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Re: [AV Media Matters] The FILE is the thing ! Was -Digitizing Audio and Video

To: Jim Lindner
From: Jim Wheeler

I agree that we are now talking about FILES and that is a paradigm shift

But, I do not see why Hard Disk Drives cannot be stored on shelves like
and books.  Give me one good reason.

I gave a paper on this at the AMIA Conference in Boston last year.
Also, I 
have covered the software and hardware obsolesce problems on previous
 Should I do that again?

Banks, Insurance companies, large corporations, etc have been storing
on robotic systems for over 40 years but those are expensive systems and
files have high usage.

I don't see how a low-use archive with 1,000 videotapes can afford a
system for 1,000 Hard Disk Drives.  My guess is that over 90 percent of
material in the archives on this Listserve rarely or never gets used.
That is 
not an economic use of a robotic system.  Small/medium size archives
afford such a system.

Moderators Comment:
OK I will byte (I mean Bite - haha)
The list of more then one good reason why not to store data on hard
drives that are not powered up and sitting on a shelf for an unknown
period of time - as in 50 years or greater.
1. BIOS - Every personal computer system (PC) uses a BIOS chip. That
chip is the device that directly interfaces with the disk controllers. A
limited number of controller types are supported. After a controller
type is obsolete which can occur in a very short period of time, BIOS
will not recognize the controller if it is plugged in. No Controller
then no access to the Drive.
2. Operating System - Operating Systems rely on the BIOS. In addition
they have device drivers that recognize the disk controller as well as
the drive type. When controllers and drives are obsolete they are no
longer supported in the current operating system. Getting obsolete
device drivers is a BIG problem. If you are interested in going deeper
on this - check out http://www.driversguide.com/
there you can find over 100,000 obsolete drivers that are no longer
Going further on this - devices may be supported on one operating system
and not another. For instance you may find that a version of LINUX
supports a specific drive, but Windows may not - so you have additional
issues of compatibility there.
In addition even if you get it to work, there are different ways of
formatting a disk. For instance suppose the archived hard drive was part
of a mirrored RAID system. You may need the other drives and/or the
original controller card/chip and configuration information which you
may or may not have.
3. Controller Interface - which may mean the controller itself or the
cable - may not interface with the new cables/controllers in the future.
For instance a new Serial ATA format is coming out that will make the
flat cables we use now obsolete. So you need the cables and the wiring
and the controller configuration all to be perfect.
4. Application to read the file. Even if you get all this right - you
need some sort of application to read the file off of the disk. This can
either be very easy or very hard depending on what you have done. If you
have written the file with a proprietary application you will probably
have an extremely difficult time because it is extremely improbable for
that application to be around or be able to read a 50 year old file
type. But more to the point - it will probably be impossible to have
that application that is 50 years old run on a current operating system.
Forget Binary compatibility - and where will the source code be of the
original application in order to recompile it on a new operating system.
Now there ARE some tape writing applications that have been around for a
LONG time - mostly in the UNIX world that might work - like TAR. That
will allow you to read the media in ascii or binary BUT whether you can
put the file together from that information is a big question - and
again you have the application issues.
5. Physical issues with the drives/lubricants/disk chamber. What will
happen to these elements to a drive over 50 years of just sitting
around. A total unknown. Will a failed seal that will allow air and dust
in cause errors that will not be recoverable?

I could go on... no - I do not see this as even a remote possibility.
Migrating files is an entirely different matter - it is a known practice
that has been going on for almost 50 years - we know how to do it, and
it is done every second of every day. Video or Audio in a file is
inherently NO different then any other type of data in a file. The more
we can handle it the same way as we do when we PROFESSIONALLY manage
data (i.e. we are not talking about how individuals stick floppy disks
in a closet and then cannot play them easily or freely 5 years later)
the better the chances the material will survive long term. BTW there
ARE companies that can play back these obsolete format types and get the
data off. They are not cheap but they do exist. Whether you can do
anything with the data once you have recovered it is an other issue

Jim Lindner

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