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CSE 290S: Preserving digital information for future generations

As many of you know, I am retiring from UCSC in June 2023, so this is the last class that I will teach as a regular faculty member. This course will cover a research area that I have worked on for nearly twenty years, and will describe the underpinnings of a critically important problem: how can we build systems that reliably and securely preserve information for future generations?

CSE 290S (Spring 2023) will cover the technologies and techniques necessary to preserve digital information for decades to centuries. We will first cover currently-available technologies that might be used for archival storage, such as disk, tape, and flash, followed by a discussion of potential new technologies such as glass media and DNA. We will then cover techniques that we must use to ensure that the system can preserve integrity and security of the bits themselves. We will conclude by touching on issues relating to understanding the stored bits.


  • Instructor: Professor Ethan L. Miller
  • Quarter: Spring 2023
  • When: Tuesday & Thursday 09:50–11:25 AM
  • Where: Crown Classroom 105
  • Required readings: Papers (see below) will be available online


Each student in the class will:

  • Read the papers on the reading list, and be prepared to discuss them in class.
  • Present several papers from the reading list. The exact number of papers will depend on the number of enrolled students.
  • Complete a term-long project on a topic related to long-term data storage.
  • Complete an open-book and open-note take-home final exam. The final exam will be submitted online, and will be due at the end of the final exam slot during exam week.


The approximate week-by-week schedule is listed below. Papers will be added for each week, at least a week in advance. Note that the links to the papers may require access to various digital libraries. All papers will be freely downloadable from a campus-connected computer; if you're off-campus, you might need to use the UCSC VPN.

  1. Introduction
  2. Existing storage technologies
  3. New storage technologies
    1. Archival flash
    2. Glass
    3. DNA
  4. Erasure coding
  5. Building reliable storage systems
  6. Long-term evolution for storage systems
  7. Security and integrity
  8. Security and integrity
  9. In-depth study of proposed system designs
  10. Future directions for research