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Re: Bridges to the past; links to the future

On Fri, 9 May 1997, Harmon Seaver wrote:

>    Yes, that's the same tired old arguement I keep hearing in libraries
> -- it's nonsense. You want a wire recorder? I just happen to have one,
> but even more, it wouldn't be at all that hard to build a new one. Old
> floppy disks? 8"?? 5"?? Drives are readily available. Software
> conversions for the old CP/M stuff is readily available also -- or any
> other format that I can think of.
>     But that's really begging the issue, isn't it? The point is, with
> digitized information -- and your wire-recordings aren't digital of
> course -- the ease of copying the data to the new format makes the dying
> of the old format irrelevant.
>     Unless, of course, those in charge of the archives choose not to do
> so in a timely manner -- and then, I say, shame on them. And they should
> be held accountable for betraying their trust, if it's a public one. If
> it's your own stuff and you didn't take the time to copy it, shame on
> you, but don't whine about it. And it's probably not too late, you can
> find the drives, even the computers.
Harman, You yourself say, it won't be difficult to build a wire recorder
and acknowledge that it is an analogue system. That's easy! Wait until
all the 8" and 5" floppy drives have fallen to pieces and try building a
new one of those for yourself! Or even better, think of the day when
there are no zip drives left, you would need an engineering, electronics,
and mathematics degree to build one of those and be able to access and
decrypt the crushed data. I think that is beyond your general level of
garage mechanics.

At the moment you can find drives, but thats scavenging, think of a time
when there is nothing left to scavenge.

I know a company whose data is held on an ICL Card Random Access Memory
Deck. To my knowledge, there is only one working one of those in the
world, and the curator won't allow it to be used because he is scared
that it will fall to pieces. If its so easy perhaps you could make one
for me!

You forget that digital storage forms are so quickly invented and so
quickly become obsolete. Archivists transfering data to a new medium
may very well be transferring it to a lemon. Copying and recopying
between 'in-vogue' storage mechanisms has one serious disadvantage,
MONEY!!!  Archives are not made of it! it's not a case of betraying
trust, its a case of being able to afford it.

Dare I go into the life expectancy of digital media! CDs according to
the manufacturers have a life expectancy of 200 years.
It's absolute rubbish! recordable CDs can deteriorate enough to destroy
data in 5 years, and commercial CDs, well I have an example that is
unusable after 2 years. The mechanism to last a lifetime I don't think!
a CD writer is 1000 UKP and disks are 5 UKP. My personal Data Collection
consists of about 19 gigabytes of text data on streamer tape. You work
out how much that will cost me to put onto CD, then think how much it
will cost me again to duplicate those CDs in 5 years time when they
begin to show  signs of deterioration, or in 5 years change the format
because all CDs have been made obsolete by the  non-backwardly compatible
'Waz-Drive'. Up grading and duplicting exeeds my income.

Be realistic, any mechanism of information storage that is not directly
accessible to humans is not practicable. If we have to rely on a machine
interface we are being held to ransom by the manufacturers who don't
care about preserving for posterity, but forcing you to continually
upgrade and help them turn a quick profit.

Thats my incoherent rant, I hope you are wearing an asbestos suit!


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