I just finished a project to digitize all my old audiocassettes, videocassettes (home movies), and 8mm tapes to digital. I wish I had done it years ago, because the images and sound had faded a lot.
Digital will last forever without degradation if you store it digitally (not on a physical medium like a CD or DVD.) I put all the digital copies on my computer, and use Carbonite.com to keep a secure, off-site backup.
My next project is to scan all the documents I care about (old certificates, letters, programs, etc.) so I have a digital copy of them. Paper fades over time and can get lost, stolen, burned in a fire, or ruined in a flood. Digital copies can last forever. (Keep a safe, off-site backup.)
The Church’s Family History Department offers free scanning of journals and other documents. They have 3 brand new book scanners available for anyone to use free of charge. They do a great job and are very easy to use and do not require you to cut the binding of the diary. The PDF scan can be saved directly to a USB drive.
Once I get all my documents in digital form, I will insert them into my digital life history. For ideas on creating a digital life history, see “Keep a Journal.”
Note: After paying a company hundreds of dollars to covert my old tapes, I just learned about a video capture device that you can use to connect a VCR or camcorder to your computer for $80, including the software. Let me know if any of you use it to transfer your tapes and how it works for you.