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Re: [ARSCLIST] Hard disk drives and DAT

Hello, George,

I see this a little differently and perhaps a little more optimistically.

For the first time in history, we are confronted with wishing to preserve information in a method that can in no way be considered permanent. "Permanent" media, except perhaps carvings in granite, have all been illusory, and the percentage of items surviving vs. items created has always been low.

As Tom Fine has stated in the past, what to collect, save, or preserve is a big question. I think it has been ever thus. Preservation has often been by accident and, going forward, perhaps preservation will be by non-accident when such accidents could be financial or political.

With digital repositories we have the tools more readily available for Orwell's Ministry of Truth to exist. The "Trusted" Digital Repository lingo that abounds today is perhaps a reaction to that.

I think with university libraries and their permanent digital collections leading the charge, we will see repositories that work reasonably well. Physical diversity of multiple copies remains the safest protection be it from war, politics, or an asteroid.

While I understand part of your depression of not having the original physical object in a useable form in the future, I am happy about having the content of that object preserved so that it can be studied and perhaps even enjoyed.

Would we care if a recording of the Gettysburg Address existed that it was on the original clay pot? (Yes, I'm mixing my metaphors). I could click my Palm and hear my copy of that address as I drove through the battlefield. Alas, no one apparently was turning a clay pot during the address. We have to read the original manuscript and be content with Raymond Massey's recorded interpretation.

While the medium is the message in many areas of study, at the end of the day, the content is what is important. The medium (media) help forge/morph our society, but the content of the media is the record of the forging/morphing influence at the end of the day. As part of the study of history, being able to reproduce the experience of the media over different times will be important in understanding the ecology of the media, but the content is what needs to be widely available.

I am optimistic that we can perhaps save even more of a percentage than our ancestors saved and we can do so at lower cost. We sometimes see vandalism in trusted physical repositories such as the San Francisco Public Library dumpstering a massive number of books that friends of mine enjoyed browsing.

On a brighter note, it appears today that the Smithsonian has taken the first steps to reverse what to some appeared to be a negative course relating to reducing access to the publicly funded collections to benefit one private entity. The feedback loop bandwidth is exceedingly low (cycles per decade), but it has worked many times in many places over time. My 91-year-old Dad reminds me of this as I despair over the state of world politics.

I don't want to show up in Nicholson Baker's grandson's book "Double Bit Bucket" or something like that as one of the evil doers. In "Double Fold" Baker certainly maligns the microfilming industry.

We create massive amounts of information every year. Some of that will be important to our descendants. We cannot necessarily predict how and what that will be. When our grandchildren look at what we saved for them, do you think they would be happier with more or less? I think the answer to that partially depends on how much effort their generation will have to spend to maintain the heap 'o stuff -- as they continue to add to it.

Archives become the keepers of the semi-sacred information. But this information is the collective memory of the world. We need to support the political and financial models that help to preserve this legacy, and we have to do it efficiently, effectively, and carefully. We need to find people who want to do this--be keepers of the semi-sacred bits--and it must be more than just a job for them.

And yes, some thing will be saved because individuals cared when institutions didn't. I think it has been ever thus. The estate libraries that you bring up are an example.

I am more encouraged and less depressed than you. I apologize for ranging so far and wide above, but this is an email message, not an edited thesis.



At 04:16 PM 2007-03-27, George Brock-Nannestad wrote:
From: Patent Tactics, George Brock-Nannestad


 - this is a long rant, and philosophical, too, so you might just as well
leave it, if you are not so inclined. You were warned.

David Seubert, Andy Kolovos and several others have said all the good and
sadly correct things. However we must all realize what a shift in paradigm
this is.

For centuries, well perhaps millenia, we have been accustomed to protecting
physical items, and if we did that we would still have our cake. Restoration
was previously a discipline when it was more like repair of function and
which destroyed all information that we were not aware of at the time. So
many of the items we have stored are mere shells of what they were, almost
like a taxidermically treated bird: only the outside has any connection to
the original, if we are lucky also some bones are preserved, because they
could stand the abuse of time and because we can perceive them with unaided
senses (or we can dig deeper by means of instruments). Things had to have
inherent qualities to survive without attention.

Re-directing our efforts to creating effigies of what we have "alive" today
may not be so bad - everybody can understand that a format change may be
necessary, the so-called secondary source. But the fact that this new format
will not be permanent or at least will not require attention for a long time
if we choose wisely, that really goes against the grain.

Material that is born digital will always retain its quality as long as
transparent storage is used. However the fact that we cannot choose to invest
(in high quality and durability) to preserve it but we have to have
continuous expenditure (migration, refresh, call it what you like) is still
against the grain. We simply do not have sufficient trust that the future
will preserve what we have been working with. At least I do not. And that
degrades our endeavours - we have no idea whether our efforts will be worth
our while in, say, mere 20 years time. Media and systems we have known (until
the cheapo digital came along) have been able to survive on their own for
longer than that.

I do not see a future that is able to establish a coordinated effort to store
what is born digital for the benefit of future users. There will be family
trust owned repositories that will survive, much like big country estates
survive, because there are craftsmen and gardeners, such families will be
sufficiently focussed and can afford it. For the rest of us there will only
be what remains after governments have given up maintaining our history. We
will be much more manageable as populations.

While live real-time culture proliferates due to the digital revolution I
think that much too little attention has been given to the erosion ("bit by
bit", as I once wrote in the IASA Journal) of our history. We shall all
become "instant on", but forgotten the next day. Nobody will know or be able
to document if we indeed had our 15 minutes of fame. I really think we have
lost our chance to preserve history by not requesting - louder and louder -
that we are given systems that will be able to maintain their usefulness
unattended (!) for a minimum of 100 years. That would have permitted
investment - so beloved by funders - rather than mere expenditure.

I am very much looking forward to reading Douglas Hofstadter's new book "I am
a Strange Loop", which according to an interview with him in New Scientist
(10 March 2007) may bring me to terms with our accelerating loss of eternity;
for 'eternity' read 'historical perspective'.

In the long term my specialization, which is the retrieval of sounds from
analogue recordings, using knowledge about how they were created in the first
place, will be like knowing about historical enbalming and equally useful.
And that goes for quite a number of people on this list.

Can anybody cheer me up?

Kind regards,


Richard L. Hess email: richard@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Aurora, Ontario, Canada (905) 713 6733 1-877-TAPE-FIX
Detailed contact information: http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.

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