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[AV Media Matters] The esoteric edge
Perhaps it is NAB exhaustion that has framed this comment, and perhaps
it is seeing in just a few hours many new vendors and technologies...
BUT I have some major reservations about using esoteric solutions for
archival applications - even if the desired goal is "perpetuity". While
it is interesting to conjur schemes for the "ultimate preservation
format" as an academic exercise - I think that really considering DOING
it is entirely another matter. Time and time again people in the
archival community have learned with great pain what it is like to have
an unsupported format. Whether it is an early audio format or a more
recent video format from a vendor that went out of business, it is clear
that obscure or one off formats, while well intentioned, become a
preservation nightmare in a relatively short period of time.
Quite some time ago I read Carl Sagan's book about the Voyager disk and
what was involved in providing essentially a rosetta stone to playing
back this disk - potentially from another civilization or intelligence
many light years from now. In this case the goal was indeed preservation
for perpetuity - but considering such a venture for more earthly use is
quite another story. One could make a very strong arguement that for
archival records to exist (of whatever type) they need to have a
mechanism for access - because access and preservation are two different
aspects of the ultimate survival of any record or object. One without
the other is usually a problem waiting to happen. Preserving anyting
that requires a unique process or technology - no matter how "simple"
for access is in my opinion a plan that is doomed.
While using metal stampers is an interesting idea, as a practical
matter, doing this process would make an institution totally alone with
a unique project that would require a unique technology for access. A
machine population of 1 if you will. While this may seem like a good
idea now - consider what it will mean for someone 50 years from now.
Who exactly is going to support this format that you are essentially
inventing and how will it be possible to execute the system necessary to
access the records. It is hard enough supporting formats that had
hundreds or thousands of machines sold during the window of the format
availability, but in this scenario you are creating a unique format with
the installed base of one system. Consider the technological effort
that will be necessary to play these unique format items - and also
consider the cost of access in human terms as well as technical terms.
Would your institution seriously consider doing the work necessary to
access such an object if you had one NOW that had been preserved in a
similarly unique way 100 years ago? Think about it! VERY few would -
think of the resources required - the project would just go to the back
burner to be considered some other time when there would be less
pressing matters - and of course those days NEVER happen.
No, I think that you need to consider human nature a bit and consider
the real risk of being TOTALLY alone with a unique format. I think that
it is a very bad idea - and understand I am a person with a company
whose business it is to support obsolete formats!
The Full Service Magnetic Media Restoration Company
See our Web Site at www.vidipax.com
212-563-1999 ext. 102