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Impending digital dark age: Editor's Notes #203
January 31, 2016
Hello,

I just love the days when you come out of the archives
with half a dozen excellent descriptions
or poignant accounts of personal experiences.

--Anthony Beevor


In this issue:

1. The impending digital dark age
2. Tickled my funnybone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1. The impending digital dark age
"We are all a mouse-click and a bad hard drive away from complete disaster," says Dag Spicer of the Computer History Museum.

You may already be suffering from the impermanence of digital information. Can you, for instance, read the first things you wrote on a computer using the software and hardware you use today? Will someone be able to read it 20, 100, 500, or 1000 years from now? The life of most software is 5 years. Some companies make new versions able to read older versions, but how long will those companies last? Never mind the companies that do not make such allowances.

To access old data, one needs the original data (uncorrupted), access to the software that created the data, and hardware that can use the software.

Enter the cloud(s), entities run by for-profit companies. Spicer has two concerns about relying on them for archiving purposes. First, companies do not last forever. Second, the parent company has access to everything in the cloud.

Compare what we have now to the archives of ancient texts and more recently, photographs. We can read these very much as they were produced. If all our printed material is digital, what becomes of our cultural legacy?

Spicer is not alone in concern for our digital cultural legacy. Vint Cerf, VP at Google, is working on a solution he calls digital vellum. Of course, it belongs to Google. See above.

I cannot solve every problem the digital world has created along with its blessings. I do, however, inadvertently offer a small degree of security to my clients. Unless asked to delete projects, I save them on my own hard drive. One writer was thrilled that I had done so when her own hard drive crashed. Note that I do not guarantee my own hard drive(s) will not crash, so I do not charge anything for this extra layer of literary security. It's just a helpful thing I do for writers when I can.

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2.Tickled my funnybone
From a church bulletin:
A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

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3. Interesting Web site
Here is an archive of software you can use through your browser.
https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary

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4. Writing prompt
Look through some of your own photos, digital or otherwise. Choose one that interests you. Use your thoughts as a launching pad for some writing.

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