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Re: Bridges to the past; links to the future

On Sun, 11 May 1997, Jack C. Thompson wrote:
> 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.

Anything that you only have a single copy of can easily be wiped out.
This applies to books as well as electronic means.  Redundancy is
necessary to ensure long-term salvagability.

> 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.

Many universities have small-scale chip foundries.  (And where do you
think the old technology goes anyway?  It goes to some engineers garage
for the cost of him hauling it away.  I've got equipment that originally
sold for millions of dollars a mere ten years ago (or less) that I got
just by being willing to heave it into a van.)

> 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.

That is the core problem and if you're not part of some association that
works to ensure the continued and improved funding of these institutions,
why are you giving computer people such a hard time?

> And it is not cheap.

Its cheaper than having sky scrapers full of books.

> 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.

People are concerned about all sorts of things that aren't rational.  We
don't yet have a phobia for the 'cost of computer data conversions', but
I'll suggest that for the DSM-V.

> 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
> millenia.  No contest.

If you could store the electronic data in a safety-deposit box and it take
a multi-million dollar building to store the paper, there's "no contest".


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

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