From: Bill Yakowenko <yakowenk_at_cs.unc.edu>
Date: Wed Nov 19 13:53:27 1997

Are there any archaeologists in the house? Not being one myself,
I wouldn't be too surprised if some archaeological treasures had
been lost forever in the process of some enthusiastic 18th-century
archaeologist applying 18th-century state-of-the-art technology
to the study of some artifact. Maybe some singular fossil got
dissolved in acid in an attempt to determine its chemical
composition, where we could now pop the thing under an electron
microscope and learn about its cell-structure. (Of course, maybe
our electron microscope would do some damage that would prevent
later generations from bringing that thing back to life! Who
knows?) Had that guy just left the thing alone a couple centuries
ago, we might now be able to extract much more knowledge from it.
And/or, if we leave it alone now, it might be much more valuable
after a couple more centuries.

So, which will be more valuable a couple centuries down the road,
another set of used floppies plus easily-readable copies of the
software that was on them, or decayed but pristine floppies? I
think I know which will be rarer. And maybe, just maybe they'll
be able to read them even after the oxide coating has become so
much dust. (Anyone care to speculate on the technology to do that?)

I have the impression that museums generally collect things with
the goal of having them available as needed to extract knowledge
from them; scientists often take samples, even destructively when
the utility is great. Are we in this group yet? Is there really
any knowledge to be gained from these, that is otherwise unavailable?
If we are pretending to be museums, should we have the same goals?

Personally, I am not a museum; there are only a handful of systems
I am interested in, and I want to keep them running, and even make
new hardware/software for them. But I might think twice about that
if I got a never-used never-even-opened system dropped in my lap.
Maybe I'd contact a real museum.

Enough talk. Back to hacking.

Received on Wed Nov 19 1997 - 13:53:27 GMT

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