I’m not much of an archivist, but lately have realized I need some semi-organized way to save various computer files that I want to keep around. Unlike the Olden Daze when we just had to file a piece of paper in a file cabinet, now we have to come up with our own mental file cabinets as well.
Plus, in reviewing all this stuff, there are all the various formats…..pdf, Office 95, Wordperfect, Office 2010 which only grudgingly opens anything prior. I got to thinking about what I had read in Clifford Stoll’s book “Silicon Snake Oil”
When he was working as an astronomer, one of the early interplanetary probes went out ( I forget which one). It was destined to pass near a planet (I forget which one) and send back scientific data that had never been collected before. Due to the importance of this data, they decided that since they would have only once chance at capture, they would record it on every media available at the time ( I think this was in the 70’s). From paper tape, to magnetic tape, wire reel, early computer disk, etc.
That data all sits in a warehouse in Arizona now, and no machines are capable of reading it. I’m sure it has been transcribed to other modern media, but the point is that all the companies that made the machines that read those formats are gone now.
Makes you think about the next 20 or so years. Microsoft Word doesn’t even want to play nice with previous versions of itself. Everyone is going to tablets and other devices, will Adobe hang in there?
Someday some scholar studying life in the late 20th and early 21st century will thank me. I’m saving everything as a .txt file.
If they can’t open that, our history will be a blank slate.
Maybe I’ll just write everything on a cave wall. That seems to hold up. Which makes me wonder – what if all that survives is our graffiti?