Feeds

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf predicts the future, fears Word-DOCALYPSE

Big data? More like big problems for our grandchildren

Boost IT visibility and business value

Big data may turn out to be a big mystery to future generations, godfather of the internet Vint Cerf has warned.

The pioneering computer scientist, who helped design the TCP/IP protocol (along with Robert Kahn) before going on to work as chief internet evangelist for Google, has claimed that spreadsheets, documents and various collections of data will be unreadable by future generations.

In an interview on Monday, Cerf illustrated the problem by discussing how his up-to-date version of Microsoft Word can't read Powerpoint files created in 1997.

"I'm not blaming Microsoft," he said. "What I'm saying is that backward compatibility is very hard to preserve over very long periods of time."

Discussing scientists who are now busily gathering massive amounts of data, he warned that unless the data recording techniques of their projects is preserved by using metadata, the information will be useless to future boffins. The problem is compounded if the research is carried out and recorded by private companies, which may go bust with the loss of all information about their methodology.

"If you don't preserve all the extra metadata, you won't know what the data means. So years from now, when you have a new theory, you won't be able to go back and look at the older data," he continued.

"We won't lose the disk, but we may lose the ability to understand the disk."

He spoke of the need for a "digital vellum that will preserve not only the bits, but a way of interpreting them as well," referring to the ancient practice of using animal skin to produce durable books or documents.

Cerf also contrasted the problems of modern data storage with the example of Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, who visited more than 100 libraries whilst writing a book called Team of Rivals about President Lincoln and his government.

There is hope, however.

"It may be that the cloud computing environment will help a lot. It may be able to emulate older hardware on which we can run operating systems and applications," Cerf added in his chat to Computerworld. ®

Application security programs and practises

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Captain Kirk sets phaser to SLAUGHTER after trying new Facebook app
William Shatner less-than-impressed by Zuck's celebrity-only app
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.