better off just setting up a script to post the
    data on usenet once a year and putting it on a web site, so it will
    get indexed and archived by search engines.
  15. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    Paul Rubin <http://phr.cx@NOSPAM.invalid> writes:
    > > I was thinking of a project, the name of which escapes me,
    > > that attempted to store a vast amount of data for future
    > > generations. The problem was that the computer they used
    > > was some proprietary thing that died out, and they are
    > > rapidly running out of hardware capable of reading the
    > > media they used, some sort of laser disk.
    >
    > See http://www.rosettaproject.org

    Oh yes, the thing you're thinking of was the Domesday Book. The Rosetta
    project does it the right way, without computers.
  16. Archived from groups: comp.sys.laptops (More info?)

    On Thu, 26 Aug 2004 19:11:07 GMT, William Korvine <none@hotmail.com>
    wrote:

    >How can I store a laptop and CDs so that it will boot
    >and read data after, say, 50 years of complete neglect?
    >
    >In particular, the laptop and data will have to endure:
    >
    >* Being hermetically sealed.
    >* Possibly seasonal swings of temperature.
    >* No maintenance whatsoever.
    >* Time.
    >

    Possibly write it to a PROM chip (not sure if they make these anymore
    as EPROM and E2PROM have made it obsolete. That'd last quite a few
    years in a good environment.
    EPROM and E2PROM would have 'memory leak' after many years.

    I had a 'time capsuale' I put about 2 feet underground with hand
    writen notes, Photographs and section of audio tape.
    All this contained in many layers or tin foil, plastic, electrical
    tape, more tine foil and more plastic.. The plastic and foild was
    about twice as thick as the capsule itself. Used Silca el inside the
    capsule to keep it moisture free after closing it.

    Opened it up 12 years later...
    A few layers of the outer casing had begun to rot slightly, but
    inside. The Hand writen notes were very easy to read. Photographs were
    still in mint condition (considering the way they were stored) and
    audio tape was still readable though a bit more noise and flat
    frequencies, but expected after stroage like this

    Johan K
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