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#27457 - 11/19/13 11:47 AM What is the most durable medium?
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
A long time ago someone told me that CDs and DVDs would degrade and eventually become unplayable. My collections would be lost.

This was the format, if I recall, that was supposed to be so durable that, unlike vinyl, it would resist dust, fingerprints, scratches, and so on. You could even drop them.

Didn't turn out that way. If I have so much as a hair on a DVD, let alone the slightest scratch, particularly on a movie rental, the DVD will skip. Sometimes it skips even when the disc looks perfectly clean. I have found this to be the case with various players over the years. Occasionally I am supposed to "clean the laser lens" of each of my CD and DVD players. I have to keep the discs immaculate, handling them more delicately than any other format I have used. I'm not supposed to leave CDs in the car or play them in the car stereo during extreme heat or cold weather. Blank CDs burned on my Mac will not play on my Marantz CD player, which is supposed to be an audiophile brand.

Then you've got mp3s driving out CDs and vinyl. Ipods fail. Good news for Apple. For us, not so much. I remember VHS tapes breaking from overuse. Cassette tapes would tangle or snap. I never owned 8-tracks or reel-to-reel.

In my youth, I bought LPs that often turned out to be warped and unplayable. I had to ask the record-store salesman to open the LP and try it on his turntable before I purchased a new one. Amazing how often the salesman would open one, two, three new albums only to find that they were too warped to play and thus sell. I took care of my vinyl religiously, using D3 Discwasher solution and its dustpad before every play, storing them in static-free sleeves that a local, private record shop gave me for free. I played LPs on my Dad's Bang & Olufsen turntable that had an automatic tonearm. I pressed the button, the tonearm moved horizontally, read where the record was, then dropped the needle slowly onto the record. No chance of scratches.

I remember seeing my grandparents 78s, which I wish I had kept. But the ones I saw, though heavy, were fragile and broke easily.

Edison cylinders: http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/index.php

Hard drives die. Tape drives were popular some years ago. Floppies of various sizes, Zip disks, cartridges. And now ebooks threatening the end or diminishment of paper.

What do you think is the most durable medium or format? Not just for music. Anything. Archiving.

Stone tablets? Not practical today, but those cave painters & chiselers sure made their mark. Papyrus worked for centuries. You can buy all kinds of acid-free, archival paper, but I noticed that after several years the laser-printer ink on my college thesis, professionally bound in hardcover, had faded and smudged. Same with inkjet, pencil, and highlighters. A typewriter worked better because it pounded an impression onto the page. A fountain pen, so I've heard, scratches ink into the paper.

I can't help thinking that our history is being lost. How far can mankind extend itself, its information and knowledge into the future?

If you know of any books about this subject, archiving and so on, let me know. Related books I have read:

Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music by Greg Milner
Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia by Greg Benford
A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World by Basbanes
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History by Basbanes
The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs


Edited by deniro (11/19/13 11:59 AM)
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#27462 - 11/19/13 12:31 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
The Long Now Project is using engraved discs, about an inch across, made of a nickel alloy and etched with microscopic printing.

A silicon nitride/tungsten alloy can hypothetically preserve information for billions of years.
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#27469 - 11/19/13 02:38 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
alternaut Offline

Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Long time reliability of data media is a perennial problem, and without adding to the current options, I'd like to add that the problem extends to the associated hardware. With solutions coming and going, you don't just depend on the data carrier's reliabilty, but also on that of the reader/writer hardware, which eventually tends only to be available on the used goods market, if you're lucky.

All that said, I have a slightly more positive view of optical storage than you. Given good quality blanks, strictly following storage suggestions helps extend the life of burned discs. Once you start using discs all over the place, however, many if not most bets are off. Of course, the optical disc technology is nearing its end in its current form(s), and that means that you'll be looking for a successor option, and moving your important data there. It looks like that might keep on happening several times in a user's lifetime, at least for the foreseeable future. Welcome to the brave new world of digital storage!
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#27492 - 11/20/13 11:42 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
I linked my daughter, who's a book conservator, to your (She called it great!) post, and part of her response was that "The NEDCC - - Northeast Document Conservation Center - - has a lot of free material online to educate people about the fragilities and preservation needs of lots of media. They're book and paper specialists but they also deal with photographs and magnetic media, as well as digital media from the perspective of preservation digitization, which gets into some of the issues deniro raises. He may find this (from NEDCC) and this (from The Library of Congress) interesting.

'Since his reading list doesn't include leather, I'd add the 1905 Report of the Committee on Leather for Bookbinding (here), which is not a history book like the others but an assessment and call to action. This committee was constituted to address the problem of 19th century books degrading far more rapidly than older books due to the poor quality of leather that was being produced during that period and poor storage environments. Their recommendations informed bookbinding practice from that point forward, and were profoundly influential in the setting up of library preservation standards that are still followed today."


Edited by artie505 (11/20/13 11:48 PM)
Edit Reason: Fix link
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#27493 - 11/21/13 10:29 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: artie505]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Thanks very much for the links.
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#27494 - 11/21/13 01:01 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
You're welcome.

I hope you find them interesting, if not useful.
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#27517 - 11/22/13 08:02 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
And at the other extreme of data preservation, I've often thought about the Fahrenheit 451 approach and what the classics might sound like after having been "handed down" by word of mouth 10 or 20 times?

I wonder what John Cleese would do with the idea?

Anybody up to the task? laugh
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#27545 - 11/25/13 03:15 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: artie505]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: artie505
And at the other extreme of data preservation, I've often thought about the Fahrenheit 451 approach and what the classics might sound like after having been "handed down" by word of mouth 10 or 20 times?

I wonder what John Cleese would do with the idea?

Anybody up to the task? laugh

Pick up and read any Bible or Torah. Many of the books in the Pentateuch were handed down through oral tradition for millennia before writing was invented. Most of what is called the New or Greek testament was at least 80 to 100 years old before it was ever written down and it is highly unlikely those who wrote it down were alive at the time they were writing about.

Monty Pythons Flying Circus has done several sketches on the Bible and Bilblical stories.

Many major universities today have entire libraries dedicated to collecting oral stories and traditions, some dedicated to specific historical events such as WWII.
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#27551 - 11/26/13 10:52 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: joemikeb]
Ira L Offline


Registered: 08/13/09
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
Originally Posted By: artie505
And at the other extreme of data preservation, I've often thought about the Fahrenheit 451 approach and what the classics might sound like after having been "handed down" by word of mouth 10 or 20 times?

I wonder what John Cleese would do with the idea?

Anybody up to the task? laugh

Pick up and read any Bible or Torah. Many of the books in the Pentateuch were handed down through oral tradition for millennia before writing was invented. Most of what is called the New or Greek testament was at least 80 to 100 years old before it was ever written down and it is highly unlikely those who wrote it down were alive at the time they were writing about.

Monty Pythons Flying Circus has done several sketches on the Bible and Bilblical stories.

Many major universities today have entire libraries dedicated to collecting oral stories and traditions, some dedicated to specific historical events such as WWII.


Of course the problem with any oral tradition transitioning into a written one is that the concepts, beliefs, etc. then become "written in stone" (originally, this was literally the case most likely!). Changes are more difficult when the written word is present, and this may have resulted in the "commentary genre". At least with an oral tradition any commentary was done in the head of the presenter before being spoken and the recipients may never have known that they were receiving a modified version.

Which is preferable probably depends on what is presented and its consequences.
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#27555 - 11/26/13 03:54 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: Ira L]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: Ira L
this may have resulted in the "commentary genre". At least with an oral tradition any commentary was done in the head of the presenter before being spoken and the recipients may never have known that they were receiving a modified version.

Which is preferable probably depends on what is presented and its consequences.

In the ancient oral tradition the listeners heard the stories over and over again from the time they were small children and they knew the stories word for word as well as the story teller did. Tradition holds that any time the story teller would vary in the slightest from the last telling, the audience would immediately and vociferously correct him/her. This built in editorial board served to maintain a relatively high degree of consistency. In fact this is alluded to in Fahrenheit 451 in the way the "Book people" were learning their story and passing it along to the next generation.

Strangely enough, it was when things began to be written down and attempts were made to merge stories from different traditions that inconsistencies and contradictions began to creep in. Thus the two creation stories in the Biblical book of Genesis. One coming from the traditional stories of the sea peoples the other from the desert peoples' tradition. Even more contradictions and errors crept into the Biblical texts when written texts were copied by earnest monks, the majority of which could neither read nor write and merely copied what they saw on the page before them, fly specks and all.
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#27564 - 11/27/13 10:28 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: joemikeb]
Ira L Offline


Registered: 08/13/09
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: joemikeb
Even more contradictions and errors crept into the Biblical texts when written texts were copied by earnest monks, the majority of which could neither read nor write and merely copied what they saw on the page before them, fly specks and all.


Indeed it is those illiterate monks and their diligent copying ("fly specks and all") that are responsible for some of the mathematical symbols we use today; symbols that seem to have no relation to the concept in which they are used (two that come to mind are the percent sign % and the radical sign √), but that's a story for another day. smirk
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#31236 - 09/20/14 05:21 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: Ira L]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
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#31237 - 09/21/14 03:06 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
Remember that old saying? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Still, it's interesting. On the other hand, I'm at the age when I don't particularly care if my data outlives me. My main concern is that none of my wines outlive me. grin
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#31238 - 09/21/14 07:04 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: jchuzi]
grelber Offline


Registered: 08/05/09
Loc: North of 49th ||
I almost agree with you, Jon, but just think how appreciatively your survivors will fête your life with a glass or several of superb vintage supplied via your passing.
(When life/death gives you grapes, make wine.)
Salut. Cheers. Skaal. Skål. Na zdorovje. Prost. Egészségére.

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#31239 - 09/21/14 07:54 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: grelber]
jchuzi Online


Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: New York State
I'm reminded of an old gag about a man's passing. The lawyer read the will, which said, "Being of sound mind, I spent every dime that I had before I died." I'll extend that to the wine.
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#31244 - 09/21/14 04:58 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
tacit Offline


Registered: 08/03/09
Loc: Portland, Oregon, USA
The "Mdisk" idea is interesting, but I think it's a gimmick. It does no good to have a disk that can endure the ages if the reader and the file format are lost.

DVD drives are being replaced by Blu-Ray. As time goes on it will be harder and harder to find a DVD player any more, just as it's now all but impossible to find a VHS player. When the next storage device after Blu-Ray comes along, it will be hard to find Blu-Ray players. At that point, what good will a DVD Mdisk be? In 40 years, will there be a working DVD player left anywhere? What's the point of a disk that can last hundreds of years if the player for it can't be found?

I used to work at a shop that used magneto-optical discs for archiving. These things were supposedly extremely stable, able to store information for centuries. But they never really became popular, as they were quite slow. Pinnacle Micro made the drives we had. It stopped making the drives a long time ago. You can still occasionally find them on eBay...assuming you have a SCSI-equipped computer to connect them to! But those discs that could last for centuries and centuries? In ten or twenty years they'll still have data, sure...but so what?
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#31867 - 11/25/14 01:18 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: tacit]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
My sister recently asked me whether she should convert some of her videotapes to DVD. These are homemade tapes, not store-bought movies.

At first, I wasn't sure. It ought to be obvious. I advised that although DVDs fail, or so I've heard, they are still a more durable medium than videotape. Many years ago, I had videotapes of TV shows that would eventually rip from being played too often. I concluded they were a cheap, disposable medium, w/poor quality video.

I suggested she make multiple copies of each tape on DVD-Rs, possibly on archival Verbatim blanks, in case some of them fail down the road.

Any thoughts?
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#31868 - 11/25/14 01:25 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: tacit]
artie505 Online


Registered: 08/04/09
> It does no good to have a disk that can endure the ages if the reader and the file format are lost.

In one episode of Cowboy Bebop, somebody sent Faye a Betamax tape...say no more.
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#31869 - 11/25/14 01:25 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: tacit]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Quote:
DVD drives are being replaced by Blu-Ray. As time goes on it will be harder and harder to find a DVD player any more


Blue-Ray players can also play DVDs.
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#31872 - 11/25/14 02:25 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Offline
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Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Given that Apple elected not to support blue-ray, and optical drives of any sort are no longer standard equipment on Apple computers, it appears likely that blue-ray and optical media in general will go the way of reel to reel, 8-track, and cassette tapes within the foreseeable future. Today's trend for archival storage is moving to the cloud, and solid state media of one type or another. (Apple now markets "PCIE flash storage" and not solid state drives).

That is not just in computers either, my 2015 Volkswagen does not have an optical media drive, but it does have a SD Card slot for the entertainment system and another for the navigation system.
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#31875 - 11/25/14 04:57 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: joemikeb]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Hard to believe the cloud will ever replace local storage.
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#31877 - 11/25/14 06:49 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
alternaut Offline

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Registered: 08/04/09
Replacing may not be the best approach. As stated before, there isn't a single most durable medium for a reliable backup, as sooner or later each falls by the wayside. The trick is using several concurrent methods, while keeping abreast of obsolescence of both medium and reader. As such, and apart from issues like security and privacy, the cloud will work.
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#31884 - 11/26/14 08:06 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: alternaut]
deniro Offline


Registered: 09/09/09
Quote:
apart from issues like security and privacy


That's a big caveat. The cloud is less secure and reliable than an external drive hidden in a drawer.

My first post was intended to go beyond computer use.


Edited by deniro (11/26/14 08:07 AM)
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#31891 - 11/26/14 11:31 AM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
joemikeb Offline
Moderator

Registered: 08/04/09
Loc: Fort Worth, Texas
Originally Posted By: deniro
the cloud is less secure and reliable than an external drive hidden in a drawer.

In today's environment we tend to think of security solely in terms of malefactors but environmental factors must also be considered. Light (artificial or natural), oxidation, heat, humidity, fire, flood, and storm all have to be taken into account as part of data security and reliability. Many years ago the common recommendation for environmental security, included one copy in the computer, one copy on backup media such as a disk, and a third copy off premises in a bank safe deposit vault or preferably in a secure limestone cave. (The bank vault isn't that environmentally secure either, I have seen entire bank buildings, vault and all, ripped off of their foundations and scattered over two states by a tornado.)

The off premises element is virtually the only viable environmental security and there are companies that specialize in providing that kind of physical security — for a very nice price. Few users outside of major corporations have the data volume or value to make that kind of off premises storage economically or practically feasible. Thus the recent growth in cloud storage solutions. The "desk drawer" is among the solutions that are most vulnerable to environmental security considerations. Data breaches and theft make the headlines but environmental losses are equally if not more common. They just aren't glamorous enough to make the headlines and major data centers have adequate protection against environmental damage.
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#31892 - 11/26/14 12:51 PM Re: What is the most durable medium? [Re: deniro]
dianne Offline
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Registered: 08/04/09
deniro,

Originally Posted By: deniro
My sister recently asked me whether she should convert some of her videotapes to DVD. These are homemade tapes, not store-bought movies.


I recently converted family VHS tapes into .mp4 files using this device: Elgato Video Capture. H.264 is also available.

There are some reviews and demonstrations available on YouTube.

For me, the storage medium for those videos is now a hard drive, back ups, and iCloud.
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