----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
> Which for me is my fundamental concern. Not only is it the question of
> refreshing files, but the concerns over being able to read files in the
> future. While it seems that these days, such concerns are handled on a
> regularized basis, is that a given?
> First there are the considerable costs for reformatting, then there are
> costs for maintaining the digital archives. It makes archives more subject
> to the systems people. While the current storage costs seem relatively
> nominal, and the innovations in storage technologies can often reduce the
> costs, I still wonder about the long term ramifications when we start
> building up substantially greater numbers of files done with higher
> resolution. While it doesn't seem practical to consider any other modality
> for storage, I just wonder what the future might hold.
> Any crystal ball gazers out there?
I'm not specifically knowledgeable in the area of sound files, but I would
estimate that any sound files which contain the actual digital values of the
signal representing the sound content (that is, one that could be used to
draw a bar graph of the bytes which would then resemble the waveform in
question) would either be readable or importable, with some additions of
headers and the like, by whatever sound-file programs the future may
hold. On the other hand, any files which require digital processing
(i.e. decompressing MP3 files and the like) would require either the
actual program used for this processing or the exact knowledge of
what it did and how to create a program which accomplished the same

For example, I have a large number of data files created in dBASE. Even
if, at some future date, there is no longer a copy of dBASE to be found,
the data is still accessible. A dBASE file, once stripped of its headers,
is the raw data, arranged in a random-access data structure. An MS Access
file, on the other hand, is virtually impossible to extract useful data

Depending on your definition of "long term," (years? decades? millennia?)
you might want to make sure that the necessary program(s), and possibly a
machine capable of running those programs, is preserved along with the
digital files...and, more importantly, if "long term" is beyond or even
close to the human life span, you also need instructions on how to
access the data! Imagine some 23rd century archivist who finds, in
a long-neglected closet, a stack of CD-R's...a Pentium PC...and no
instructions on how to operate the machine or even how to plug it
in (and into what?)!

Remember that the Etruscans left behind a wealth of inscribed stone
items...and no useful information, since no one knows head nor tail
of the Etruscan language or its script. Now, imagine our 23rd
century adventurer...who has just found a stack of shiny, spectrum-
reflecting discs (hmm-m-m...sacred ornaments?) and a complicated
device which must have served some related function (a portable
shrine to the same deity?)...but won't be aware the discs HOLD
information, let alone be able to access them

My thoughts...
Steven C. Barr