One of the harbingers of the coming digital age is the suspicion that we may lack the ability to make sense of our recorded ones and zeros in the future.

It was meant to be a showcase for Britain's electronic prowess, a digital Domesday Book. But 16 years after it was created, the £2.5 million BBC Domesday Project is now unreadable.

By contrast, the original Domesday Book, an inventory of eleventh-century England compiled in 1086 by Norman monks, is in fine condition in the Public Record Office and can be accessed by anyone who can read and has the right credentials.

What was it like playing Angry Birds on an iPhone 3G? We do not know; Apple is no longer distributing signed receipts for that binary. To future historians—not just of computing, but of humanity—the current period will be a dark age.

And on the pedestal these words appear: Get Macromedia Shockwave Player

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