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A 100 Year Old Online Time Capsule?

The next census to take place in Ireland will be on April 3rd. On the last page they’ve added a blank space for people to add a hand written “time capsule” that will be revealed in 100 years time when census data is made public. There’s a thread on Reddit asking “what would you write there?” which got me thinking.

What I would love to do is create an online time capsule that future generations could find using hand written clues in that census form.

Much as I’d like to think that donncha.wordpress.com will still be around in 100 years time it’s highly likely that we won’t be using the same method of addressing content online that we are now. Will the wordpress.com website even be around in 2122? Will “https://” mean anything to someone looking over old census forms in 100 years time?

I found this blog post talking about “the100yearwebsite.com” back in 2007. For a one off fee of £20 you could keep your capsule safe until 2107! Unfortunately, by 2010 it was gone.

The obvious choice is archive.org. It’s well funded right now and has a very good reputation for preserving sites. It even has my old Geocities website from the late 90s!

Could I tell a future relative to look up “odd.blog” on the website “archive.org” and will it mean anything to them?

I suspect it’s none of the above. Only the most basic information will be useful to future generations.

  • Prices of goods such as bread, milk, fuel.
  • Our worries such as Covid 19 and the war in Ukraine.
  • Where I work or the shops I frequent.
  • Nice places to visit at the weekend. I guess Blarney Castle will still be here in 100 years time.

Apart from this census, we should all print out a selection of the family photos we have on our phones and computers, add the date and names on the back in good ball point pen and put them in a photo album. In 100 years time that may be all that survives of your vast digital footprint.

By Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Twitter.

1 reply on “A 100 Year Old Online Time Capsule?”

That’s a really fun thought experiment, and a nice idea to add that to the census. 🙂

It may be safer to imagine that Internet or domain names as we know them will not be around in 100 years?

I imagine that a really safe option would be some sort of handheld device, with storage space, a screen, and a mouse / touchscreen interface to interact with the content. That device should work on a power source that will not degrade over time if not used.

You would then upload digital content to the device: photos, text, …

Once the device and its power source are ready, you’d place them in a fireproof / waterproof container, and hide the container. Maybe bury it in an area that’s not going to be dug out in the next 100 years, maybe in a protected area. Then write down GPS coordinates on that census paper, or better yet a list of instructions on how to get to the container, like for a treasure hunt, while keeping in mind that you cannot use trees / buildings as reference points since they may not exist in 100 years. 🙂

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