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Media mortality (< facing your own mortality)

Date:Thursday, July 3, 2008, 13:53
> [] On Behalf Of Tristan
> ... > > Digital media is getting better, and is still much better
> > some of the preceding types. Magnetic media had to be one
> > the worst, but now we have optical media like DVD's and
> > The ability to easily copy them means there *should* always
be a
> > backup. > > Wrong --- it requires continued interest at least every second > generation. Getting a 5.25" floppy onto a CD would've been
easy when CDs
> were new, but you'd find it difficult to get one onto a USB
drive or
> DVD/BluRay disc.
Getting it onto DVD or BluRay will be the same process. It would involve getting an old machine to read the old media and copying the files. Even my old Apple II files could be put on a DVD. I'd just need to find an old computer capable of reading those files and transfer them via the serial port to another computer, or I could just upload them to an FTP site somewhere. Thanks to some good emulation programs, even the executables are usable.
> >The other benefit is that copies will be precise > > duplicates of the originals unlike a photocopy of a book
> > will lose a bit of its quality with every generation. > > Except for photos, drawings and other primarily visual media
this isn't
> a problem. If in three hundred years time a grammar of my
conlang is
> republished in a new font, well, I might not have approved of
> formatting but at least the important stuff's there.
Even photos will be fine if the resolution is high enough and a lossless format is used. Digital photography is quickly approaching the quality of film.
> > It's true that things will only be circulated while there is > > still an interest in them. As interest wanes, expect there
> > be fewer and fewer copies in circulation but that would be
> > same for books, magazines and other printed materials as
most of
> > them will probably end up in landfills or paper recycling > > centers. > > Yes, it's a risk either way. But the risks of loss of interest
> digital media are massive --- even if the disc is kept (and
I'd guess a
> book is more likely to be kept), you can't read it anyway. For
my part,
> I throw out floppy disks whenever I come across them, because
I can't
> read them anymore. It doesn't matter what's on them. But also
I throw
> out CD-Rs without caring what's on them, because the effort
involved in
> bringing them to my computer, taking out the disc in the
dri--- well,
> I'm bored of just describing the process already. Yet I can
> through my notebooks and say "yup, interesting consketch here
> keeping" in a moment.
I won't say I just toss out floppies. I do trash them nowadays, but I'll at least make sure it's something I don't want first. I do have a loose floppy drive floating around somewhere, but I transferred all my stuff a long time ago, except for the Apple II media which can't be read by any other machine.
> > Paper doesn't last long either, especially modern paper. > > It is still easy to get archival quality paper. If you want
something to
> last, you should put it on archival quality paper in a lot of
> likely to last, and make sure other things refer to it ---
just so
> people know it's somewhere in that vast library and might be
> looking at. (Popularity over a long period of time is a good
thing for
> things to last.) Alternatively build massive stone structures
with no
> entrance so people are kept out of them for two thousand
years and paint
> what you care about on the walls, and then when they get in
> there is of historical interest, so people keep it even if it
> particularly interesting/popular in its day. For extra
certainty, bury
> random dead guys there and say they were the Calter of ancient
> Island, Thaum IV. The trick here is to do it in the desert on
low value
> ground so people don't knock it down in a hundred years time
to put up a
> block of flats.
As mentioned, I'm not looking for immortality. If there's enough interest in my works, then those who are interested will have to take on the responsibility of preserving them. If/when that interest fades away, then there's point in keeping it anyway.
> >I have > > 20 year old books and newspapers where already turning
> > and rotting away into dust. At least optical media like
> > will keep for a long time if you avoid scratching them, and
> > can make backups in case one becomes unreadable. > > Two problems: My point from the last one is that that requires
> intervention --- continued interest. A book that everyone's
> about for a hundred years sitting in a library will still be
there ---
> possibly degraded, but still generally legible. A CD that
> forgotten about sitting in a library for a hundred years ago
--- well,
> for all we know it might as well be frisbee.
If the library keeps the book for a hundred years. A book that nobody's read for a long time is likely to be purged from the shelf to make room for something that will get some use. CD's and machines to read them will probably be as scarce as LP's and turntables are today. Anything of value though will be transferred to newer media as time goes on. The future is likely to be some type of non-volatile solid-state memory device, something like the "thumb drives" or SD cards we use today. MP3's are already becoming the new media for music. There's really no telling what a future library would look like either. In 100 years, they may have done away with books completely. For that matter, they may just all become online libraries, supplying nothing but digitized copies of everything.
> The second problem is that CDs simply aren't durable anyway. I
> really looked into it in any detail, but estimates are most
cheap CDs
> will last you around 20 years if you're lucky, and durable
> quality CDs will give you a hundred years. While a book might
fall apart
> in 100 years or less, you don't need page 68 to make sense of
the whole
> picture, unlike a CD.
Being plastic they will hold up longer than paper. The biggest problem with CD's is laser burn which only occurs if they are actually being used. Sitting on a shelf at room temperature won't hurt them at all. If you really want to see what will kill the longevity of creative works, it will probably be the intellectual property laws which are becoming increasingly more ridiculous along with some of the silliest protection schemes ever. I can see where a lot of digital works will be published, but uncoverable because of some long-forgotten DRM format keeps someone locked out.
> >> Print media is just so much more reliable, because you can > >> see it right there in front of you! > > > > They make these neat little devices now called "printers".
> > always have the option to print out what you have stored > > electronically, and even print multiple copies for all your > > friends. > > How do you print a CD if no-one's made a CD/reader in 100
years? You can
> read a book if no-one's made a book in 100 years. Even in two
> years when we've all forgotten the language spoken, you can
still work
> out what a book says. In two thousand years, even if we can
make the
> necessary technology to read a CD, who's even going to know it
was a
> data storage device of the late 20th century?
By then, you'd have to assume anything of value has been transferred to newer media. And in the hypothetical future where someone is able to read a CD, I assume by being able to read it they'll be able to pick up on the file dates to know when it was made. As I mentioned, I don't expect disks to even be around much longer except maybe for the large RAID installations used in data centers. Everything is starting to move to solid-state memory. In the next 50 years, there will probably not be anything with moving parts. I'd project that something like Project Gutenberg will exist in the future to take old works and keep them available in whatever formats the future will use. The biggest problem is the one I've brought up before that is related to legal issues. Though technology is moving at a faster pace, which should indicate a case for shorter terms for copyrights and patents, the trend is to make them longer so big business can squeeze every last dollar from them. On the positive side though, as long as a work has some commerical value, publishers will make sure they are available, regardless of the form. I've been moving more and more to digital media for several years now. The small collection of books I have is still enough to fill a 6' bookcase. If I took all the information I have and made it available in paper form, I'd need a large warehouse just to store it everything. Then there would be the task of physically searching for something when I need it. In digital form, I can quickly find what I need without getting out of my chair.


Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>