New technology could cause photos to be lost - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New technology could cause photos to be lost

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WATERLOO (KWWL) - Many of us have memories of going through Grandma's attic looking at old photos or newspaper clippings.  These days, we have a different way to preserve our special moments.   We've gone digital, using CDs and memory sticks. But there's a small problem with that, sometimes memory fails.

Natalie Norman loves looking at old photos, along with other memorabilia her parents put away for her.

"I even have some of my grades from elementary school and high school," said Norman.

But Natalie's new memories aren't stored in boxes. She's like many of us who now keep them on memory cards, CDs or thumb drives.  But the idea that they'll be functional 50 years from now is a stretch, according to digital records consultant Adam Jansen.

"You can't assume just because I'm using it today, it's going to be useable five years from now, let alone 10 or 50 years from now," said Jansen.

Just think back to floppy disks from last decade.  Most computers these days don't have a place to play them so those files are gone.  Take a look at some of the new laptops and you'll find there's no drive where you can insert a CD.

"Every two to five years technology changes in a revolutionary way. Something new, faster, something bolder comes out," said Jansen.

And it's not just the changes you have to take into consideration. Another challenge - some systems are prone to failing fast.  Jansen points out DVDs may be hurt by heat and CDs can corrode over time.

"Suddenly I have a whole lot of data on a drive or a disc I may not be able to read," said Jansen.

Depressing, huh?  If you know you want your files and photos forever, there's no simple solution.  However, Jansen says you can get proactive.

"The first step is making sure that you have multiple copies and that they're stored in different locations," said Jansen.

And store them on different kinds of media.  So, Jansen suggests, put pictures on a CD and a memory stick.  And look ahead to see what you'll need to switch them to in the future.

"See what's out there every once in a while and keep track of that and upgrade your technology along the way," said Jansen.

Like many of us, Norman understands she needs to do some updating and realizes she'll need to get busy with backups.

"It's something I'm trying to get myself used to doing," said Norman.

So what about the back up services that are available to keep your photos or documents saved for you for a fee?  Jansen says they're great, but who knows if they'll be around in 50 years either.

Online Reporter:  Bob Waters

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