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Re: [AV Media Matters] The esoteric edge

I am in total agreement in principal with Jim Lindner's comments on
the problems of going alone for a archival system/media, but I believe
we must look at what I see to be the two options available:


1. continual migration (as long as our budgets allow, with the hope
that funding isn't cut at a time when the manufacturing world decides
to completely drop the 'old' technology and all support and parts
related to it) of data to new formats and/or systems at unpredictable
cycles (seemingly forced by the manufacturing world primarily to gain
higher profits), all of which are high tech, requiring proprietary
technology and equipment with little or no backward compatibility;


2. adoption of a technology for long-term preservation that meets
data quality needs and would be relatively simple to build from
scratch, requiring no proprietary data or systems, by a reasonably
intelligent person.

The choices here are complicated by the quantities of machine based
media now residing in collections.  For the 12,000 hours of audio
recently sited, my guess is that --assuming minimal problems-- one
would need 18,000 to 36,000 hours of staff time to transfer the
collection, which runs out to something between 8.5 and 17 years of
work!   Add to this the cost of new equipment and blank media
(hopefully of reliable quality), as well as the facilities to house
the operation and store the new media (and maybe keeping the original
copy?) under recommended environmental conditions and with adequate
security and the costs increase substantially.  If the collections
involved are larger --say in the hundreds of thousands of hours, maybe
even in the millions of hours-- the costs and logistics are

Throw into this mix the uncertainties among almost all
archivists/librarians whom I know of when their current holdings
(analog or digital make no difference) must be copied to prevent loss
of information and we have a real headache.

Even if it is accepted that the self-monitoring-and-migrating digital
archive comes about, I would bet that it will be at least another full
media/equipment generation --and possibly as many as three or more--
of manual data migration before such systems are readily available in
all but the very largest collections, and the loading of those
collections into such a system (assuming everything can be on- or
near-line!) will take literally multi-centuries of work time!
Forgetting the cost of equipment and space for same, the staff and
media price for even one migration --much less the multiples that I
believe are inevitable-- would seem to argue for some other

Finally in this mix we have to consider the fact that the current
market life of recordable media appears to be getting shorter and
shorter (look at video formats and systems, for example), that the
predictions of the media life expectancy and robustness are based
entirely upon manufacturer's information whose accuracy or reliability
are frequently in question, much less yet to be proved by an
independent evaluation, and with data quality that is of questionable
acceptability, VERSUS the practicality of a media (grooved analog
discs for audio, for example) that have demonstrated in real-life
cases that they last a hundred years or more, with data quality of an
clear and understood level, and with established and proven standards,
plus the fact that it can be played on relatively simple equipment
which can be built --or even reinvented, if necessary-- from scratch
without having an advanced  degree in electronics AND access to
proprietary equipment and data, and the metal-part suggestion acquires
ever greater enticement to me.

I don't know if the 2d option is the answer for this or not.
Regardless, the
prospect of trying to find funds for even one --much less repeated--
migration of the various data in our respective collections to media
and systems simply because the manufacturer has abandoned the old is
very, very frustrating.  Hopefully there are other alternatives which
can be found.

Gerry Gibson

>>> Jim Lindner <jim@vidipax.com> 04/20 2:15 AM >>>
Perhaps it is NAB exhaustion that has framed this comment, and
perhaps it is seeing in just a few hours many new vendors and

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 conjure 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 argument 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 anything 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!

jim lindner

Jim Lindner
The Full Service Magnetic Media Restoration Company
See our Web Site at www.vidipax.com
212-563-1999 ext. 102

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