Thursday, March 01, 2007

Long-term preservation on DNA

Have you ever wondered if your digital belongings (photos, video, research papers, emails, etc.) are going to be accessible 5, 10, or 20 years from now? You may be thinking, yeah, they're stored on CDs/DVDs, and they'll last forever. That's what a friend of mine was thinking several years ago about zip disks when she saved her senior project and financial data on one. Unfortunately, she no longer owns a zip drive, so she enlisted my help. After tracking down a zip drive, I attempted to extract the files only to find a handful of them were inaccessible. These ended up being very important, and my friend is now in the depths of depression. wink

Anyway, I say all this because you’re worries are now over: Japanese scientists have discovered how to store data on bacteria DNA. Since bacteria pass on their DNA unaltered from generation to generation, your data can be safely encoded on them for thousands of years. That’s right: God used DNA to store developmental instructions; you can use it to store your Brittany Spears collection. Of course the technology for correctly extracting and interpreting the stored data must also be functional a thousand years from now, but we’ll let the digital preservationists figure that out.

For an enlightening read on the long-term preservation of digital data, see Ensuring the Longevity of Digital Information by Jeff Rothenberg.
"Digital information lasts forever -- or five years, whichever comes first." -Jeff Rothenberg