We humans appear to have a basic need to create a long-lasting record of our lives. Since before the written word, we have been recording our stories and images to share with others.
For the past few millennia we have recorded our stories and images primarily on paper. Paper has proven to be a relatively long-lasting recording medium, in many cases, lasting 100’s of years. However, in the past 30 years, we’ve rapidly changed from paper to recording most of our stories and images digitally on computing devices.
The great thing about digital recording is that our devices remember our stories almost perfectly, perfectly that is, until they forget completely. Our devices forget for various reasons: hardware failure (e.g., disk crash), losing a device, media obsolesence (e.g., floppy disks), cloud storage vendor failure (e.g., MobileMe, Flip camera) or just our own misplacing our digital files.
The result is that we are in danger of losing our personal and collective histories and that as a culture, we won’t have anything to pass along to future generations or civilizations.
As contributors to the explosion of digital information, we realize this is a really BIG problem and the amount of digital information we’re all creating is staggering. Archivists and librarians anticipated this opportunity and have been working on it since the 1990s.
At Pepper Networks, we are starting small and very focused. Our first step is the creation of a device app called Timebox which enables you to collect, organize, preserve and share your stories along with your associated digital things creating a “personal history archive.”
The Timebox app enables you to archive your stories and digital things directly on your iOS devices. To provide a more long-lasting archive, we’ve also created the Timebox Cloud Service that provides a high-availability backup copy of the archive from your device. It also provides cross-device syncing so you can access your stories and digital things on any of your devices (e.g., iPad, iPhone).
However, as we’ve mentioned, even cloud services from the biggest companies come and go, so Timebox also provides a simple way for you to generate your own long-lasting digital “artifacts” from your Timebox. We define a digital artifact to be a file in an industry-standard format that can potentially outlast the lifetime of a single company or product. For Timebox we have chosen ISO-standard PDF as our digital artifact format. Timebox enables you to generate and share PDF artifacts that are single pages or entire ebooks. Since they are in an industry-standard format, they can be read and enjoyed on virtually any device or computer.
One of the problems with all digital formats, including PDF, is that a computing device is required to read and interpret the file. Although PDF appears to be a good choice for longevity, someday it may ultimately be replaced by another format and the software and hardware available to read PDFs may no longer be available. This is true of all machine-readable storage systems, whether they are digital or analog (e.g., VHS or Beta video tapes). To create a truly long-lasting artifact it ultimately has to be human-readable, rather than strictly machine-readable.
For this reason, we have future plans for Timebox to support two kinds of human-readable physical artifacts: paper and metal.
Since paper has proven to be a very long-lasting medium, we are working on a future update to Timebox to enable you to easily generate archival-quality printed books from your Timebox stories and digital things. In the meantime, you are also always welcome to print your own pages and books from your PDF artifacts.
Although paper is long-lasting when well cared for, metal artifacts have always provided the ultimate in longevity. For that reason we are also working on making it simple for you to generate laser-etched metal objects with the stories and photos from your Timebox. Our hope is that these metal artifacts will be enjoyable to display and share today, and readable by future generations and even possibly future civilizations.
To get started with your own Timebox personal history archive, please install the free Timebox app on your iOS devices and start collecting the times of your own life.
Len and Mary Ellen