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ARSCLIST  January 2003

ARSCLIST January 2003

Subject:

Re: National Recording Registry

From:

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Reply-To:

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Date:

Wed, 29 Jan 2003 22:57:18 -0500

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text/plain (53 lines)

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Loughlin" <[log in to unmask]>
> It is the library's job to preserve and protect our cultural heritage. The
best way to preserve sound
> recordings is to convert them to cds and mp3 files and make them available
> on the internet. Anything else is living in the past.
I agree in part...in the sense that an archive of digital files should be
created. at
least as a current measure, as quickly as possible. However, I disagree on
this
as a long-term measure! See below...
> The LOC should be in the process of
> converting ALL of their cylinders to cds or mp3s instead of wasting time
and
> money on stupid lists like this.-m.l.
First, re the conversion to "CD's"...
1) There is no agreement (AFAIK) on the maximum "lifespan" of CD's or
CD-R's.
If it turns out that CD's gradually deteriorate (as has been suggested), we
could
wind up with millions of aurally useless (but rather attractive) plastoid
objects
down the road a piece (thanks, Mr. Bradley & Mr. Berry!)
2) The inherent difficulty with a CD on a VERY long term basis is that it
requires a specialized piece of equipment to play it...assuming the eventual
finder can identify it as an information-bearing device in the first place,
which
isn't obvious on first inspection. Imagine a visitor from planet
Hooflungdung
in the year 5249...how will he know this shiny object contains part of a
musical archive, and how can he figure out how to access the data?

and MP3's...
Same only more so! Not only does our hero have to figure out the
mysterious object contains information...he has to decode the contents
into something useful, which means he had better know the algorithms
involved! Worse yet, the result will be an approximation of the orginal...
which even those who created it admit is a compromise in favour of
reducing storage content. Something the same, in fact, as trying to
do jpeg's of the planet's great paintings and saving those, while
abandonong the originals to the elements. Besides which, consider
that we have evolved from the days when Bill Gates could pronounce
that personal computers would probably never need more than 1MB
of memory, with 640KB available for programs...to times when 512KB
is pretty well standard, and gigabytes can be had for a hundred bucks
or so. Is not compression likely to be a dead issue, as is storage, in the
not too distant future?

Finally...shellac, given even minimal attention to careful storage, seems
to be effectively eternal (albeit inefficient with respect to information
content/ft3 of space occupied)...
Steven C. Barr

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