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Digital Memories

Nov 4, 2010 | Information Technology

I’ve just chucked out a box of floppies that I doggedly held onto despite not owning a PC with a floppy drive since 2006. I purchased my first floppy disc in 1988 ( a 5 1/4 inch true “floppy” ) and my first 3 1/2 inch floppy disc a year later. The floppy disc had good innings – it’s been popular in various incarnations for about 30 years.

Physical storage has always had been a transient thing in two ways:

  1. Sooner or later it physically wears out
  2. Sooner or later another medium comes along that is faster and can hold more information

We’ve seen the punched card, the floppy disc, the video tape, the DAT tape, and the vinyl record come and go. I still have a DAT tape of a studio recording my band did in 1994, but have no way of playing it. Many people are in the same predicament, having data of some sort stored on an obsolete medium without the requisite hardware to play it back.

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Matalyn

Now that audio, video and data are packaged in files that are not inextricably linked to a physical medium, we have entered a new data age where our data and memories will never become obsolete again. Think about it – an audio file on a DAT tape can only be played if you have a DAT player. Now think about MP3s – if somebody comes up with a better method of compressing audio which becomes the new dominant format, we’ll still be able to play back existing MP3 files. Even in 20 years time, if the nature of computers has changed, and we’re using fibre optic quantum computers, we’ll still be able to play those old MP3 files. The same goes for mpeg video,  jpeg images, and MS Office 2003 documents. It’s just data, stored in an arbitrary way – somebody somewhere will have written a codec or tranlation utility to allow you to access the data.

All you need to do is ensure that you backup adequately – digital data doesn’t really exist until you have at least two copies.

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