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 

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
--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.