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Re: "Digital Dark Age"

Dennis has hit the nail on the head. Paper is a nice analog format and no
matter how deteriorated (within some constrants) it is still readable. It
can easily be copied to another medium... Microfilm and LP's (anyone
know where to get cartridges) are the same. If we look at historic
recording media, wax cylinders for example, they can still be played, and
non-intrusive methods are being developed. There may be some gaps, but
it's still possible.

Digital technology is a who different beast. Aside from file format
difficulties (save everything as ASCII(DOS) text) the mediums change with
great rapidity. 5 1/4 is now a joke. I still have a working dual 5 1/4-3
1/2" drive but old disks deteriorate because the magnetic media is
unstable. So the data needs to be refreshed and migrated, ideally at
regular intervals. I also have a zip, ditto, and cd-rw drive. Funny thing,
data that I copy onto a cd-rw disk is only readable on the slower cd-rw
drive, not my read only drive. The fact is there are great compatiblity
problems even within the same format. There are also software problems.
Migrating these things can be a pain in the rear. FileMaker to Access, by
way of the dbase format or comma delimited. Heck, just lost a lot of my
data formating and these fields don't translate. That's why COM (Computer
Output Microfilm) is so great. It takes digital data and makes it analog.
It's even getting good at grayscale, and permanence is comparable to
regular microfilm. Since you don't have skew you can even go back to
digital without too many headaches.

So, the moral? Always save to the lowest common format, migrate/convert to
a new format when it is established, preferably as a standard though even
those change. Repeat often. Heck who knows if cd's will even exist as a
format in 20 years. At least I can still play my lp's on an ancient
phonograph (it'll kill them but I can hear them) and view my microfilm
with a magnifying glass.

Digital is great for access when everything works. Long term though, don't
throw out your paper documents.



Peter Verheyen, Listowner: Book_Arts-L

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