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Dangers of Digitalization
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Ted Rall writes about the dangers to our heritage of digitalization. See Cultural Suicide via Digitalization .

Without discussion or debate humanity has committed itself to the wholesale digitalization of its collective cultural and historical information base. Music, movies, manuscripts, everything from letters between presidents to merchants' financial transactions are currently created and stored in strictly digital form--a development that fulfills George Orwell's prophecy that history would become mutable, now with a few keystrokes. Even more terrifying than the likelihood that the digitalization of history will be abused in the service of tyranny is the certainty that we are setting the stage for the greatest loss of knowledge since the destruction of the Royal Library at Alexandria.

The article provides an interesting summary of the ways digital data is lost, both through degradation and technological obsolesence.

Whether the data I saved to 5 1/4 inch floppies when I got my first Apple is still readable is impossible to say because I don't have the hardware or software to try to read it. Not that I recall there being anything I'd like to retrieve. Perhaps the box score for Ryne Duren's no-hitter against the 1964 Cleveland Indians in a memorable Strat-O-Matic baseball game. Or my saved position from my feeble attempt at the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy computer text adventure. Nothing I wrote then would be of any use to me today.

I'm not sure I agree with Rall's suggestion that paper is still the best solution. What is wanted, I think, is to keep updating to viable media. Granted, it would be impossible to continually save to newer formats more than a tiny fraction of data, but it would be possible to save more that way than by reducing it to paper.

Years ago, for instance, my brother had a videotape made of some old family Super Eight movies. Mary had untangled a rat's nest of film we discovered in a shoe box in the attic and painstakingly rolled it back unto reels. In between endless stop motion animation and shots of the family dog were preserved a few minutes of my grandmother and other relatives.

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