Daily Archives: November 15, 2011

How Technology Preserves History — A Guest Post

Technology has always preserved history, from pen and paper to the printing press. However as we’ve entered into the digital age, we have seen digital storage become the preferred way of maintaining our history. Today, maps, music, movies and books are all available digitally. It isn’t just new media that’s digital, either. For instance, according to an article in PC World, Google is attempting to scan and archive all of the world’s books within the next decade. Google is hoping to make them available as part of a massive library. In all, the company estimates that it will digitize roughly 130 million books in the near future.

Digital technology uses computer data as preservation meaning it lasts indefinitely and it is infinitely easier to duplicate than printing books. Printing a new copy of a book to preserve its place in history is a time consuming task, not to mention difficult. It takes specialized equipment, ink, paper and other materials. To top it off, such a lengthy process must be repeated for every new copy of that book. On the other hand, making a copy of an eBook takes seconds. A few clicks of a mouse, and thousands of copies can be created almost instantly. This is why eBooks are becoming so popular today. From students taking online classes to bookworms who spend most of their time with their nose in a book, eReaders make reading on the go a breeze. Apart from easier access, data storage is also cheap and easy to obtain. In fact, the process is similar to other forms of digitally recording history. A video of a speech by President Obama, for example, can be replicated as frequently as necessary with little limitation as opposed to a video reel of President Kennedy that can be expensive and fragile to duplicate.

In addition to preserving history, technology is also preserving the present. With news being published to the web, it is stored for an indefinite amount of time. Similarly, YouTube videos will stay around for as long as the site is alive. There are even attempts in place to archive the Internet now, such as with the Wayback Machine. What the WayBack Machine does is span the web and create images of as many sites as possible. The WayBack Machine then makes these sites available as a sort of Internet museum where visitors can see what web sites looked like on a certain date, even if they are defunct. Thus, much of the web will still be accessible to curious users even when these old sites have become obsolete. This is proof that digital technology is storing and preserving our history in an exponentially more efficient manner than old technology such as books and newspapers.

Technology also preserves our history by making it easier to sort through and organize. In a library, it takes time to locate specific books and then it takes even more time to search for information in a printed book. Yet when using new technology to store information, items can be found in a matter of seconds. A lot of our history has certainly been lost over the years simply because there isn’t enough time to search physical records. For instance, little details have often  been brushed aside. However technology allows us to preserve even the tiniest details, which will guarantee that even the most esoteric bits of information are accessible.

Despite the advantages of technology, it does have its pitfalls. In the case of preserving our personal history, a virus or hard drive failure can wipe out years of family photos. Even large companies aren’t immune to server failure. This is best evidenced by the Amazon.com’s server failure in August; a failure that took down large sites such as FourSquare and Reddit. Should we ever reach the point of all books being digital and old copies destroyed, a single natural disaster could wipe out Google’s servers and 130 million books.

These are unlikely scenarios though, and the benefits of technology preserving history are much greater than the disadvantages. With computers preserving our history, we’re entering into a golden age of record keeping where very little can slip through the cracks. Using computer storage to preserve our history means that everything in our history can effectively live forever.

About the author: Lindsey Wright is fascinated with the potential of emerging educational technologies, particularly the online school, to transform the landscape of learning. She writes about web-based learning, electronic and mobile learning, and the possible future of education.  Lindsey writes for onlinecollegeclasses.com.

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