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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Information Services & Use
Volume (Issue) 36(3/4)
Page(s) 203 - 210
Title of proceedings Information Services & Use
DOI 10.3233/isu-160818

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


The ‘fathers of the Internet’ and developers of the TCP/IP, Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, recently warned computer users to take care of their digital documents. Because there is no solution yet for their long-time preservation, Cerf formulated his warning as: “If there are photos you really care about, print them out.” As Google’s Vice President he knows what he is talking about and is working on a solution called “digital vellum”: It shall be able to emulate document formats, software, operating systems and computer hardware. This paper discusses some problems with this suggestion in the light of the technical development especially from the point of view of the Digital Humanities: Obviously and – thanks to the work of Cerf and Kahn – the typical document (and the system of paradigms it is based on) is fading away, as well as dedicated software or clearly distinguishable computers used to work with it. For a short-term solution, the consequence can only be to avoid complicated and non-free software solutions, even though they may have beautiful and easily usable advantages. For a long-term solution, a basic, institutional shift in the fundamental paradigms of scientific research and its documentation is needed.