11.0636 Re: Where does it go? Where has it gone?

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 11 Mar 1998 23:30:05 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 636.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

[1] From: Patricia Galloway <galloway@mdah.state.ms.us> (25)
Subject: Re: 11.0634 Where does it go? Where has it gone?

[2] From: Christoph Eyrich <eyrich@zedat.fu-berlin.de> (26)
Subject: Re: 11.0634 Where does it go? Where has it gone?

Date: Tue, 10 Mar 1998 09:03:41 -0600
From: Patricia Galloway <galloway@mdah.state.ms.us>
Subject: Re: 11.0634 Where does it go? Where has it gone?

Jim Marchand wonders about obsolescence of media, formats, etc;
archivists everywhere are busy worrying about this issue and have
regretfully recognized the fact that in the case of electronic data (and
other such evanescent vehicles--I think of brittle books), an eternal
responsibility for migrating data is one they must assume. But this also
means that they will have to justify the expense of this activity, and
the implications of that for what data are carried into the future and
what data are left to bleed their bits onto the information highway are
rather scary. No scarier, however, than the loss of oral historical
forms and their swamping by written historical forms, such that to the
West now "history" belongs as a word to the latter. I think that the
concept of memes struggling for survival is far too simplistic, but it
bears a closer resemblance to reality in the socially darwinistic
environment of the global capitalist economy where everything is forced
to make a profit or die. It will be interesting to see whether any other
values will reemerge to rescue our whole enquiry into the richness of
*all* of human experience.

Oh, and the obsolescence problem? If you have material that must lie
dormant for tens of years and don't have an obliging archives willing to
maintain it, a nice low-tech way to preserve it indefinitely is to print
it on acid-free paper in a clean font and store it in a suitable
environment, then scan it back in when you need it! (I confess that I
have some Marie de France contes on paper tape that I never expect to
read again in any other way than the printed version.)

Patricia Galloway
Mississippi Department of Archives and History

Date: Wed, 11 Mar 1998 17:54:12 +0100 (MET)
From: Christoph Eyrich <eyrich@zedat.fu-berlin.de>
Subject: Re: 11.0634 Where does it go? Where has it gone?

From: Christoph Eyrich <eyrich@zedat.fu-berlin.de>

On Mon, 9 Mar 1998, Jim Marchand wrote:

> For this small problem, and note that I have not even gotten into
> conversion of fonts, I do have one personal solution. Convert immediately
> when you upgrade. I should have put my mag tapes on my hard disk; I should
> have converted my CP/M's to DOS, my DOS's to WINDOWS; when WINDOWS 98 comes
> out, I am going to take off a month or so and convert everything.

I don't want to start a discussion of the pros and cons of various
operating systems and of the programs running on top of them. But what has
been described by Jim Marchand is exactly what makes those of us using
a Unix system `hate' the standard PC world. One of the central tenets in
the Unix world was portability, and this is why you use simple text files
where and whenever possible. Changing media is not much of problem but
changing file formats certainly is. I have no problems reading age-old TeX
files (no need to convert them) but converting between the various
proprietary file formats used in today's PC/MAC word processors is a pain.
Life would be easier could we return to a simple ASCII file format but
it is just a few PC/MAC programs (e.g., Quark) that are capable of storing
their file information in such files. In the Unix world, in contrast,
this is the rule...
But we all know that it is new file formats that force people to upgrade
their programs, and only rarely new features (remember the problems
with the `new' Word file format?).


Christoph Eyrich


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