Digital Lifespan

Talk about music, movies, television, books, and other media. No religious or political discussion allowed.
pacman000
Posts: 335
Joined: December 30th, 2015, 9:04 am

Digital Lifespan

Postby pacman000 » November 2nd, 2017, 9:29 am

Thought this was kinda important:

Image

"I spent a long time thinking about how to design a system for long-term organization and storage of subject-specific informational resources without needing ongoing work from the experts who created them, only to realized I'd just reinvented libraries."

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1912
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby scotland » November 2nd, 2017, 9:52 am

One solution is that the associated hardware is preserved, or there is a base format everything can, with some loss, be converted to - like ASCII

Also, analog has lifespans too. Overhead projector slides, film, slides, cheap paperbacks, etc all deteriorate over a decade or so. Some stuff, old books seem to last pretty well, and nothing beats a stone tablet

pacman000
Posts: 335
Joined: December 30th, 2015, 9:04 am

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby pacman000 » November 2nd, 2017, 4:52 pm

Indeed. Acetate film can suffer from vinegar syndrome. It shrinks, becomes brittle, and begins to smell like vinegar. Properly stored it can last about 100 years, from what I've heard. Nitrate film was worse; it could explode! Some have suggested man-made polymers might be a better choice for film stock.

Cheap paper, like the kind used in pulp novels or newspapers, is acidic, and that acid causes the paper to break down over time. You can buy higher-quality acid free paper which can last (in theory) hundreds of years. The surviving older books would be printed on something like that.

Digital media adds another layer to the mix. It's like you're writing everything in a secret code, and there's a tremendous risk that they'll stop making decoder rings. Keeping to industry standard formats can help. GIF images instead of GEM images; MEPG instead of RealVideo. But even that's not 100% guaranteed.

Networked media is worse; it's like you're writing to someone in code, then hoping that 1) they'll still be there in 10 years and 2) you still have/can get a working decoder ring.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1912
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby scotland » November 3rd, 2017, 6:18 am

The decoder ring is a fun analogy.

In our own hobby, we can see how this has been handled in the fast changing tech of video gaming. I can still play old tapes and floppies onnmy Commodore 64, but the hardware is cumbersome and many would not have it. So, the tapes have been converted in .tap or even .mp3, and the floppies into .c64 files. The .c64 files can be used off an SD with an SD2IEC diskmdrive emulator, while the .tap or .mp3 can be used via a smartphone. Alternatively, the .C64 files (but not the .tap or .mp3 that I know of), can be used with a C64 emulator.

So, we extend the lifespan by playing a complocated game of digital alchemy. Of course, analog does this too, such as microfilm or microfiche copies of old newspapers.

GameOfThrones
Posts: 80
Joined: August 30th, 2017, 10:24 am

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby GameOfThrones » November 8th, 2017, 5:52 pm

You forgot to mention laser disks. Remember they were going to last for hundreds of years and managed about 10 before falling to pieces though someone online told me he had ones from 15 years ago.
I did a piece on it in Uni recently. They are calling it the digital dark ages. As from 600 AD to 1100 AD not records exist of any works of art. They refer to it as the dark ages. So data being lost is now talking about the digital dark age.

Also it is the subject of Foundation by Isaac Asimov.

User avatar
Stalvern
Posts: 405
Joined: June 18th, 2016, 7:15 pm

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby Stalvern » November 9th, 2017, 3:22 pm

GameOfThrones wrote:I did a piece on it in Uni recently. They are calling it the digital dark ages. As from 600 AD to 1100 AD not records exist of any works of art. They refer to it as the dark ages. So data being lost is now talking about the digital dark age.

There is no historical "dark ages", not even in Europe. The period you mention, the Early Middle Ages, was the height of the Carolingian and Byzantine empires, which produced masses of art. Celtic and Anglo-Saxon culture flourished; this period is when we get the Book of Kells and Beowulf. Islamic culture was on the rise in the Middle East and making great strides in mathematics. This is the period of the Tang dynasty in China, often considered China's golden age. Kievan Rus', the forerunner of Russia and Ukraine, changed from a loose collection of warring tribes into a powerful and sophisticated state over this period. Aksum was a great cultural and commercial center in Africa. The Maya civilization in Central America was at its peak.

The idea of the "dark ages" was popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a way for people to pat themselves on the back for being better and smarter than those idiots who lived before them. By the twentieth century, this idea fell out of favor, but many historians tried to repurpose the term to refer to the "darkness" of a sparse historical record (the sense that you are using). Today, though, even that sense has no bearing on reality.

The "digital dark age" is a real problem that we should be concerned about, but there is no reason to drag bad history into it.

User avatar
scotland
Posts: 1912
Joined: April 7th, 2015, 7:33 pm

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby scotland » November 9th, 2017, 4:55 pm

Stalvern wrote: There is no historical "dark ages", not even in Europe. The period you mention, the Early Middle Ages, was the height of the Carolingian and Byzantine empires, which produced masses of art. Celtic and Anglo-Saxon culture flourished; this period is when we get the Book of Kells and Beowulf. Islamic culture was on the rise in the Middle East and making great strides in mathematics. This is the period of the Tang dynasty in China, often considered China's golden age. Kievan Rus', the forerunner of Russia and Ukraine, changed from a loose collection of warring tribes into a powerful and sophisticated state over this period. Aksum was a great cultural and commercial center in Africa. The Maya civilization in Central America was at its peak


This is good food for thought. I'll add to this the Vikings, who had voyages of both discovery and conflict during this time with long lasting cultural impact.

The loss of the Roman Empire was 'dark' in that it was a real loss - the loss of engineering knowledge, the loss of literacy, the fragmentation of latin into various languages, the loss of political unity, the loss of communication, the loss of maintenance on roads and the loss of more building of roads or walls or aquaducts, etc.

On the digital front, I do think so much more will be preserved than in the analog age, even with all the problems noted - simply because so much is being digitized and disseminated. Everything from news articles, to emails, to photos, to gossip, to ephemera. One of my other hobbies is old comics, and digitalized comics have given me access to a wealth of comics from the 1940s and 1950s which were essentially lost otherwise.

We should wrestle with how to keep the digital information accessible to future generations, but a larger issue might be curating the data than preserving it.

GameOfThrones
Posts: 80
Joined: August 30th, 2017, 10:24 am

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby GameOfThrones » November 9th, 2017, 6:24 pm

Stalvern wrote:
GameOfThrones wrote:I did a piece on it in Uni recently. They are calling it the digital dark ages. As from 600 AD to 1100 AD not records exist of any works of art. They refer to it as the dark ages. So data being lost is now talking about the digital dark age.

There is no historical "dark ages", not even in Europe.
The "digital dark age" is a real problem that we should be concerned about, but there is no reason to drag bad history into it.

It was the subject of some of my degree I did last year. They are the ones that went on about the Dark Ages. Though to be honest I did not check so thanks for the update.
Though when they got onto the subject of video games I tore them a new one. Their source for the fall of Atari was a discredited book. Also they had screen shots wrong. So it is disappointing to find out that is not the only place their teaching fell down.

pacman000
Posts: 335
Joined: December 30th, 2015, 9:04 am

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby pacman000 » November 10th, 2017, 8:02 am

What book? What did it say caused Atari's downfall?

I've always heard Atari failed due to a glut of bad games, often simplified to ET, but that over simplifies things. There were so many problems happening at the same time I have trouble pinning the exact cause down.

User avatar
Stalvern
Posts: 405
Joined: June 18th, 2016, 7:15 pm

Re: Digital Lifespan

Postby Stalvern » November 10th, 2017, 12:18 pm

pacman000 wrote:What book? What did it say caused Atari's downfall?

I've always heard Atari failed due to a glut of bad games, often simplified to ET, but that over simplifies things. There were so many problems happening at the same time I have trouble pinning the exact cause down.

It wasn't just the crash; it was the crash plus Nintendo seizing the American market while it was ripe for the taking plus bad management that didn't have a clue what to do with R&D (for perspective, the friggin' Amiga was a hair away from being an Atari console in the mid-'80s - management said no, the Amiga guys left, and Atari ended up having to field the too-little-too-late 7800 against the NES). The Jaguar might have been able to save them in an absolute best-case scenario, if it had games worth half a crap, but that didn't happen.


Return to “Other Media”