Does Digital Media Make Physical Artefacts Obsolete?

By Robert Sorokanich on at

Yesterday, a documentary group unearthed a cache of buried Atari 2600 game cartridges in a New Mexico landfill. Game aficionados have been following the urban legend around the buried games for decades. The story has me wondering—with our media increasingly coming in intangible, digital-only form, will this sort of discovery cease to exist? What do you think?

I'm sort of torn about it. Digital media only really gets "lost" if it's deleted (purposely or inadvertently) or if the device it's stored on is misplaced. Thirty years from now, if someone's kid stumbles upon a rogue copy of Flappy Bird, it'll most likely be because he or she found a dusty old smartphone. So which is the relic—the phone, or the apps installed on it?

On the other hand, perhaps our increasingly-intangible digital world is driving us to find the satisfaction of physical artefacts in other ways. Witness the newfound interest in vinyl records even as MP3s become the standard music format.

And of course, there's the fact that, with digital copies of everything, nothing is ever actually lost. Hell, I can play an online version of that terrible E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial game without ever having to set a finger on an Atari 2600. The physical cartridges they dug up in New Mexico weren't sought out to be played.

So what's your take? Will people still hunt down cultural relics when we're living in the cloud?