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My 50 year old data hoard

My data hoard turns 50 years old this year. My first file was a six line computer program I wrote in 1969. It originated as punch tape from an ASR-33 Teletype. In 1979 I copied it to 9-track magtape; in 1988 from there to QIC tape; in 1996 from there to CD; in 2008 to DVD; and I’m in the process of copying everything to Blu-ray now.

Over the years I’ve added more files. I now have 2 GB of email; 87 GB of movies; 70 GB of mp3; 50 GB of photos; 5 GB of source code; and 10 GB of papers I’ve converted from physical copies, mostly pdf scans of papers from my filing cabinet. Also 27 GB of ISO CD images for software installs; 15 GB of source code from various projects I’ve worked on; 5 GB of files I inherited from deceased family members; and 2 GB of offline maps for various GPS systems.

I’ve seen several major changes in technology. One is the huge drop in the cost of media for offline backups. I’ve always had access to the equipment. But when I was starting out, the cost of a single reel of 9-track tape was enough to make me throw out some files I wish now that I had saved. It wasn’t until CD came along in the mid 1990s that I stopped worrying about what the media cost.

Another change is the size of disks. In 1982 when I got my first computer, there was no way I could keep all my files online, even though the total size was probably less than 100 MB. It wasn’t until maybe 2004 that I could keep everything online at once.

Today my total hoard is about half a TB. I know that’s next to nothing for most of you but I present this description in the spirit of “please stop posting photos of your disk drives.” I just bought a 500 GB SSD for my laptop and for the first time I will be able to store everything in my laptop with no external drives.

I am in the process now of converting everything it’s possible to convert. My grandfather’s home movies from 1933; civil war letters; my dad’s slide collection; the goal is to get it all online.

If you’ve read this far, let me describe my backup strategy. I keep everything on a server (NFS on ext4 on Arch) at my house. That’s the master. I sync that with unison to my laptop, and to a server at a remote location. So I have three online copies. Then I also maintain my offline copies, copying those to more modern media when it gets to be 10 years or so old. I keep the offline copies in a storage unit, distant from both my house and the remote server.

I was going to talk about version control and advanced file systems and ask for advice on the backup system but this is already too long. Thanks for reading.

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35 Yorumları

  1. Would you be willing to post that file from 1969? That would honestly be super cool to have, even if it’s a few lines of code.

  2. This is the kind of content I subbed here for. Thanks for sharing this, OP, as well as your follow-up in the comments. Great take aways from this one.

  3. This is awesome! I like your backup scheme, it’s similar to the way I do it.

    My Linux ISOs are around 7TB so they’re not yet backed up fully (working on that), but everything else is
    – stored on my laptop
    – automatically backed up to Google Drive every time my laptop boots up
    – automatically downloaded from my Google Drive to my server at my parents’ house every day
    – manually backed up occasionally to the flash drive that goes with me everywhere.

  4. I am so jealous. I lost all my early programming work from when I was a teenager when my mom / dad donated my computers. Those hard drives are probably in a landfill somewhere. Has always bummed me out.

  5. Very nice! The data hoard lasting for so long without major data loss is far better than a huge hoard that deteriorates in less than a decade. Three questions though.


    1. Is there any reason why you don’t use gold-plated archival grade DVDs/blu-rays for hard copies? The expected 50+ year life expectancy is probably an estimate if the medium is stored in ideal conditions and they’re much pricier but it’s still far better than regular discs in terms of data deterioration. I haven’t used them myself yet so I’m wondering if they have some non-obvious defect that makes regular disc media the better choice.
    2. I’ve kept plenty of e-mails and other personal communication, some of that stuff is definitely worth storing in case my eventual descendants care to know all sorts of tiny details about my personal life I guess and I suppose I shouldn’t care much about what happens to things after I die but still, do you encrypt/separate personal stuff with that in mind?
    3. Do you have a standard directory structure that just works? Sometimes my biggest issue isn’t getting extra space but arranging all the stuff in a way that makes finding something easy enough and 50 years of archiving must have produced good insights on what works and what doesn’t.

  6. Best post here I’ve seen in a while! Would love to see/read more if you’re down ?

  7. As someone who is definitely younger than you, I have to say I think your father’s home videos, slides, and those civil war letters are so awesome to have digitized. I have so many interests along with a family and personally just can’t find time for it all. So, most my interests get rotated around. I bring up this point because a currently dormant interest is ancestry. I rarely can afford the time, let alone the money, to travel about and look at records, old homes, Bibles, graveyards, etc.. I prefer to really experience these things, but that doesn’t always work out. So, to the computer or library I go to primarily look at digital versions of the past. It’s so rare, in my limited experience, to find things like what you have even in physical form. The idea that your great-great-great…grandchildren could potentially watch your father’s home videos, learn what slides are or see the first program you ever wrote is just amazing.

    Your total hoard capacity may not be pushing a PB like some, but you have a long and wonderful collection. Here’s to hoping your hoard lives on for many years. You keep doing you.

  8. There are probably institutions that would love to see some of the civil war letters. I know that the UF library maintains stuff like that if you are looking to have it professionally archived and available for others to see or reference.

  9. This is how hoarding should be. Size in terms of bytes doesn’t matter, it’s about WHAT and HOW you hoard it.

    Have my upvote Sir.

  10. I am not even hoarding data enough and my data is already 3tb and a 500gb broke down, its just photos, tv series and movies

  11. [omniOS]

    That’s an interesting project from my cursory overview. What kernel does it run on?

  12. This might be my first comment in this sub … your post is very close to my own interest in data hoarding, your strategy is pretty similar to what I do, and the size of your data collection is comparable to mine (though not quite as far back, and I didn’t keep the punch cards I wrote my first FORTRAN program with, and my pre-1986 digital data is trapped on some 8″ floppies). Thank you for posting.

    For me, the biggest challenge is keeping it all organized (curated). I lurk in the sub to gain insight.

  13. Damn, you use Arch for a server ? You know Debian and CentOS exist, right? FreeBSD? OmniOS? Sorry, I just hate rolling distros for servers and the AUR is a shitshow. But I get how Arch users feel invested after putting in all the work to get their computer running without an installer 😛

    OS-snark aside, that is really cool. I’m impressed you’ve been able to keep stuff for so long, and additionally to keep it pared down so well over the years.

    My GF and I had some old home videos on VHS we recently digitized using a Hauppage HD PVR 2 and I managed to get it working in Ubuntu 18.04. Arch definitely has some good software options, will probably have to AUR-it-up, but I’ll bet you could makefile it happen (see what I did there?).

    Best of luck, and thanks for sharing

  14. I can’t imagine that much data of source code! Every program I’ve ever written in college could fit on a hundred Meg flash drive.

  15. Have you ever considered using a public FTP server for datahording those films/slides?

  16. Maybe this is one of the most touching posts we have ever seen on this sub. Thank you very much for sharing it, fellow datahoarder 🙂

  17. Are the sizes for your source code archives for compressed or uncompressed space?

    I recompress occasionally when I find a better method (.Z, .gz, .bz, .xz)

  18. Am I the only who thought that OP should convert all his hoarding material to punch tape?

  19. What your punched card collection? RPG, Fortran and Cobol sources? 8″ floppies?

  20. 50 years and only half a terabyte? 2GB of email? Those are rookie numbers!

    I’m requesting an intervention to get /u/Hamilton950B hoarding more data by storing utterly useless shit in addition to all this sentimental stuff he’s already hoarding

    …in all honesty though, I admire you for only hoarding the important stuff 🙂

  21. 87GB in movies. Some of us have a single movie taking up that much space ? But congrats on holding onto something from 1969 that’s a fair effort!

  22. This is absolutely fantastic. I love this. And I also want to know about your data loss story (if you have one), as asked by u/The_Vista_Group.

  23. Have you considered cloud backup a well?

    The old movies and civil we war letters may be of interest to historians somewhere

  24. This is so awesome. Thank you for posting, this is exactly the kind of thing I love seeing here!

  25. Be a rebel. Add that picture.

    I think the post about too many boring posts of HDDs was because we’ve all seen WD Easystore 10TB drives and synology NASs before. You’ve explained the unique and important purpose your data storage is for, and for me at least, this is what post content I want to see on here. Thank you u/Hamilton950B

  26. Not long enough! 50 years is half a century. What have you learned? Have you experienced any serious data loss through the last 5 decades? How do you envision the future of backing up files?