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Avoiding a Digital Dark Age 287

Posted by kdawson
from the you-must-remember-this dept.
al0ha writes to recommend a worthwhile piece up at American Scientist on the problems of archiving and data preservation in an age where all data are stored digitally. "It seems unavoidable that most of the data in our future will be digital, so it behooves us to understand how to manage and preserve digital data so we can avoid what some have called the 'digital dark age.' This is the idea — or fear! — that if we cannot learn to explicitly save our digital data, we will lose that data and, with it, the record that future generations might use to remember and understand us. ... Unlike the many venerable institutions that have for centuries refined their techniques for preserving analog data on clay, stone, ceramic or paper, we have no corresponding reservoir of historical wisdom to teach us how to save our digital data. That does not mean there is nothing to learn from the past, only that we must work a little harder to find it."
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Avoiding a Digital Dark Age

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  • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@D ... com minus painte> on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:41PM (#31253444) Journal
    We can scan in the surface pits of the laser disk at high-enough resolution to decrypt the bit patterns - we no longer need the original readers.
  • by lennier (44736) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:51PM (#31253562) Homepage

    Perhaps because others were doing it. A number of independent projects tried to back up Geocities, and may have between them recovered most of the data.

    * http://geociti.es/ [geociti.es]
    * http://reocities.com/ [reocities.com]
    * http://www.archiveteam.org/ [archiveteam.org]

  • Re:Won't matter (Score:3, Informative)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:56PM (#31253616) Homepage Journal

    newspaper buried in a landfill will easily outlast unmaintained digital data. I'll send you some 8" floppies if you don't believe me.

  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:57PM (#31253640)
    Probably the most significant texts to undergo this process were Ptolemy's Almagest and Euclid's Elements; both had been lost to Western Europe, and were thus translated in the Middle Ages to Latin from Arabic by Gerard of Cremona and Adelard of Bath, respectively. I believe in both cases the original Greek texts were eventually recovered by the West used for later direct translations, but for a while Western Europe knew Hipparkhos/Hipparchus as "Abrachir."
  • by Ltap (1572175) on Tuesday February 23, 2010 @08:59PM (#31253654) Homepage
    The problem is that very few identifiably Greek writings survive. In ancient times, copying was a bit like playing telephone - writing at the time was very politicized, so scribes would often alter works while copying them, mostly to give a local slant or simply changing the names. This makes it frustrating to trace things like legends (see: Noah's Ark/Epic of Gilgamesh and its infinite variations with every other culture that existed nearby). A lot of Greek and Roman writings are now quite simply lost for good, but almost certainly inspired works that aren't lost. For instance, the Odyssey and the Iliad were originally just two parts of the epic story of Troy (out of, AFAIK, four or five parts in total), and the set of works that we derive most of our knowledge of Rome from, Ab Urbe Conditum, are only partially preserved - it was a set that chronicled the history of Rome from its founding to when they volumes stopped being produced, and there were hundreds, enough to fill entire libraries. It was only in the Renaissance that anyone tried to assemble a collection, and we've only been able to come up with about 30 - if we had the full set, we would know a great deal more about Rome than we do now.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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