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ARSCLIST  July 2007

ARSCLIST July 2007

Subject:

Re: "hard drive on a shelf"

From:

"Steven C. Barr(x)" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 22 Jul 2007 23:58:45 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (72 lines)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Don Cox" <[log in to unmask]>
> >> I think the most likely thing to fail on a hard drive long term is
> >> capacitors on the circuit board.
> >> 
> >> But more likely is that, when the drive is brought out of its
> >> cupboard
> >> 25 years later, there will be no equipment to connect it to and no
> >> operating system that can read the file format. Try getting data off
> >> a
> >> 25 year old cp/m drive today.
> >> 
1) Modern-day capacitors do not have anywhere near the failure rate as do
those we recall...especially if/when the devices in which they are included
are not in use! IIRC (and I may be wrong here...?) current electrolytic
units no longer allow evaporation of liquid electrolytes, but are as sealed
as are other capacitors. Further, the concept of caps "sealed" with a wax
coating is long since obsolete...!

2) Although programs, and their inherent file formats, have come and gone
over the years/decades...the basic format of information expressed in byte
and/or bit form still remains functionally the same! I may have to search
high and low for a 5.25" floppy drive (back when they were REALLY "floppy,"
eh...?!)...but once I find and install one, the ASCII content will be as
readable today as it was back in 1986 when I stored it...! Yes...program-
specific files CAN be unreadable without a working copy of <wotever>.exe,
but in many cases (dBASE and most vintage word-processing applications,
et al...) the data can still be recovered from the file contents.
Further, given the inherent restriction that each new generation of
digitalia MUST be able to use files created using the previous generation
(otherwise gazillions of machines and digital files are instantly rendered
useless...!), it seems unlikely that some 21st-century improvement in
computer technology will wipe out everything...including vast amounts
of stored information...that went before!

The CP/M example you cite actually refers to the VERY beginning of
personal computers and computation...and was a format which existed
for no more than a handful of years (although we inherited its 8.3
filename format...!). As well, didn't it also use the same ASCII
format for alphanumeric information?

Certainly, the bytes making up a program file would probably be
totally unintelligible to a modern Wintel machine...just as are/were
the bytes making up a Mac program. In fact, I'm not sure if it would
be possible to create an application which could translate non-Wintel
programmatic data into its Wintel equivalent (interesting thought,
though...?!).

So...saved alphanumeric data will probably posess near-infinite
readability. Digital sound files may or may not (although the question
arises what sorts of new and different format will replace the CD and/or
DVD without leaving a trace of its predecessors...?!) And...digital
image files are even more likely to be struck "obsolete" in one fell
swoop, since their digital content is NOT easily interpretable with
respect to the pixels involved (again, I may be in error...?!).

However...on the first floor I have an IBM PS-1 machine, with an
Intel 486SX processor, c. 1991! It works fine...as do the various
programs stored on its hard drive. Further, it is likely to continue
"working fine" until either lightning strikes the hydro wires in
my neighbourhood, or my house unexpectedly bursts into flames, or
either Al Qaeda or Chairman Putin (or the current government of
the Maldive Islands...or Hell's Angels...or the Sopranos...or...)
organizes the nuclear/biological/chemical/wotever destruction of
Durham Region and Vicinity...

However...in a new interpretation of "Note the notes"...in any such
crisis it is very likely that all my hand-taken, ink-on-paper "notes"
would be reduced to illegible ash in a literal "flash"...?!

Steven C. Barr

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