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Microsoft Technology

Microsoft's "Immortal Computing" Project 316

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the beyond-the-grave dept.
SeenOnSlash writes "Microsoft is working on a project they call 'immortal computing' which would let people store digital information in durable physical artifacts and other forms to be preserved and revealed to future generations, and maybe even to future civilizations. The artifacts would be designed to make the process of accessing the information clear with instructions in multiple languages or hieroglyphics. In one possible use, messages for descendants or interactive holograms might be stored on tombstones. The project was revealed when their patent application recently became public."
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Microsoft's "Immortal Computing" Project

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  • by pimpimpim (811140) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:25AM (#17721326)
    Did anyone else also read 'immoral computing'? :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Weirdbro (1005245)
      Microsoft's been work on that one for a long time.
    • by blowdart (31458) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:29AM (#17721352) Homepage

      I believe the internet has enough prior art to make immoral computing unpatentable.

      (But dear it's "art". Honestly. Pass the tissues)

    • Not anywhere near enough caffene for the morning...
    • by bitt3n (941736) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @12:30PM (#17724478)
      'Immortal computing' must be a euphemism for the fact that eventually all Windows machines turn into zombies.
  • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:31AM (#17721360) Homepage
    Microsoft is working on a project they call 'immortal computing'

    As far as projects like this are concerned, there can be only one.
  • A bit rich (Score:5, Insightful)

    by turing_m (1030530) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:34AM (#17721380)
    This is from the company whose business model is built around proprietary document formats - the sole purpose of which is to lock users into a never-ending upgrade cycle.
    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:43AM (#17721438) Homepage Journal
      They can sell upgrades to the dead.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      the sole purpose of which is to lock users into a never-ending upgrade cycle.


      Yes, an upgrade cycle that lasts for ever, and ever, and ever... Sounds like immortality, don't you think? I'm not sure why they'd need a patent for it, they've done so much prior art already.
    • by foobsr (693224) *
      So it is time that one patents the concept of a time-account as brought up by Paul Van Herck: Where Were You Last Pluterday? [images-amazon.com]

      This way the remains of the poor individuals having subscribed to M$ perhaps have a chance to make M$ richer.

      CC.
    • Re:A bit rich (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LaughingCoder (914424) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:48AM (#17722206)
      This is from the company whose business model is built around proprietary document formats - the sole purpose of which is to lock users into a never-ending upgrade cycle.
      I look at it a little differently. Microsoft is a company that has consistently put an extremely high priority on backwards compatibility, thereby allowing people to access their data and run their application even though they were produced decades ago. I think MS may be uniquely qualified to tackle a problem like this because of that experience. Contrary to what you assert, people *are not* forced to upgrade *because* MS provides backwards compatibility. I can send an old Word 6.0 document to someone with Word 2007 and they can read it. I am not forced to upgrade unless I want the new features of Word 2007, or unless I want to read Word 2007 files. Further, I can request the sender to write out a Word 6.0 file so that I could read it with my ancient application. Where exactly is the forced upgrade? In fact, many on these boards have commented that Microsoft's big problem is convincing people to upgrade - why buy the new office when the old one works just fine. This would be a much easier task for MS if they took the easy road and abandoned backwards compatibility.
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        What a load of M$=B$ nonsense, at compatibility layer or a document converter arn't all that difficult or that expensive to produce. If M$ didn't introduce the incompatibility in the first place it wouldn't even be a necessary expense.

        As going from a new version to an old version, a simple patch for the old version to allow the document just missing the so called feature rather than a blank refusal to open the document would be easy enough to do. As for ignoring the additonal cost of communicating with th

  • tombstone (Score:4, Funny)

    by mbaudis (585035) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:36AM (#17721392) Homepage
    in tombstones? i start to understand the vision behind the zune ...
  • Yuh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:36AM (#17721394) Homepage Journal
    They can't even manage to preserve "digital artifacts" between two different versions of Word, much less forever. If you want to preserve a document forever post it in plain text on the Internet and hope that other people find value in it. You can still find 20-year old documents from the BBS era on the Internet because people found value in them and kept reposting them. And none of those documents are in a proprietary document format!
    • by CRCulver (715279)

      You can still find 20-year old documents from the BBS era on the Internet because people found value in them and kept reposting them.

      20 years is nothing. Project Gutenberg's [gutenberg.org] first texts date from 1971.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by dangitman (862676)

        20 years is nothing. Project Gutenberg's first texts date from 1971.

        Unfortunately, that text is the lyrics of Theme from Shaft by Isaac Hayes.

    • Re:Yuh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kestasjk (933987) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:16AM (#17721618) Homepage
      The great thing about digital information is that it doesn't need to be stored on immortal storage; if people care about the data it can be copied again and again to and from storages which die while the data lives on.

      This has the nice bonus that usually no-one cares about information that's boring, so as time goes on the good stuff lingers while the blogs die; it's very similar to natural selection, right down to the immortal digital information being stored in temporary bodies.
      • Re:Yuh huh... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:40AM (#17721782)

        This has the nice bonus that usually no-one cares about information that's boring, so as time goes on the good stuff lingers

        Popular != good.

        More importantly, what we find interesting today, might be totally worthless to people in the future, while stuff we consider useless and boring could be immensely valuable. That's the big problem with backups - you never really know today what you might want tomorrow. In many ways, the reverse is true - what is not backed up will gain value because of its rarity. Imagine how much you could make if you found a lost Shakespeare sonnet today - discarded by Shakespeare because he thought it was utter crap.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by smartyhall (898429)
          Very true... One of the guys originally involved in managing one of the world's largest USENET servers in days of yore, was talking about the decisions he and others made as to what was worthy of being moved to a long-term archive. He now deeply regrets preserving primarily technical discussion while discarding reals of messages about abortion, women's rights, Communism, and _many_ other historically significant issues from the very time they were still living issues. Just try searching Google Groups for an
        • by Lazerf4rt (969888)
          In many ways, the reverse is true - what is not backed up will gain value because of its rarity. Imagine how much you could make if you found a lost Shakespeare sonnet today - discarded by Shakespeare because he thought it was utter crap.

          Profitable != good.

        • by grand_it (949276) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:56AM (#17723398)
          More importantly, what we find interesting today, might be totally worthless to people in the future, while stuff we consider useless and boring could be immensely valuable.

          John?
          John Titor?
          Is it you?

      • This has the nice bonus that usually no-one cares about information that's boring, so as time goes on the good stuff lingers while the blogs die; it's very similar to natural selection, right down to the immortal digital information being stored in temporary bodies.

        Richard Dawkins, is that you? [wikipedia.org]

      • by cowscows (103644)
        The stuff that's boring is often the stuff that will tell future historians how most of us lived our day to day lives. Look back at history, we've got pretty good records of a lot of the big political events that shaped nations and such, but far less about what average life was for someone, say 800 years ago.

        This is even more important now, because things are changing so incredibly quickly. I'm not a historian, but from what I have read, day to day life 800 years ago for your average person wasn't likely to
    • They can't even manage to preserve "digital artifacts" between two different versions of Word

      It's ok, this time they're including clear instructions on how to access that information... any bets on how many pages those instructions will run to? 6000 maybe? :)
    • by Dolohov (114209)
      I am hopeful, though, that the study of what it takes to make data last forever, will inform their design decisions today. Maybe, just maybe, they'll learn the correct lessons.

      Or, just as likely, they'll reinvent the stone statue, proclaim the task finished for the ages, and patent it under the name "Ozymandias".
  • Makes no sense. (Score:2, Informative)

    by FridayBob (619244)
    In 1000 years, people may try to read that data, but then they'll quickly loose interest when they realize it's in an ancient proprietary format that can only be interpreted with an application that hasn't existed for hundreds and hundreds of years. And who says technology will be more advanced in the far future than it is now, allowing people to read it regardless?
    • Re:Makes no sense. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by infestedsenses (699259) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:57AM (#17721498) Homepage
      I doubt they'll lose interest. Sounds more like a compelling challenge to unlock the "mysteries of the past". A hard to read document is all the more interesting to a curious mind. In a few years a Word document may seem like digital garbage but add another 400 years to that and it will be insight into today's society, no matter how trivial. We do it all the time with ancient documents.
      • by KlaymenDK (713149)
        The real scoop is when the digital forensics in the far future reverse engineer the Word document format (but get it wrong) and find document after document that contains information that could not possibly have been known way back then...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          ...digital forensics in the far future reverse engineer the Word document format...
          And then, from the grave, rises a thousand ghostly lawyers that drag the future researchers into the depths of hell.
      • ...that with ancient texts, the challenge is more in the decyphering of the language in which they were written, not the storage format (be that stone, papyrus, cuneiform or whatever else). The issue here is that if the content is locked up in a proprietary format, it stops the decyphering of the content. After all, the excitement in ancient texts is mostly in the message, not the vessel containing it.

        Hell, we have enough issues understanding older forms of languages still in use (German shorthand schrift f
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      Archeologist of 1000 years from now will get totally puzzled when they dig in ancient ruins, find some sort of rosetta stone of our age, that only will show blue screens. What conclusions they will take about us? A superpowerful civilization with knowledge beyond their imagination, capable to code in that simple blue screen all the knowledge about life, the universe and everything? Only time will tell.
  • One scenario the researchers envision: People could store messages to descendants, information about their lives or interactive holograms of themselves for access by visitors at their tombstones or urns.

    Here's the thing about this. It seems really fixated on physical storage formats (i.e. floppy disks, CD roms, etc), ignoring the whole probability that more and more, storage in the future will be a network service. Take Amazon's S3, for example, or google's online storage plans. It won't simply be the c
  • by killbill! (154539) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:41AM (#17721426) Homepage
    ... is not to make the material support last forever, but to make as many copies as possible, and replace them often.

    If the goal is to keep valuable information for future generations, a regularly upgraded, Internet-based distributed storage system would be a better bet.
  • by Half a dent (952274) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:42AM (#17721432)
    Have your PC encased in a block of amber so your descendants can marvel at how primitive our coding was.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dangitman (862676)

      a block of amber so your descendants can marvel at how primitive our coding was.

      Nah, you don't need amber to do that. One day the future civilizations will find all the E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial cartridges for the Atari buried in the Arizona desert. And then rapidly bury them again.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ingolfke (515826)
      Have your PC encased in a block of amber so your descendants can marvel at how primitive our coding was.

      No, the sentient machines will marvel out how primitive their ancestors were.
    • At first they'll just try to run bits of our code...then more..and more..until they have a few functionnal applications. They will feel like Gods as they recreate our intriguing code and apply it to their system to ressurect the dreaded primitive beast known as "Windows".

      And then all Hell will break loose. The BSOD wil run rampant, terrorizing the populace. Somewhere along the way Ian Malcom will probably spout nonsense while high on morphine, too.
  • by tehSpork (1000190) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:43AM (#17721434)
    "The artifacts would be designed to make the process of accessing the information clear with instructions in multiple languages or hieroglyphics"

    This is Microsoft we're talking about, their idea of clear seems to be a bit muddy at best. Besides, doesn't Windows already come with unintelligible hieroglyphics, otherwise known as "error messages?"
  • by MoralHazard (447833) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:48AM (#17721458)
    One of my aunts did a Civil War battleground tour, recently, on the tail of visiting relatives in Pennsylvania, and sent me a really neat letter about it. I have a really peculiar middle name, a gift from my great-grandfather, and she managed to find out that he got it from his grandfather, who enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment about two months before the battle of Gettysburg and died, there. Found his name on the monument and everything. I thought this was one of the coolest things I'd heard in a while, just because I personally feel so little connection with history or my ancestors.

    It got me thinking about all the OTHER things I wish I could know about them. These were coal-mining Irish folks, not so much for the reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, so they didn't make a lot of efforts to record anything, at least not that's survived the years. In the other branches of my family, the more recent immigrants from Croatia and Spain, we have a few stories and a little jewelry, but past 1880 or so, there's just nothing.

    I want to know more. I want to know what they thought about the current events of their world (why DID my great-great-great grandfather enlist, anyway? ). What did they think of their jobs, and their families, and about why they were in their places in the world? Did they wonder what I'd be like? What did they wonder most about the future, and did they care?

    So... tell me, Slashdot, on this fine, dark, cold Tuesday morning: If this technology, or something similar, had been available, what do you wish your ancestors would have left behind for you to read, or watch videos of, or hear? And why?
    • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:02AM (#17721532) Homepage
      Good question and I think it depends on the number of generations they are removed from me, the information I'd like my parents to store is much different to the information I'd like a Great Great Great Great Granparent to store for me. This is assuming there is a limit to the amount of data they can preserve into the future.

      With the more ancient relatives I'd be more interested in the day to day trivia of their lives since their lives would quite likely be very different from the life I'm used to but the more recent relatives I'd like to know more about their relationships between other branches of my family. For everyone I'd like some insight into any large decisions they have made, e.g. going to war or whatever.

      I often wander to what extent my perception of the past is influenced by black and white photographs or grainy footage, it's strange that when I see some of the very rare pioneering colour film from the Edwardian period it seems a lot easier to relate to as the past being a real place than it does in black and white and I wonder what effect this will have on our ancestors as they view our lives today in full colour.
    • >wish your ancestors would have left behind for you to read
      Where did you hide the money?
    • by Bushcat (615449)
      From around the 1840s on, they left their local newspapers behind. You can read the news to understand what they talked about, and look at the adverts to see what they were buying.
    • Lovely post, but I think with people looking back at our generation it's going to be the other way round: there are going to be so many videos/ photos/ emails etc available that future generation will be utterly sick of knowing what we thought about various issues that by then will be of no interest.

      You identify an ancestor who died at Gettysburg whose name you share -- it is is altogether fitting and proper to be interested in someone you're linked to, and who was connected to such an historic day; but
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:52AM (#17721474) Homepage
    I have seen more than enough science fiction to have seen this application in many forms. How can this initiative be patentable?!
  • by TheJasper (1031512) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:52AM (#17721476)
    I can't believe they are trying to patent this (well, I can, but I don't want to). Anyone heard of Frederick Pohl? Author of the Gateway books. The aliens (and later humans) archived themselves for posterity. There are plenty of other examples as well.

    It's a good idea, but not original. I read the article, but couldn't force myself through the whole patent. Still, it sounds to me like they are trying to patent the idea of a time capsule, with the only difference being that they are talking about information in a more interactive form.

    They aren't even trying to patent a specific technique, but the whole idea. From the patent application (all the way at the bottom which I did read):

    What has been described above includes examples of the subject matter. It is, of course, not possible to describe every conceivable combination of components or methodologies for purposes of describing the subject matter, but one of ordinary skill in the art may recognize that many further combinations and permutations of the subject matter are possible. Accordingly, the subject matter is intended to embrace all such alterations, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. Furthermore, to the extent that the term "includes" is used in either the detailed description or the claims, such term is intended to be inclusive in a manner similar to the term "comprising" as "comprising" is interpreted when employed as a transitional word in a claim.

    So basically they are claiming that any system which in any way is similar to theirs is covered. Ok, par for the course. It still isn't very original, and doesn't deserve a patent.

    What do they want to achieve anyway? Will you have to buy a renewable licensing scheme for accessing this information? Will it contain drm? Will sony end up owning your grandfathers immortal thoughts?

    So what if I write an interactive information system as described, with the one difference is that I'm still alive, and I just want my genius available to my friends and family without actually having to talk to them. Does the system all of a sudden owe licensing costs to MS when I die?

    This has to be one of silliest patent ideas I've seen. Of course, I haven't seen all that many and remain convinced that there are many more that are sillier.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ozmanjusri (601766)
      This has to be one of silliest patent ideas I've seen.

      It's even funnier when you realise they're trying to protect their "immortal computing" insights with a patent that expires after 20 years.

      If they produce a product, I bet the EULA will guarantee they'll support it for 20 years, or eternity, whichever comes first...

    • So what if I write an interactive information system as described, with the one difference is that I'm still alive, and I just want my genius available to my friends and family without actually having to talk to them. Does the system all of a sudden owe licensing costs to MS when I die?

      Well, if the patent does get approved, there is one minor consolation. It will expire in 20 years, which is a small amount of time compared to forever. (And hopefully you'll live that long, so you wouldn't owe the licens

      • by phayes (202222)
        Well, if the patent does get approved, there is one minor consolation. It will expire in 20 years
        Unless Patent law changes in the next 20 years to extend the validity of patents indefinitely.

        Naaaahhh, that could never happen...

  • Let's get the joke out of the way first... As this is Microsoft, we will have to keep updating to newer versions of Microsoft Immortal Computing? Will they be backwardly compatible? ;)

    I think we all wish our precious data would live forever, or at least a lot longer than it's likely to at the moment. My parents have stacks of old photographs in boxes... will I have such a collection when I'm older or will I only have a smattering of stuff I've taken recently? I'm just a couple of hard disk crashes away fro

  • Hubris? (Score:5, Funny)

    by kubrick (27291) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:55AM (#17721486)
    "My name is Ray Ozziemandias, king of kings:
    Look on my document formats, ye mighty, and despair!"
    Nothing beside remains: round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.
    (with abject apologies to P.B. Shelley.)
    • Mod parent up! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:18AM (#17722044)

      Very, very clever. If I had mod points I'd give them! If Microsoft is really serious about doing this, then they will be doing the very antithesis of what they have been doing since, well, ever. Proprietary file formats anyone? Secret protocols? DRM? All of these things which they've been doing and promoting from the very beginning are precisely the sorts of things that will frustrate future digital archaeologists to no end. Consider the simple fact that we can still read Galileo's technical writings from the 1560's, but not Marvin Minsky's technical writings from the 1960's, thanks to proprietary storage hardware. Stuff is basically written on the wind [longnow.org] these days, and Microsoft has done more than any single organization (largely because of their market monopoly) to make information as evanescent as it is now.

  • Prototype (Score:3, Funny)

    by spellraiser (764337) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @06:55AM (#17721488) Journal

    Here's a snapshot of a prototype [daviddarling.info] of what these artifacts will look like.

    • Here's a snapshot of a prototype of what these artifacts will look like.

      So rather than encoding our information in a simple form which people in the future can translate we should be building a machine which can adapt to conditions in the future and learn how to communicate with the natives. And if the natives don't evolve in the right direction it should direct their evolution until they bloody well do understand it.

      • Exactly!

        And who better to enforce standards on people than Microsoft, eh? ;-)

        • And who better to enforce standards on people than Microsoft, eh? ;-)

          Ah yes: Moonwatcher the proto-human reaches out to touch the mysterious monolith, not comprehending the message displayed on its surface: Abort, Retry, Ignore?


  • It's nice to think that all the technology we're used to will endure forever, but history goes in cycles, not straight lines. Civilizations fall as well as rise. When this civilization falls, it's possible that the infrastructure to build laptops, hard drives, and routers may disappear too, not to mention the power grid to support them. Whether that happens in 100 years or 10,000, it would be nice to know that the stuff we've learned can be preserved past that date.

    I would be really happy to work on a wa
    • by infolib (618234)
      I would be really happy to work on a way to take the most practical 10,000 pages of the Wikipedia in a few languages and put them onto some physical media that doesn't require tech to read, and doesn't deteriorate much over time.

      I hope you realize that encyclopedias (well, they're not quite Wikipedia, but still well-edited works) printed on paper are scattered in homes and libraries all around the globe already. Storing stuff on paper as a civ-collapse insurance is pretty far already, at least way furthe
  • Clearly this is just the beginning of work whose logical conclusion is Bill Gates merging with the Helios core.
  • Altruism (Score:2, Funny)

    by Tristandh (723519)
    Wow, for a second there I thought Microsoft was doing something for the good of all mankind! Preserve data for future civilisations? Great! Then I clicked the link to the patent application. I almost forgot Microsoft's (or any corp) actions are solely driven by profit. Damn writeup.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      patents are not always driven by greed (not saying this is not the MS motivation here). Patent laws the way they are mean you MUST patent what you create. If they don't patent what they create you can bet every penny in Microsoft's bank account that as soon as they do create it and they haven't patented it, that someone else will patent it and with patent laws the way they are something that "could" be purely non profit motivated could cost them a fortune. patents are defensive as well as offensive.
  • They want it to last forever, but then patent it to not allow anyone else to use the technology?

    Oh, wait... that's Microsoft. They don't need to make sense at all, silly me!
    • by Don_dumb (927108)
      They can still choose to allow others to use the technology. If they didn't patent it, then someone else could and extract money from M$ for implementing it.

      Remember the patent system is broken. Patents have to be kept for defensive purposes as well as aggressive.
  • by 2ms (232331) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:05AM (#17721564)
    Microsoft the one to finally bring to the world an absolutely universal and timeless standard of communication with which all future generations of not merely systems that humans create but also the humans that created them themselves will be compatible...

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!!!!!!!
  • by giafly (926567) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:08AM (#17721578)
    OpenDocument or ODF [wikipedia.org] "became an officially published ISO and IEC International Standard (ISO/IEC 26300) on November 30, 2006 ... The OpenDocument format is intended to provide an open alternative to proprietary document formats so organizations and individuals can avoid being locked in to [and outlive] a single vendor."
  • by toby (759) * on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:11AM (#17721594) Homepage Journal
    ...It's anything relating to Microsoft.

    Erasing them and everything they touch from the face of the earth is one of the most helpful things we can do for future civilisation.
  • by TrappedByMyself (861094) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:12AM (#17721602)
    "How interesting. This ancient culture seemed to communicate solely by using images of nude females."
  • Karma Whore link! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:14AM (#17721612) Homepage
    http://free.patentfetcher.com/Patent-Fetcher.php?s ubmit=Fetch&PN=20070011109 [patentfetcher.com]

    Go to the link above and it will get the patent docs into a PDF format so that you don't have to install that ridiculous TIFF plugin. And if someone out there knows an easier way to view the page without a ridiculous plugin (under Linux+Firefox) please tell?
  • BSOD taking on a whole new meaning.
  • After spending 48 hours deciphering the hieroglyphs, the message encoded on the tombstone was revealed:

    "Help! Some bastard locked me in a box and buried me alive! Air supply is limited!"

  • Hi There! (Score:5, Funny)

    by IchBinEinPenguin (589252) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:31AM (#17721712)
    It looks like you are tring to decypher this ancient artefact!
  • Will they create Open Format, or use their propriatory format? I hope they would invent better one than their previous so-called formats.
  • by hachete (473378) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:44AM (#17721812) Homepage Journal
    I MET a traveller from an antique land
    Who said:--Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
    Nothing beside remains: round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.
  • So let me guess, they won't be using this format to preserve the internals of Word documents or OOXML ?

    I'm sure there's no place for such travesties as "useWord2002TableStyleRules" in a document format intended to last thousands of years and be readable by future civilizations ... nor in the tens-of-years timeframe which OOXML pretends to address.

  • by maadlucas (679602) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @07:52AM (#17721884) Journal
    2000 years later...

    Archaeologist A: Wow! A graveyard from the early 21st century, and it's perfectly preserved!

    Archaeologist B: An awesom find!

    A: I can't begin to imagine how much we can learn from this...

    B: Yeah... oh look! This one has a kind of primitive digital inscription!

    A: Can you activate it?

    B: Reconfiguring my power source now... ah yes...

    A: What is it?

    B: A strange message..

    A: What?

    B: "This gravestone has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. Would you like to tell Microsoft about this problem?"

    A: Who is Microsoft?
  • So much information is stored on media that may or may not last for more than a decade or so. Unfortunately for M$ though, while the data can be preserved or moved from physical representation to physical representation, the real danger to the longevity of the information is the format that it is written in. I have files on my computer that are 15 or more years old that i can still read and use because they are in ascii format. If they were in another format such as wordperfect, lotus 123 or even older word
  • What about prior art for storing information for future generations, things like actual hieroglyphics, dating back to pretty much the beginning of civilization? Why on earth would anyone take a stab at reinventing this, when we have physical examples of how to do it already. We know they last because they lasted.

    This is a case where Microsoft needs to remember: gloves.
  • by pjbass (144318) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:10AM (#17721982) Homepage
    The patent surrounds the method of storing data on an device to persist indefinately. I want to know any hardware vendor today that makes some form of silicon or any other storage medium that lasts indefinately, or one that has announced plans to make such a device. Microsoft has some really interesting things coming out of their research labs, but this one makes me scratch my head, since they are not a hardware company, and no hardware company has anything remotely close to handling this research. While it's very interesting to be thinking of these things, I don't see why this is a big deal as compared to any other research project any other technology company may be working on.

    Honestly, this is making headlines because whenever Microsoft files for obscure patents that their rather talented architects and strategic planners can forsee, they are challenged on the basis of validity for their patent. If some startup somewhere was doing this research, it would have never made /. Compare this to all research being done in quantum computing arenas, where some rather radical advances and theories are being pursued, way more radical than this. Do you read about them here? Not usually.

    Then again, the ol' rock, chisel, and hammer seemed to hold information for a damn long time...
  • I think preserving these things as artefacts is a dead end. Artefacts are too easily lost. It's fun to find artefacts, as we all know from reading about the Antikythera mechanism and the Da Vinci code. But we've surely lost forever much more from antiquity and even recent times (like the BBC's original footage of Monty Python and Dr Who) than we've found.

    Replication is one part of the answer; the more copies of something that exist, the less likely it is that all will be destroyed or lost.

    Another part o

  • ...if it will be in a proprietary Microsoft format.
  • by tezza (539307) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @08:46AM (#17722190)
    * Paris Hilton Video
    * George Bush dropping the First Dog
    * Wikipedia: The Greatest Edits
    * Donald Trump's Hairpiece
    * Star Wars where Han shoots first
  • if Microsoft is really thinking about trying to patent and own this technology. I've thought about for years of making a computer controlled stylus that would encode information into clay tablets. Like the old cuneiform tablets that have been around for oh 3000+ years. Unlike Microsoft I would never try to own or monopolize this kind of technology, especially with the stupid broken corrupt corporate controlled US Patent system. Anyone who disagrees can kiss the shiny metal *ss of the beings who will dig
  • After reading the patent application it sure sounds like Microsoft has managed to patent the Golden Records [nasa.gov] sent out on the Voyager spacecraft back in to 1970's. Way to go US Patent Office.
  • IMPORTANT-READ CAREFULLY: This End-User License Agreement ("EULA") is a legal agreement between you (either an individual or a single entity) and Microsoft Corporation ...
  • The key concept is the interactivity. The idea of interacting with a dead relative on a borthday is not so much creepy as it is incredibly sad. The primary reason we're able to carry on as normal people is the natural fade of intense emotions over time.

    If you were continually reminded every year of some tragic loss, with the same intensity as when it first occurred, would that be a benefit or detriment to your life? This is not a choice to be made lightly, and it's certainly not the promotional use case
  • Whatever future generations will need they will retain continuously.

    Tell me about any practical help we have got from the suddenly discovered things of the past.

    Nothing but artefacts of sheer entertainment.
  • Data != Computing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:01AM (#17722818) Homepage Journal
    I think "Immortal Computing" is a misnomer. Maybe "Immortal Data Storage" would suffice, but when I think of computing I think of software - something that executes. Their term would better suite software designed to be highly portable, that survives independently of hardware (java?).

    Dan East
  • by popo (107611) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:35AM (#17723938) Homepage
    Sigh. Microsoft just patented the concept of people leaving information about themselves for future generations.
    What's the catch? Oh, yeah "electronically". WTF is wrong with the patent office that they allow applicants
    to append whatever the prevalent technology of the day is, to the end of their patent application as a sign of
    originality.

    The formula looks like this: [standard idea with which everyone is familiar] + ["The Web"] = [New Concept]

    Obviously in this case we're talking about consumer electronics and not the web, but the point is the same.
    Microsoft just patented the "Time Capsule", in fact I'll be amazed if they don't call it the "Microsoft Time Capsule"
    in a fit of creative brilliance. Never mind that the idea is a standard part of cultural awareness, they've added something
    new and its -- yes -- today's standard technologies for data storage. Sure there are plenty of time capsules out there,
    but there's no prior art for this one because Microsoft was the first to marry all those 'pre-personal-computing' ideas
    with their obvious 'post-personal-computing' counterparts.

    And with an army of lawyers, there's a whole lot of work out there applying that formula above to each and every
    concept on Earth.

Any sufficiently advanced bug is indistinguishable from a feature. -- Rich Kulawiec

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