Google’s vice president has warned internet users to print out treasured photographs or risk losing them.

Vint Cerf, the internet pioneer, said it was time to start preserving the vast quantities of digital data which are produced before they are lost forever.

Warning that the 21st century could become a second “Dark Ages” because so much data is now kept in digital format, he said that future generations would struggle to understand our society because technology is advancing so quickly that old files will be inaccessible.

Speaking at a conference in San Jose, California, Mr Cerf likened the problem to the Dark Ages, the period in Britain between the 5th and 8th centuries where little is known, following the collapse of the Roman Empire.

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