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.