One of my regular reads from the old Fatherland has an interesting article today about a letter that took 71 years to deliver. (link is in German)
In WWII, German troops occupied the Channel island of Jersey for five years. Some of the local yoots decided to steal a bag of German military mail as an act of defiance. They didn’t destroy the letters, but kept them safely stashed away. One of the former defiant yoots turned a bunch of them in to the Jersey archives 70 years later. They made copies, translated what they could, and then contacted the post office. The Jersey post office got in touch with the German Mail, and together they came up with the idea to deliver whatever letters they still could. Some of the recipients couldn’t be located, some letters went to (now luckily defunct) National Socialist organizations and offices and definitely couldn’t be delivered anymore, but ten of the letters found their way to the addressees or their descendants.
I’ve mentioned the hand-written recipe books my wife owns—they were written by her maternal grandmother before she emigrated to the United States in the early 1920s. Not only can I still read them (with a little difficulty—the Sütterlin script taught in schools back then can be a bit hard to decipher even for a German speaker), but it’s really neat to be able to hold and own an object that she owned and filled with her own handwriting. The postcard story above reinforces to me that the analog ways of data recording and transmission not only still have value, but also advantages that digital data lacks. Imagine if your descendants go through some old stuff in the attic in seventy years and find a USB stick with your writings or drawings on it. Will they be able to extract the data on whatever computers they use in 2082?
(I have a set of Jaz disks in a box in the attic that have some of Robin’s college and grad school stuff on them. I’m quite handy with a computer, but even I don’t have the necessary hardware and drivers to extract that data. How about a bunch of 5.25” floppies with WordStar documents on them? Or maybe a 3.5” disk formatted for AmigaOS?)
Handwritten notes, however, will still be perfectly legible and accessible, providing they’re stored in a dry spot.
That assumes, of course, that our descendants in 2082 can still read.