Microsoft has joined forces with The National Archives in the UK to help stop vital information being lost in a digital black hole.
The tie-up with the software giant means that Britain will be the first nation in the world that can convert old Microsoft documents to be read in modern technology.
Gordon Frazer, managing director UK and vice-president Microsoft International, said: "There is a real possibility of creating a huge digital black hole where all this information is no longer accessible because we cannot access them with old technology.
"We are facing the challenge of a digital dark age and have to make sure it does not happen."
Microsoft and The National Archives (NA) signed a memorandum of understanding to protect the nation's digital records from the past, present and into the future.
Some 161 billion gigabytes of data, the equivalent of 1.6 trillion encyclopaedias was created last year. In Europe alone, three billion euros of information stored on endangered formats is lost each year, Adam Farquhar of the British Library points out.
Microsoft is making available to the NA a system which combines previous versions of Windows and Office to help solve problems of managing historical records based on Microsoft Office formats.
In turn the NA will help Microsoft with the development of its future products by providing their expertise on digital preservation.
The NA gets access to previous versions of Microsoft's Windows operating systems and Office applications powered by Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. This enables people to run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same computer. The NA will be able to configure any combination of Windows and Office from one PC, allowing access to practically any document based on legacy Microsoft file format.
The NA will be able to improve the accessibility of these documents by converting information to new open file format.
Source:? Channel 4
Microsoft, NA, National Archives, Digital, Archives, UK