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TSE  February 2010

TSE February 2010

Subject:

Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism

From:

Peter Montgomery <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Fri, 5 Feb 2010 02:01:35 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (93 lines)

Sounds like the kind of birthing pangs that print technology went through.

P.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Charles McElwain" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, January 06, 2010 9:03 AM
Subject: Re: Interesting examples--Eliot and internationalism


> In fact, some observers worried about such issues refer to an
> approaching "Digital Dark Ages", in which the late 20th/early 21st
> centuries will come to be looked upon as having as much of a dearth
> of documentary evidence as the "Dark Ages" of the fall of the Roman
> Empire until the 15th century (mistakenly, or at least, exaggerated)
> were.
>
> There's a number of problems, both physical/hardware and
interpretive/software.
>
> No current media has a lifetime measured in more than decades.  It's
> not just that the hard disk may mechanically fail, but that,
> effectively, the "bits" will decay.  Similarly with CDs and DVDs (let
> alone diskettes), which have even shorter lifetimes.   So, not only
> do there have to be backups made against mechanical failure, but also
> backups over a longer period to just insure that the disks are
> earlier in their "lifetime", migrating to "newer" technology.
>
> And then there's the problem that the software needed to read the
> media is no longer available - obsolete operating systems for
> no-longer manufactured entire computers or even just peripheral
> storage devices (think of the spinning tape drives of science fiction
> movie computers).  This is the intersection of the above physical and
> interpretive.
>
> But then there's the format of the data/documents themselves.  For
> example, some of the early adopters of computer word processing may
> have used one of the most famous of the early ones, "Electric
> Pencil".  I doubt any current word processor still reads that
> document file format.
>
> This problem has already had impacts.  Some of NASA's data from
> 1970's Mars landers was stored on equipment that is no longer
> working, no longer available, and the software to read the tapes no
> longer available.  A government social service organization (I
> believe in the UK) found that all their data was on diskettes, which
> were either a) bad or b) did not have software to read the outmoded
> diskette formats.
>
> A lot of people are noticing this coming problem, and starting to
> think hard about it (one of whom is even Stewart Brand, of Whole
> Earth and the Clock of the Long Now), as well as institutions, such
> as the Internet Archive (aka Wayback Machine).  Some of this is doing
> the data migration mentioned above; some of it is ensuring that there
> exists available translation software to read the old file formats.
>
> But this sort of approach only works for large institutions.  How
> many of us who are "serious" - but individual - computer users can
> say we have a solid backup strategy against even mechanical failure?
> Let alone, make a point to migrate old media to new media, convert
> document files to newer file formats?
>
> By the way, Nancy, I'm glad to see your mention of the importance of
> living in Serendip below.  This is the most acute argument against
> ordering books (or music) on-line, instead of browsing in stores,
> libraries, shops.  You can at most find what you're looking for; you
> don't find the serendipitous items that usually end up having an even
> greater impact.
>
> At 11:06 AM -0500 1/6/10, Nancy Gish wrote:
> >
> >books be always available and more and more be made so.  But I
> >personally think paper books were an incredible technology likely to
> >long outlast electronic material: computers keep being updated and
> >crashing and older files cannot even be accessed on new
> >equipment.  Unless some uniform and sustained structure develops as
> >a standard, I fear all these digitized books will just disappear for
> >use even if they exist eternally in cyberspace.  (Any computer savvy
> >answers on the list?) As someone who loves libraries with books in
> >paper, I am dubious in any case; I find things that just would never
> >turn up on the internet (like the letters Eliot wrote to Maurice
> >Lindsay).  The problem with working on databases is that you only
> >find what you look for--I love serendipity, and much of my most
> >interesting discoveries come from that.  Who would ever find those
> >letters by deciding to put Lindsay and Eliot together into Google? I
> >doubt that would turn it up anyway.  (OK--I just tried it, and a lot
> >came up linking the names because Lindsay died last April and
> >obituaries mention the connection.  He died while I was in Scotland
> >and had already read the letters. But what is on Google might send
> >you to some of the stuff, not all.  And who would think to do that
> >anyway unless they read the Scottish and English obits?)
>
> --

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