Is All Our Data Doomed?

How can we preserve the things most precious to us?

When I was growing up everyone had photo albums. Remember those little triangle-shaped stickers on the corners of all the pictures? Sometimes they would come loose and the pictures would fall out.

Then my dad bought a slide projector. He started making slides instead of pictures. The projector had a sort of wheel on the top. You had to carefully insert all the slides into the wheel and place it on the machine so you could view them. The machine often jammed up.

Then came digital cameras, which are in our smart phones now. We have a lot more pictures and videos nowadays! No more little stickers on photo albums. No more boxes of slides and slide machines with the little electric fan in it that made the room smell funny.

People started burning their pictures and videos onto CDs. I read somewhere that the data on a CD can last up to 100 years before it begins to decay. That’s a lot longer than some of the VCR tapes we used for recording our son Andy’s birthday parties and other family events.

Karen and I didn’t want to lose those memories. We decided to have those VCR tapes transferred to digital format and copied to CDs or thumb drives. So we sent them off in the mail and paid the price. But how long before the operating systems and software evolve so that the files no longer open?

Now my phone keeps trying to put my pictures and videos in “the cloud” (whatever that is). I’ll be honest. I don’t trust the cloud. Everything keeps changing. How long will the cloud be there? What happens when the cloud clears up?

As someone who writes and records articles, books, and songs, I take a special interest in how we store and protect our data. Why? I want my creations to last. I want to have all my ‘stuff’ for a long time. Rapid changes in storage and retrieval systems are unsettling. They threaten my ‘stuff.’

These modern information systems offer powerful and convenient ways to save things, but they have one important thing in common with the older systems. They all eventually will degrade and decay and pass away. I have been forced to accept the fact that my ‘stuff’ will simply not last. Someday it will all fade away.

The Bible tells us that a day is coming when this whole creation will wear out like a garment. It will be discarded. The sky will be rolled up like a scroll. All the starry host will fall like withered leaves from a vine (Isaiah 34:4).

In the Apocalypse, the Apostle John saw a new heaven and a new earth because the old heaven and earth had passed away. Everything in this creation will pass away. No matter how advanced our information storage devices become or how impressive our work may be, it will all be gone someday.

Any exceptions? The word of God will last. And the souls of people will survive. If I want to write something that will last into eternity, then I should write God’s word on souls, the souls of others and my own.

When I share the gospel and lead someone to saving faith in Christ, I am writing a message on a media that will last forever. That work will never be lost. When I help others grow in Christ, I am writing on their souls something that will last into eternity.

Let’s work for something worthy.

May God’s love inspire us to bear fruit for eternity,

Brother Richard Foster

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