After an event that lasts more than a few months we will find that our equipment will slowly start to fail. This means that within ten to fifteen years having access to a computer will be a rare thing. So at first we may have access to our files on computer but we cannot rely on that long term. We therefor need to look at what we can do to retain access to our knowledge.
I’ve though about this quite a bit and have come up with a solution that should suit most people although it will not be viable for everyone.
Let’s start with the computer, giving us access to all the files we have. After an event the first thing we will hit is we have no power. Solar system designed for computers are an ideal answer to that problem. Most computers will run off 240V AC or 12V DC. I use 240V AC as I include in the package a USB drive although either can be provided just make sure that your computer and drive are compatible with the power supply. This should keep you going for some time so that you can access the data you need as you need it.
But computers fail, hard disks fault and recordable media is really poor at retaining data. Go back to CDs you created over 5 years ago and most of them are unreadable now. The way to make them last is to wrap them in tin foil and put them in a metal box. Electromagnetic waves slowly wipe them over time in a slow motion EMP. Professionally produced media is much better but if it was done on the cheap then that is not that much better. The best way to store data is on a hard drive, either inside a computer or an external USB drive. I’ve chosen some 2Tb drives and write all my data to those. If you must store CDs or DVDs wrap them in tin foil and store them in a EMP proof box. They won’t last forever but they will last much longer, I stored some CDs that lasted 15 years.
Everytime I upgrade my computer I disconnect the battery and wrap the old computer and battery in anti static bags, the ones that come with computer components. I then buy another USB drive and copy all the data from the old drive to my new drive before archiving the old drive by putting that in a similar anti static bag. I then take my solar setup and then wrap everything in tin foil and then put in a box. The box contains all my files to date, a working computer that can read them and a working power system. It is not as expensive as it seems as the main cost is the computer which you would dispose of anyway. Store the box in an EMP proof container. When I next replace my computer I still keep the old one but I will update the files on the USB drive. Thus any problems you can go back to a previous version although some files may be unreadable because programmers like fiddling. This means you have several working computers reducing in power and speed and several copies of your data.
This should keep you going as long as practical with your computer files.
However, I am a great believer in books. All my critical data is in book format. This means they can be read when there is no power. I can take them with me when I’m working on something for reference and several people can read different books in the library at once. I love books. They are not perfect as they are heavy, bulky and expensive which means you can’t carry many or afford many. I can store hundreds of thousands of electronic books on a USB drive I can fit on a keyring. However, books are still my favourite method of storing information long term.
So I buy all my key data in book format and I also buy as many cheap books as I can find that I think may be relevant. End of term is great for finding educational books in charity shops or on eBay.
In the meantime there are thousands of texts created by Ken, NR, Lizzie to name but a few. These are also worth keeping but this is where it gets dodgy. Storing on USB drive is easy but when you want a hard copy you have problems. Books are printed using good ink on good paper and are intended to last. Even pulp fiction created using cheap paper and cheap inks last longer than printout. The paper and ink we use in our inkjet or laser printers to print out items fades quickly if not stored correctly. Not only that it is expensive and to print out almost any book costs more in ink than buying the book in the first place. Taking it into work becomes less of an option as most workplaces now record and analyse what has been printed out. Most MFD used in businesses nowadays record everything printed on an internal HD. Even so it still suffers from fading if not stored correctly. Storing correctly involves more than putting in a dark cupboard. It also involves keeping them away from rodents, moisture, heat, light and greasy fingers. The oils on your fingers can allow the ink to flow again and smudge text so it is unreadable. That is not good. Colour is much worse at fading than Black and many museums now limit the amount of time a work of art is on show to allow people to see but also reduce fading. Not that printed books are immune from any of this either so take care of all your precious items in the same way.
I try and avoid these issues by storing the printouts in clear pockets in folders and the key items, such as checklists, radio frequencies, map references, etc. are not only stored in the folder but also printed out, laminated and stored seperately. You can never have too many copies of key data such as frequencies and map references. Don’t use colour unless you have too and if you do consider that the shading will change over time. Try not to take the paper from the pockets either if you can help it. The cheaper pockets allow the paper to stick and when you remove the paper from the plastic the ink will be imprinted on the plastic. Rather than buy expensive pockets I leave the first page, the one in contact with the pocket, as a title page only. The data is protected behind the cover page. Make sure you give the printouts time to dry before putting them away as if you don’t the ink will transfer onto the previous page, if you print double sided then this makes it difficult to read.
Writing with ink onto paper is also subject to the same storage requirements. So if you want your notes to last you need to do the same with them. I have notebooks that my relatives created in the 50s that are still readable. They were simply stored in a drawer with the linen and you can see fading at each open side and text near the edges have faded. Put then in a box and put them away from heat, moisture, light and rodents. Handle them as little as you can.
So books if you can afford then, critical ones are a must. Computer files for general use and printouts, stored in folders, for the important files you can’t afford to buy in book format or is not available in book format. Laminated copies, several, for those you want to handle a lot.
This should maximise your knowledge store and we know how important knowledge will be after an event. It will save your and yours lives.