Re: CHAT: facing your own mortality (as a conlanger)
|From:||Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, July 3, 2008, 5:45|
>> [mailto:CONLANG@listserv.brown.edu] On Behalf Of Tristan
>> li_sasxsek@NUTTER.NET wrote:...
> Digital media is getting better, and is still much better than
> some of the preceding types. Magnetic media had to be one of
> the worst, but now we have optical media like DVD's and CD's.
> The ability to easily copy them means there *should* always be a
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
>The other benefit is that copies will be precise
> duplicates of the originals unlike a photocopy of a book which
> 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 the
formatting but at least the important stuff's there.
> It's true that things will only be circulated while there is
> still an interest in them. As interest wanes, expect there to
> be fewer and fewer copies in circulation but that would be the
> same for books, magazines and other printed materials as most of
> them will probably end up in landfills or paper recycling
Yes, it's a risk either way. But the risks of loss of interest with
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 flick
through my notebooks and say "yup, interesting consketch here worth
keeping" in a moment.
> 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 libraries
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 worth
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 whatever's
there is of historical interest, so people keep it even if it wasn't
particularly interesting/popular in its day. For extra certainty, bury
random dead guys there and say they were the Calter of ancient Rhode
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.
> 20 year old books and newspapers where already turning yellow
> and rotting away into dust. At least optical media like CD's
> will keep for a long time if you avoid scratching them, and I
> can make backups in case one becomes unreadable.
Two problems: My point from the last one is that that requires human
intervention --- continued interest. A book that everyone's forgotten
about for a hundred years sitting in a library will still be there ---
possibly degraded, but still generally legible. A CD that everyone's
forgotten about sitting in a library for a hundred years ago --- well,
for all we know it might as well be frisbee.
The second problem is that CDs simply aren't durable anyway. I haven't
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 archival
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.
>> 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". You
> always have the option to print out what you have stored
> electronically, and even print multiple copies for all your
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 thousand
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?