Old Typesetting files

From: John Foust <jfoust_at_threedee.com>
Date: Fri Nov 12 14:42:35 2004

At 02:18 PM 11/12/2004, you wrote:
>I can't think of a better example of the stupidness of consumer
>capitalism. Consumption and obsolescence should be undesirable side-effects
>of human living, not the core reason for existence.

Maybe I'm too close to the issue, but I continue to grow more and
more overwhelmed by the daunting task of archiving and preserving
old data. Certainly any one of us has faced these sorts of issues
many times in the course of our collecting and preservation. A book
publisher has little financial incentive to archive electronic versions
of old books. Someone else, some other business with different motives,
will need to do it.

A good friend of mine, a C-64 era author, wrote his C-64 books on an old
Atari system. He threw out the manuscript floppies a long time ago,
thinking no one would want them. Collectors have re-scanned his
works, I believe.

I'm a big fan of my state's "open records" laws. Yet they mandate
only preserving records for seven years. The law no doubt dates from
the practicalities of preserving massive amounts of paper. It hasn't
been updated for electronic records, which would be far easier to
preserve indefinitely. But my state's laws say that every document
(paper letter, email, etc.) created by an employee, elected or
appointed official is presumed to be a public record (within
the limits of a handful of allowed exceptions.)

Yet in reality, local government agencies can't even retrieve email
stored on previous versions of Windows Exchange servers, nor can they
read backups from older versions of Windows without reviving old
hardware and software.

In my own explorations of putting local government records on
my community web site, I discovered that the County had used a
8-inch-floppy-based word processing system to type the minutes
of its Board of Supervisors meetings. Once the seven years had
expired, and the bound book versions of the minutes had been
produced, no one saved the floppies. Dang! It would have been
intensely useful to have saved these minutes. I see an ever-growing
window of lost experience as electronic records are not preserved
and accessible.

There's not much use in cursing the short-sighted who destroy
the data. If you want to save it, Someone will need to step forward
to do so. You know all about "The Little Red Hen", right?

Enterprise-wide Google-like technology will be present and integral
in many organizations in the years to come. We'll only be able to
index what we've saved and kept in online storage.

To me, the upside of electronic record preservation is the
other side of the Orwellian sword. Just as Orwell never imagined
that people would voluntarily put view-screens in every room,
did he imagine that technology could be a way to keep an eye
on government?

- John
Received on Fri Nov 12 2004 - 14:42:35 GMT

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