30 April 2007

Digital is not forever

Sally Jacob's Practical Archivist blog provides down-to-earth great information. It is always on my must-read list.

Her newest postings include a pointer to a Varietyarticle, which stresses that digital, unlike a diamond, is NOT forever.

No more dyes to fade, no more film stocks to decay or catch fire. Just pristine digital data, preserved for all time, and release prints as clear and sharp as the images caught by the camera.

Just one problem: For long-term storage, digital is -- so far -- proving to be a time bomb, more permanent than sand painting but not much else.

Kind of scary - just when some of us have been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st digital century, we read this:

It's not that there's no way to store digital data. On the contrary, there are dozens of ways to store it, most of which go obsolete in just a few years. Remember 5" floppies and Zip disks?

And the disks that have stuck around? Not so reliable.

Data tapes are balky and can fall apart. Data DVDs and CDs have a history of "rotting" and can't be counted on to last as long as their commercially pressed cousins.

Says Sally, "The old school method of "store and ignore" simply doesn't work with digital. 40% of backup tapes have frames missing or corrupted after being stored for as little as 9 months."

Her solution: Transform digital intermediates into three-color separation negatives.

Other recent postings on her blog include practical advice on mold and how it can play havoc with photos, printing inscriptions on the backs of photographs, and tackling large-scale family photo projects.

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