Re: Turtles all the way down?
It's not the media the data is stored on that he's worried about, it's the format it's stored in. When we switch to binary encoding, bits don't have the nice fixed meaning that letters on a page do. Instead we assign meaning to large collections of bits. If we forget how we've done that, then we're unable to recover the meaning from the data.
The fun thing about this is that he's talking about this now, when the issue has been very known in the IT world for quite some time now. Even my dad, who isn't in the IT world already knows about this. Why? Because the following things are no longer readable:
His probability programs written in college, which are stored in a big-ass magnetic tape roll. We don't even know which format the files are in.
His PhD thesis, which was written in either Aldus PageMaker 1.0, 2.0 or 3.0 and is stored in a lot of 3.5" floppies. And they're all in HFS Mac format. Extracting that data requires getting at least PageMaker 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 to get them up to a point where we might extract that data into a Windows PageMaker version, a PPC Mac or a Snow Leopard-toting Intel Mac that would be able to run PageMaker.
All my Commodore 64 programs and data.
All the stuff we stored in Jasmine Removable 45 HDDs.
All the stuff we stored in MDS88 Removable HDDs.
All the stuff stored in iomega Jaz or ZIP drives. (Fortunately, I had a wee bit of foresight on this, so I managed to rescue most of my ZIP cartridge data before I was no longer able to read 'em. No such luck for my dad.)
I'm pretty sure that anyone who got into the whole "computers" thingy back in the 80s like me has already lost something to the "digital dark age" by now.