Zach Miller (zarfmouse) wrote,
Zach Miller

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Data Bleed

Maybe I should go to librarian's school or something. This is a response that I posted to arohanui's post about the loss of historical film to decay.

When I think of how much of the last century's information we're losing to entropy it really makes me sad.

It's humbling to realize that the only thing that _really_ lasts is paper. With every thing else it decays rapidly or else the technology changes so fast that we just can't remember how to read it or play it back anymore.

CDs and CD-ROMs have a life span of 30-100 years and then they'll all be worthless.

The glue on all the 8 Track tapes has mostly already failed.

VHS videos lose their magnetic charge over time most people's home movies from the early 80s are getting unwatchable now.

Old magnetic computer tapes and reel to reel audio tapes are not only losing their information but there simlpy aren't any machines left for them so we can't even copy them.

Now to learn that we're losing our film herritage.

It's the tragedy of modern information technology. We're so immersed in so much information that we just assume stuff is really durable because it is NEW. We take it for granted. And then one day it'll be gone and future generations will never know how we got from there to here.

Will we be able to do better with the petabyes of digital information now available to us? Are there effective archival methods that will preserve it other than printing it to punchcards and storing it in a vault? The only real way is to keep copying it (with good checksums) faster than entropy drops bits. But will we copy it all forever? Once we take a break, all is lost. A book can be put down and forgotten about and rediscovered 500 years later. Not so with digital data.
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