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Saturday, August 30, 2008
  Genesis 1-3, the Rosetta Stone and digital backup
Stephen sent me the link, to this interesting post by Kevin Kelly titled Very Long-Term Backup the starting point is recognising that compared to paper the formats in which we store digital data are not durable. While paper can burn, rot or otherwise be easily destroyed, the capacity to access it is very durable, since the development of the English language (for example, or of the current script in the case of some more ancient languages) basically material written on paper is accessible. Not so the 8" floppy disk, nor even the 5.25" (the last really floppy floppy ;) how long before, even if the plastic of CDs has not degraded physically they become equally unreadable?

KK then describes the development of the new Rosetta project:
Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive suggested a new technology developed by Los Alamos labs, and commercialized by the Norsam company, as a solution for long term digital storage. Norsam promised to micro-etch 350,000 pages of information onto a 3-inch nickel disk with an estimated lifespan of 2,000 -10,000 years.
...
Long Now board member Doug Carlston suggested that for the parallel common text of this modern Rosetta Stone we should use the book of Genesis, since it was most likely already translated into all languages already. We hatched a plan to produce a 3-inch non-corroding disk which contained at least 1,000 translations of Genesis and other linguistic information about each language.
...
One side of the disk contains a graphic teaser. The design shows headlines in the eight major languages of the world today spiraling inward in ever-decreasing size till it becomes so small you have trouble reading it, yet the text goes on getting smaller. The sentences announce:“Languages of the World: This is an archive of over 1,500 human languages assembled in the year 02008 C.E. Magnify 1,000 times to find over 13,000 pages of language documentation.”
...
Among the 13,500 scanned pages are 1,500 different language versions of Genesis 1-3, a universal list of the words common for each language,
pronunciation guides and so on.
Fascinating, not least because of the cultural assumptions built into its creation!

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