I agree with all of that. Here's a useful list of audio formats, which is
probably not complete:
I think the "moving head" category which you put first is especially
vulnerable. In particular the ones that were used for recording early
digital audio--U-Matic, Beta, VHS and then DAT. It is almost impossible
now to find a good U-Matic player that works, or works right (I have been
thru this). And it takes a Beta or VHS machine with exactly the right set
of features to play back early PCM digital recordings, not just any old
Beta or VHS machine.
There are also some large analog tape cartridge formats that might have
valuable audio material recorded on them. The players for these must be
very scarce by now. Thankfully the common 8-track cartridges were not
widely used for recording, although somebody somewhere was probably dumb
enough to record valuable material on them.
One of my concerns about the big push to digitize large archives, which I
agree is an urgent goal, is that there will be a "get it done" mentality
that will compromise the standards essential for getting excellent digital
copies. And if no one actually listens to the results shortly after
digitization is done, which I also expect will happen frequently, the bad
copying errors (which as we know, are very easy to commit) will not be
discovered for years in the future.
I also believe in the number one rule of audio preservation--do NOT throw
out the original after it has been transferred. Audio digitization is not
an excuse to "make space" and clear out shelves by tossing out all the
original format materials, unless they are in such a state that they are
garbage after being transferred. I have a fear that many archives may
think that they are solving a space problem by digitizing their holdings.
We should do everything we can to discourage this kind of thinking.
Thanks for all those good thoughts, Richard.
On Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 1:47 PM, Richard L. Hess <[log in to unmask]>
> I am cross-posting this to all three ARSC lists to throw a wide net, but
> PLEASE let's continue the discussion on the main ARSClist.
> Remember Mike Casey's word at the ARSC conference, Degralescence?
> I think this inclusively describes what we are fighting. While thinking
> about degradation, please don't lose sight of the obsolescence of the
> playback machines which will cause some formats to "fail" before the media
> technically fails.
> I just made a post about some laboratory work that might be undertaken to
> further enhance our understanding of degradation processes. Looking at that
> long term, we need to project what we will still have in our untransferred
> heap'o'stuff by 2031 -- the 15 year window that was discussed.
> It seems that many repositories are ahead of us here in North America,
> based on the papers at the ARSC conference. A quick shout out to Australia
> and Belgium (among others) for jobs well done.
> So to aid in the selection of analytical processes to undertake, we need
> to understand what will remain untransferred after our current surge of
> transferring is complete.
> We cannot predicate broad generalities for the one-off oddball format. The
> biggest unknowns are related to what hoards of media will surface from
> private collectors/accumulators and those are the media we need to prepare
> to be able to transfer them for the long-term (>15 years).
> Alternatively, we need to pro-actively identify within our archives the
> most at-risk formats.
> Looking forward a decade and a half, I would like to make some broad and
> sweeping suggestions:
> Must be transferred within the next 15 years:
> Any format that has a moving head. Phew, that covers many. Consider:
> --essentially every video tape format ever commercialized
> --RDAT (DAT), ADAT, DTRS
> --some dictation formats
> --some voice logging systems, especially those based on DDS/DAT
> and VHS/8 mm video drives
> --many instrumentation/data tapes
> --Ampex FR-900 (2" Moonviews), DST (3/4"); Sony DIR (3/4")
> --Redwood SD-3, DTF, Sony SAIT (1/2")
> --Data8, Mammoth, Sony AIT, VXA (8 mm)
> --DDS (3.81 mm - Data DAT)
> Any format with known physical/chemical instability or are exceptionally
> difficult to reproduce
> --acetate grooved media
> --aluminum grooved media
> --some acetate reel tape
> --some cylinders
> A host of other less widely used formats, including
> --specialized cassette formats (3-, 4-, and 8-track)
> --many longitudinal cassette/cartridge formats in
> special shells on 0.125, 0.150, and 0.250-inch tape
> --all digital dedicated machines Sony DASH, Mitsubishi, etc.
> --minidisc (especially the later HiMD and the ones used in
> MD-based "porta studios")
> --longitudinal data, logging, and instrumentation formats
> Any optical media that we really want to keep
> --Laserdisc, Magneto-optical data discs, CD, DVD, Blue-Ray (BD)
> --SACD is at risk now due to lack of players
> So what does that leave us to transfer after 2031? I propose that the
> items which can be maintained the longest are open reel 1/4-inch audio tape
> machines, and equipment for playing grooved media that is not
> self-destructing (like acetates). I suspect that the ripping of CDs and
> DVDs (and possibly BDs) will continue past 2031, but there is currently a
> small, but measurable disc failure rate.
> I suspect also through sheer volume we will need to keep audio cassette
> playback alive past 2031, though that is fussier than open reel tape, and
> may be more difficult.
> Of course, others will pick other technologies and I fear that my
> conclusion may be affected by my personal biases and expertise, but I've
> tried to be objective looking at parts complexity and availability and
> current challenges.
> What do you think of this list? What else might we maintain capability of
> playing past 2031? What will we need to maintain past 2031?
> Comments to ARSCLIST please.
> Richard L. Hess email: [log in to unmask]
> Aurora, Ontario, Canada 647 479 2800
> Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.