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Re: Digital Domesday Book lasts 15 years not 1000

           See The Exhibition Online, And Order Your Catalog.

>>I'm sure that when book printing technology was first introduced that the
>>guild of scribes came up with much the same reasoning that hand-written books
>>were "far superior"  and more durable than thiese new fangled printed books.
>>After all, any new technology becomes obsolete, but, there will always be
>>scribes, right?
>>This anti-digital bias is simply that, a bias.. It lacks a proper reasoned

There's a fundamental difference between these two phenomena - one
can't compare them.

Printing was a technology that offered a new way of producing what
had previously been produced. Readers needed no help in reading or
understanding or using the new printed books, and so they have
never become obsolete.

Digital technology on the other hand is nearly always used to
produce objects that need specialised equipment to read,
understand or use the digitised information. Readers or users
cannot do without this equipment, yet it is so specialised and
technical that nobody can bodge it together if the shops no longer
stock it. That's not true of analogue vinyl records - any reasonably
practical person in 10,000 years time could discover they need to
revolve the record and hold a needle on it, with a paper trumpet
for amplification. The more ingenious could easily improve the
sound quality with basic electrical tools.

But digital decoding equipment always needs purpose built
electronics - not only complex and expensive to produce, but
requiring a precise and rigid schema to process the information
before it can be understood at all, and precision equipment such
as, for CDs, the exact and constant spindle speed, and a laser of
the correct wavelength. This level of precision engineering and
specialised precision manufacturing will always be beyond the means
of the general public, and beyond the viability of commercial
enterprise once the number of customers falls below the thousands.

However, there is a third way. Digital or other changing technology
can be used to produce material that requires no complex equipment
to use or read it. When the Voyager space probe was sent towards
another galaxy, carrying a message from Earth, the medium was a
metal disc with analogue information engraved into it. Any being
with a sense of touch or sight could find and 'read' that
information, and only a low-tech magnifying glass might enhance the
reading. Digital information would probably not even be noticed,
especially if it were electronic rather than physical.

If another Voyager were to be sent today, another identical disc
might be created using a sophisticated digitally controlled laser
to etch it, instead of whatever techniques were used before, but
the disc would never become obsolete as long as the reader doesn't
need complicated equipment. The same applies to laser-printed
sheet of text. One day laser printers may be totally forgotten, but
their printouts, if archival enough, will be just as easily
readable as today. And how about micro-fiche? They will never be
unreadable, whether produced photographically or with new laser
imagesetters, because a magnifying glass is low-tech and will
always be available to even the least practical person.

The crucial factor with digital technology is that its best
advantages come by using digital encoding, and that will always
require specialised and therefore eventually obsolescent equipment
to decode.

Tim Sheppard                              tim@lilliput-p.win-uk.net
England                For huge storytelling resources and FAQ, see
Storyteller & Trainer            http://www.timsheppard.co.uk/story
Lilliput Press          Fine books in miniature: www.lilliput.co.uk

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