At 11:12 PM 5/7/2004 -0500, Konrad Strauss wrote:
>But do analog copies really make sense anymore? It is a dying format, most
>tape manufacturers are phasing out their analog tape lines, the same is true
>for tape machines. 2 questions come to mind: what guarantee do we have
>that present-day tape formulations are robust, and second, what are we to
>play these tapes on 40 years hence?
I agree--however, several of my clients don't agree, and they're willing to
We have no guarantee that the present-day formulations are robust, but the
fact that Emtec is a direct descendent of I.G. Farben which made the early
1940s vintage tape that Jack Mullin brought over from Germany in 1945, had
a little to do with my decision to use their tape--that and the fact that
at least the BASF side reportedly has never had a case of binder breakdown
(I believe Agfa cannot make that claim).
People argue that it should be intuitively obvious and easy to make a tape
player in some future time. I argue that it took very intelligent folks at
Ampex and Studer (and other places) to arrive at high-performance tape
machines. I don't think that will be as easily reproduced--especially when
the size, fit, finish, and materials are no longer commonplace.
Just trying to secure a supply of good (but relatively inexpensive) heads
to last me the next 30 years for my tape restoration business that I plan
to keep me busy through retirement (which won't be for a decade or so
anyway) is difficult, although I've had some success.
I probably won't be very active in this in 40 years, and I'm one of the
younger people in the business of playing tapes--and I must thank many of
the people of the generation before me who have "adopted" me and helped me
learn many of the "secrets" of analog tape. I am very grateful to them.
It's a good question with an unsettling answer, Konrad. But, on the other
hand, the thought of maintaining data over 40 years also scares many. The
problem that I see is that we need to change our mindset from "put it on
the shelf and forget about it" to "it's worth saving, so we'll need to have
it in the heap of files that we deem worth saving and will have to actively
manage it through multiple format changes."
By the way, I believe that although the timescale varies, most archives
that take the "put it on the shelf and forget about it" are just postponing
the problems one or several generations. Obviously, stone tablets won't
require major preservation reformatting for centuries (unless they're
limestone subjected to smog). But short of platinum discs of your
religion's founder's voice and stone tablets, it is only a few generations
for most media. Some books on parchment have lasted exceedingly well--and
approach the stone tablet class, albeit more fragile.
Many cite film as extremely long lasting, but there have been some false
starts there as well.