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Digitisation Nightmare

22 Dec 10 - 08:38 PM (#3059704)
Subject: Digitisation Nightmare
From: GUEST,Chris B.

News:comp.risks - Risks Digest 26.25

Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 00:25:16 -0700
Subject: File Not Found: The Record Industry's Digital Storage Crisis

Vinyl and analog tapes last forever, but hard drives fail and digital
formats change, 7 Dec 2010

Last year, the Beggars Banquet label unearthed the multitrack master
recordings of the Cult's classic 1985 album, Love, for a planned deluxe edition. The LP was an early digital recording, and to the label's shock, one master was unplayable; the other contained only 80 percent of the album. "That's the problem with digital," says Steve Webbon, head archivist of the Beggars Group. "When it goes, it's just blank. It's gone."

Welcome to the digital nightmare...


22 Dec 10 - 09:51 PM (#3059738)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: GUEST,Russ

It sucks to learn a lesson the hard way.

Russ (Permanent GUEST)

22 Dec 10 - 10:04 PM (#3059739)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: Hollowfox

I wish analog tapes did last forever, but they get old and brittle. $#@!

22 Dec 10 - 10:11 PM (#3059741)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: michaelr

You can't beat entropy. It's the most powerful force in the universe. NOTHING lasts forever. Might as well get used to it.

23 Dec 10 - 04:41 AM (#3059856)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: GUEST,Ray

Life is only temporary!

23 Dec 10 - 06:33 AM (#3059893)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare


The Record Industry's Digital Storage Crisis - 2010/12/07

23 Dec 10 - 07:05 AM (#3059911)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: GUEST,Chris B

The BBC's Domesday Project is a case in point. It was based on the BBC Micro and data was stored onto 12-inch digital laser disks. The data consisted of articles, photos, video clips, etc., gathered and submitted by school children about their local communities and lives. But then the technology all changed. The disks - what remains of them - are now unreadable. Various University salvage projects have foundered. The entire project has now disappeared without trace, as has the Project's various web sites.

23 Dec 10 - 07:07 AM (#3059912)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: DMcG

Losing recordings of music is one thing, but we are heading that way with everything. We can read (at least at the alphabetic level) documents from 3000BC up to around 1970 with comparative ease and in terms of images much further back than that. I wonder how much of our modern stuff will be decipherable in 5000 years?

23 Dec 10 - 09:26 AM (#3059993)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: Cllr

Well with unaccompanied songs i have an idea, why not listen to the music and then perform it ourselves so others can hear it and pass it on for future generations. I know its not perfect but it could just work.

23 Dec 10 - 01:03 PM (#3060128)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: Trapper

Cllr, that's just crazy talk! ;-D

23 Dec 10 - 03:59 PM (#3060244)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: michaelr

It may also be a good idea to go back to chiseling texts we deem important for posterity into rock faces. For one thing, it's so much work that all the drivel flying around us today would be self-censored out!

24 Dec 10 - 08:46 AM (#3060620)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: JohnInKansas

It's quite an overstatement to claim that vinyl recordings last forever. My granddaddy had a number of old cylinder records that were nearly all hard plastic (near vinyl) rather than wax but dating back to include "live" recordings of Teddy Roosevelt, and when I went through some of them - with his original machine, his comment was "they're about gone now. They sounded a lot better when they were new."

Vinyl LPs that I had collected ca. 1960, stored in pretty benign conditions, were mostly "a lot different" than original when I transferred some to tape in the mid '70s, and about half were nearly unplayable by about 1985 - to the point that I considered them "not worth re-taping."

The "digital masters" cited in the first post could have been made by any of several methods that were tried out in the earliest "digital mastering" period, and without knowing the exact method used on the original and the methods used in the attempt to recover them, it's impossible to say that "it's all gone." Loss of a few bits might make it impossible for the original equipment to read them, but no indication is offered whether more advanced recovery methods and equipment were attempted.

We can read (at least at the alphabetic level) documents from 3000BC up to around 1970 with comparative ease and in terms of images much further back than that. ?? Some truth here, but we can only read the small percentage that survived, and it must be assumed that the vast majority of "writings" are completely unknown, even as to whether they ever existed.

While we can "see some images" it's likely that most from the earliest times probably are "invisible" to us now, and it's only in very recent times that chromatographic tests of "blank rocks" have revealed concrete (no pun) evidence of others that we can partially recreate in some cases. Even the "great sculptures of Greece and Rome" have been subject to much recent discussion about whether we see them as they were intended, and in some cases it's been shown that they were mostly "colored" by the makers, although we've only seen the "pale colorless ghosts" (the words of one researcher) of them. Most people have just assumed that they were all intended to be "pure white marble," but most of them probably weren't - although they might have been.

Even the "great Sphynx" didn't look the same when it was built as we now see it, in part because some of it is gone due to unfortunate choice of materials but also because we know very little of the original surrounding environs and can't feasibly recreate them even to the extent that they are (some think) known.


24 Dec 10 - 09:19 AM (#3060638)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: DMcG

Quite true, JiK. Only a small percentage of what ever was has survived, and most of that has considerable decay/delapidation or alteration. That's true of writing and images as much as anything else. But the big problem with digital storage as we understand it is that because of changes to formats, and so forth, it (currently) needs to be 'actively maintained' by transferring video tapes to CDs, Wordperfect to Word, etc etc in order to keep it accessible. As far as I know, that was not essential until the photographic/digital age. (Of course, copies were often taken for other reasons before then) Even with photographs, while the early systems (grass plates, film materials and so forth) certainly fade, they do so over a comparatively long period. Our very limited experience is that digitally based items can become inaccessible much faster, as in the BBC's Domesday project.

24 Dec 10 - 09:22 AM (#3060640)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: DMcG

Glass plates, not grass plates! I don't think grass plates would survive at all well.

24 Dec 10 - 10:16 AM (#3060668)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: Greg F.

Except that magnetic audio tapes last a good deal longer than 25 years.

Gonna be the same thing with digital photos- unlike the photo archives from the Covil War, WWI, etc. a hundred years from now there won't be much of a photographic record of the 21st Century- except, of course, for the few photos taken with film.

The rush to digitize library/archive/museum collections will also prove to be misguided for the same reason.

But you can't convilce the Technology Worshippers.

24 Dec 10 - 05:26 PM (#3060859)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: JohnInKansas

Many of the things that we'd like to preserve can't readily be digitized, so we can only save a picture of a great monument or of most "works of art" digitally.

One of the methods of saving something is by replication - making an exact (as nearly as possible) copy that's in "newer condition" than the original. While it's always(?) a good idea to have the original, many museums now keep the originals sequestered in warehouses while the displayed items are actually (we hope accurate) copies. In some cases the original is simply too fragile - or too valuable - to be exhibited, but often it's because the original isn't in good enough shape to "show well." Often the "original" now provides less knowledge than the copy made at "first acquisition," since having something in possession doesn't necessarily stop its deterioration.

Making an "in kind" copy of artifacts is an extremely time consuming process, and in most cases requires the skills of artisans who are rare. A "restoration" is little other than a "copy of what's missing," and is so frequently done that there's little reason to argue with "replication" as a means of preservating at least the understanding (perhaps call it the "presence"?) of the original.

What we can digitize are the visual representations (pictures) of the "object," and the documentation of the plans and methods used in the creation, along with details of the participants who helped.

To the extent that the digital copy is adequate to be worth making, additional digital copies of the original digitization can be identical and indestinguishable from the first one. One of the best ways to have hope that some will survive is to have many.

An essential part of assuring that the replicas of an original will be preserved is assuring that the methods used to make them are recorded and are preserved.

The successful preservation (and where necessary restoration) of pen and ink artifacts requires a fairly detailed knowledge of the paper, inks, and instruments used, in addition to the language and customs (for interpreting colloquialisms) of the original writers.

There should be no problem with reading obsolete digital records if we know the "languages" in which they were recorded - and if someone thinks it's worthwhile to replicate the obsolete methods. And a proper archiving of a few copies of the "master" digital record should permit filling in the gaps even if a few bits do get obliterated.

Unfortunately lots of the "digital methods" used in the past have been deemed too "proprietary" to have been recorded where anyone but the (now dead) original users could know and preserve the details. That weakness appears likely to continue to be propogated to future archivists, but it's really not much different in kind than the "secrets of Leonardo" or of the secret sects (if such existed?) of the writers of the dead sea scrolls.

Changing the methods doesn't change the fallibility of the poeple who use them - apparently.


24 Dec 10 - 05:41 PM (#3060865)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: GUEST,Chris B.

The changing format syndrome hit me recently. My Sony Walkman CD player has packed up - actually it wont recharge any more - and it only has a rechargeable battery which cannot be replaced. So I tried to find a replacement. I thought the 'duty free' electronic outlets in Heathrow Terminal 5 might have CD players. But no - not one was available in Dixons, HMV or W.H.Smith. They sold blank and pre-recorded disks, but not players. I have also tried in the High Street - but again there are none. Well there was one Sony version at £60 - and this was outside my price range - and anyway did not play audio disks with MP3 files on. I did try Amazon but whilst they a single make Colby CD player that met my specs and price they failed to deliver it and refunded the money paid. So it seems that CD players ARE RAPIDLY ON THE WAY OUT. Not good news for all you folkies recording and trying to sell CDs!!

24 Dec 10 - 06:18 PM (#3060879)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: Gurney

I was looking on Amazon, and I noticed, as Chris B. above says, some artists are only selling MP3 files. (By the way, Chris, DVD players also play CDs. That's what I'm using. No multichangers, though.)
This is very good news for unaccompanied singers and those whose chosen instruments are in the normal human voice range. To my ear, they seem unchanged in MP3 format.
Sorry about the piccolos and double basses.

24 Dec 10 - 06:22 PM (#3060881)
Subject: RE: Digitisation Nightmare
From: Gurney

Oh, and my self-recorded cassette tapes are becoming dreadful, some of them. Not too bad with the professionally recorded ones, so far, but I think that they are going sour, too.