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Re: "Digital Dark Age"

It sounds like we have a difference of opinion as to whether
preservation means access for the masses, or access for the
very few people who still have use of the equipment.

I would consider a storage medium to be successful and
relevant when it is easily accessible by the majority of
people who might need access to the information. The means
of playing LPs (or, in the future, CDs) might be within
reach of some people, but that percentage will only dwindle
further and further.

It's impossible to know what marvelous new format might lurk
around the corner, ready to erase our notions about what is
successful and useful. And let's not forget the impact of
marketing, either. After basic usabillity issues,
advertising and marketing dollars play the biggest role in
deciding what media are successful. For example, Syquest
should never have lasted as long as it did. And remember
Beta? VHS simply had more money behind it, even though most
experts say Beta was the superior format. Right now, there
are dozens and dozens of new storage formats out there,
fighting it out on the advertising battlefield for the title
of Medium of the Year. I have optical disks from two years
ago that are completely useless to me now. Everybody wants
Zip. Luckily, it's cheaper.

As for LPs, the turntables themselves are fully usable, but
I dare say most LPs are sitting up in their owners' attics
rendering themselves more and more useless every summer. And
try getting a new needle for one of those things; it's much
more difficult than a trip to the record store these days.

On NPR a week or so ago there was a documentary about Edison,
and they talked about how some of his earliest phonograph
recordings were of Sarah Bernhardt (I beleive that's who it
was). But the recordings were made on tin foil stretched over
a drum, and no one has the guts to try to play them anymore
because they're so fragile. But it's there.

Courtney Graham

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