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‘Internet Father’ advises keeping paper, not storing everything on disks and clouds


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Vint Cerf speaks to reporters on the sidelines of the annual Internet Governance Forum at the United Nations offices in Geneva on Thursday. | AFP-JIJI

You are on the web and in the cloud. But don’t neglect good old-fashioned paper, says internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who is afraid that all our digital memories could be lost as technology moves on.

“People say: ‘What should I do about my photographs?’ The ones you really care about? Find some really good quality photographic paper and print them, because we know those will last at least 150 years,” Cerf told reporters on the sidelines of the Internet Governance Forum in Geneva.


“I know for a fact that I have information, in digital form, down in my basement, on 5¼-inch floppy disks. And I know the bits are still there. But I don’t have anything that knows how to read them any more.”

Cerf, a Google vice president and co-designer of the TCP/IP protocol that connects devices over the internet, said he managed to find a disk drive for some of his ancient disks, only to discover he lacked the software to read them.

“If we want our descendants to know something about our world we have to make sure the information is still retrievable or understandable,” he said.

A white-bearded 74-year-old nicknamed “the Father of the Internet,” Cerf jotted notes on his conference program as he spoke, and confessed that in several ways paper is better than the state-of-the-art phone he clutched in his other hand.

“First of all, you can make little sketches easily on paper. And second, it’s on my (Governance Forum) calendar, that means I can remember where was I, and what was I doing, when I wrote that note. So for me, this is like a plug-in extra memory,” he said to laughter.

“Look, I also wear three-piece suits. I’m just a 19th-century guy in a 21st-century world.”


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