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Bytes of my life

A Microsoft research project aims to record the essence of a person's life on computer disks, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2005 18:56 IST

Every byte, every conversation, every emotion, every photo you clicked, every line you typed, every word you said. Imagine if all that could be archived and we could recall nearly every waking moment.

My Life Bytes

When you are dead and gone maybe your descendants will be able to go thorough minute details of your life, your conversations, e-mail exchanges and the pictures and video highlights of your existence.That's the idea behind MyLifeBits, a Microsoft research project that aims to record the essence of a person's life on computer disks. Every photograph snapped, home movie filmed, Web page browsed, e-mail scribbled, phone call made or bill paid. The project, currently underway at Microsoft's Media Presence Research Group, is directed by Gordon Bell, who was instrumental in creating the first commercial minicomputers in the 1960s.

According to Microsoft - MyLifeBits is a lifetime store of everything. It is the fulfillment of Vannevar Bush's (Bush was an engineer who in 1945 posited the creation of a "configurable storehouse of knowledge) 1945 Memex vision including full-text search, text & audio annotations, and hyperlinks. There are two parts to MyLifeBits: an experiment in lifetime storage, and a software research effort.

The experiment: Gordon Bell has captured a lifetime's worth of articles, books, cards, CDs, letters, memos, papers, photos, pictures, presentations, home movies, videotaped lectures, and voice recordings and stored them digitally. He is now paperless, and is beginning to capture phone calls, IM transcripts, television, and radio.

The software research: Jim Gemmell and Roger Lueder have developed the MyLifeBits software, which leverages SQL server to support: hyperlinks, annotations, reports, saved queries, pivoting, clustering, and fast search. MyLifeBits is designed to make annotation easy, including gang annotation on right click, voice annotation, and web browser integration. It includes tools to record web pages, IM transcripts, radio and television. The MyLifeBits screensaver supports annotation and rating.

Storage taking a dip

Storage costs are already taking a plunge. According to "In the next few years it is predicted that the price of a terabyte would be less than $300 allowing for nearly endless recording. With a terabyte of storage, users could upload over 3.6 million 300-kilobyte images, for example, or 290 hours of video."

The Bell Challenge

The biggest challenges Bell faces are on two fronts:

The Search Factor

One is searchability of the data. Technology, though, in the near future can make it possible


The bigger challenge is documentation. Our lives maybe on the digital road but there is no way to organize all the pictures, e-mails and documents that form everything about our existence.

Imagine a world where we or our decedents could just plug in and play our movie. A real movie and a unique one too, like no other movie in the world. Wishing Lee and Bell luck with their projects!

Puneet Mehrotra is a web strategist atwww.Cyberzest.comand editswww.MidnightEdition.comyou can email him on

First Published: Nov 19, 2005 00:00 IST