The nation's 115 million home computers are brimming over with personal treasures - millions of photographs, music of every genre, college papers, the great American novel and, of course, mountains of e-mail messages.
So dire and complex is the challenge of digital preservation in general that the Library of Congress has spent the last several years forming committees and issuing reports on the state of the nation's preparedness for digital preservation.
Today's formats are likely to become obsolete and future software "probably will not recognize some aspects of that format," Mr. Thibodeau said. "It may still be a picture, but there might be things in it where, for instance, the colors are different."The experts at the National Archives, like those at the Library of Congress, are working to develop uniformity among digital computer files to eliminate dependence on specific hardware or software.