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Bridges to the past; links to the future

If the point is archival storage and retrieval of meaningful information,
then digitzation is far from the perfect medium.  Hardware is part of the
problem, but some people think that there will always be someone around who
can cobble together a work-around.  Well, it is possible to replace heads
after a head crash, but the disk, floppy or hard, is shot and the data it
held is no longer available.

But what about chips.  There ain't a garage in the world capable of
cranking out a Pentium chip.  When the chips are down, and they do go down,
the computer becomes a paper weight.

It is not at all obvious that archives or libraries will keep up with
technological change at a rate sufficient to preserve the information in
their care.  And it is not cheap.  If it were, there would not be so much
concern about the huge expense of simply changing the date on computers as
we move into the next century.

I've built bits of electronics; the first *computer* I programmed was an
IBM card reader/printer used for inventory control.  It was programmed by
moving patch cords around on a bread board; when I left the computer field
I was running a mainframe and had a working knowledge of 4 programming

There is a very simple relationship to keep in mind.  The MTBF (Mean Time
Before Failure) of electronic equipment (such as computers) is measured in
the thousands to tens of thousands of hours of work.

The MTBF of competently manufactured paper is measured in centuries and

No contest.


>Date:    Sat, 10 May 1997 13:07:50 -0500
>From:    Harmon Seaver <hseaver@xxxxxxxxx>
>Subject: Re: Bridges to the past; links to the future

>  You're still missing the point. The ease of copying it to a different
>format -- even if it's back to paper, or to microform, or whatever, is
>what makes digitization the perfect archival method. Obviously the
>archive/library is going to be using some sort of newer technology, as
>the old stuff becomes obsolete, and the copying and error correction can
>be pretty easily automated at no real expense, so there's no excuse for
>not doing it.

Jack C. Thompson
Thompson Conservation Lab
7549 N. Fenwick
Portland, OR  97217


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