Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Lispian
Our Digital Lives

This story brings back some memories from a few years ago.

When we first got a digital camera I wondered about how long these formats would be readable. Today I see so many different card formats for cameras it’s silly. Then I think back to floppy disks and hard disks and all the different formats used for them. I recall my time when I worked at a large telecomm and had to write device drivers to read 8″ floppy disks. Then, we “upgraded” to 5.25″ disks. Obviously, you can’t read the 8″ disks in the 5.25″ drives, so we had to have a bunch of systems lying about with both types of drives. And, the 5.25″ disks didn’t store as much as the 8″ disks. Joy.

Yes most of us used floppy disks for backup. I’m sure if I look around the house I’ll find 8″, 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disks. Problem is, do I have a drive for any of those? What about all those old tape formats? DAT? Exabyte? 9 track? If I had any of those I’d not have any kind of device to read them. Oh, and ZIP disks.

Man. It’s just sad to think about all the media types we’ve gone through and all the data that’s on those old formats that are now unreadable for any one of a number of reasons. Throw in that some of the data is actually stored in odd proprietary formats and we’re even more screwed. I recall using WordStar then WordPerfect and now Word. I’ve used TeX and a variety of other publishing systems. I’m sure I have a file or two remaining in some version of TeX that is unusable now unless I redo the format, but at least I can read the main text — the format codes just won’t work.

And all this further reminds me of that article years ago where someone found old glass plates from the US Civil War used as glass panes in a greenhouse. They were still readable after years of abuse and sun, though only with modern technology.  Similarly abuse anything digital today and it’s rendered unreadable. Hell, I’ve had more than one digital card for my camera die taking the pictures with it.

Maybe the solution is to just get everything printed, and put on negatives? How’s that for backup. Maybe microdots for the data. Which in turn reminds me of an article wherein someone stated the best way to store data long term was on kevlar paper tape.

Ah, the joy of the modern age. In the future, there may be no memories of it remaining what with our digital memories as fragile as those stored in our heads.

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November 2008
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