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Re: Bridges to the past; links to the future

On Sat, 10 May 1997, J.S.FARLEY wrote:
> 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.

A lot of that stuff came out of garages anyway.  I know plenty of people
without degrees who would happily build that stuff.  And those people who
have degrees who could build these things, don't have math or eletronics
degrees.  (Some have engineering degrees, though.)

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

I do, that's why I buy these old things and keep them working.

> 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!

Do you have any specs?  Will the curator allow a team to 'study' the
existing one under some academic or archaeological auspices?

> You forget that digital storage forms are so quickly invented and so
> quickly become obsolete.

Which is why keeping your stuff on current media is an important thing for
archivists to do.

> Archivists transfering data to a new medium may very well be
> transferring it to a lemon.

So, you buy enough lemon drives to transfer it to an orange drive when
that becomes hip.

> 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.

Archives seem capable of spending millions on buying new air-conditioned

> 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.

Single examples are not terribly meaningful.  I have notebooks from my
younger days that are now rubbish due to water damage.  I wouldn't use
that example to decide whether the world should use paper ornot.

> 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.

There are many organizations out there that have the technology and would
be willing to contribute services to worthy causes.  Everybody doesn't
need a CD writer.  (Well, maybe the do, but that's another story.)

BTW - how long has it been since you've checked your stramer tapes for

> Be realistic, any mechanism of information storage that is not directly
> accessible to humans is not practicable.

Puh-leeze.  Comparing the storage costs alone for significant amounts of
data makes many of the electronic solutions the only realistic long term

> 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.

I hate the computer industry as much as the next person.  But many geeks
exist on the fringes that can solve these problems.  If you have a few
working drives, then no one is holding you ransom.

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

I put my asbestos bath robe on first thing every morning.  This list
doesn't compare to the IETF lists for flaming.  (Sorry.)  I would guess
book people have a rational (almost Japanese?) fear of fire.  :-)


Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to buy Microsoft products.

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