Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Information Loss

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Information Loss

Article excerpt

The article "Digital Dark Age," from an Australian newspaper (see News section), isn't the first mention of this upcoming - no, perhaps already here - problem of information storage. When I read it, for some reason I thought of 8-track musical tapes, the kind you used to see in cars. If you have an 8-track tape now, I wonder how you'd listen to it. Will the same thing happen to the tiny little things that people use to listen to music now? Probably.

Another thing: e-mails. When I see in the newspaper reports about investigations which subpoena written materials from companies, I wonder what kind of thing the feds have been using against some of these corporations which have been manipulating their stocks. Do all e-mails last forever? I routinely delete my e-mails, a large proportion of which are spam, and I expect them to be gone forever. Maybe not? Or do big corporations fix things so all the employee e-mails are stored somewhere on a monster server?

Well, this musing just shows how nonknowledgeable I am when it comes to computers, I guess. But I can easily see a good portion of our information storage eventually unusable. It looks as if the videotape is about to go the way of the audiotape, and probably the CD and DVD have a pretty short life, as do the machines that read them.

Not really a new problem: for years I saved a 16mm movie that had been taken of our family in the mid-thirties. When finally I looked inside the can it was stored in, it was all in pieces - a record lost. I understand all sorts of preservation techniques have been used over the years to preserve old movies, but some have been lost forever, like my 16mm film. …

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