Tried and True: Technological Transformation, from Paper to Disk to Cloud: Are the Technologies for Storing Your Vital Information Becoming Inaccessible? Keep Track of Changes in Media before Your Memory Gets Erased

By Wagner, Cynthia G. | The Futurist, September-October 2010 | Go to article overview

Tried and True: Technological Transformation, from Paper to Disk to Cloud: Are the Technologies for Storing Your Vital Information Becoming Inaccessible? Keep Track of Changes in Media before Your Memory Gets Erased


Wagner, Cynthia G., The Futurist


Once upon a time, if you wanted to own music, you went downtown and bought sheet music for the hits of the day. You probably had a piano, a fiddle, or a guitar at home, and someone to give you lessons. If you wanted to share the music, you had a soiree.

Cut to a century later, and the new music I've been waiting to purchase has already been shared across the Internet. Ironically, the "new" music happens to be Clay Aiken's album Tried & True, a collection of classic songs (i.e., old), and the hundreds of friends I'll share "Moon River" with all live in my computer, in the clouds of on-line fan communities.

I reflect on this illustration of technological transformation as I consider the amount and types of data stored in obsolete media.

As I write, our office is being renovated. The work has required us to purge a lot of old materials (books and files) that have accumulated and crowded us since we moved into this space in 1992.

The process has been illuminating. Did I really start work at THE FUTURIST with an electric typewriter rather than a PC? An archaeologist would have a field day cataloging the rise of the Information Age in our desk drawers and back filing cabinets. Much of this data has been un-accessed for years. Why keep it?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

One intriguing artifact that surfaced in a bottom desk drawer, underneath several boxes of 3 1/2" data storage disks, was an even older 5 1/4" floppy disk, containing the then-important documents left behind by my predecessor managing editor, Tim Willard.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As consulting futurist Josh Calder (@Geofutures on Twitter) wryly observed, the information stored on that 20-year-old floppy disk is "now less accessible than a book from 1590."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Paper storage has indeed survived for the reasons Calder suggests. Books are easy to flip through; if they're indexed, they're searchable. …

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