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BRITARCH  March 2003

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Subject:

Re: Digital cameras

From:

Webmaster <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 18 Mar 2003 13:43:54 -0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (71 lines)

"The main problem with digital data as the primary archive is that of
future-proofing. Just because JPEGs etc are the accepted standard today,
doesn't mean that they always will be. Even the storage medium (generally
CD-ROM) cannot be taken as a 'standard'. After all how many people today
have the ability to read 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, a format that was in use
right up to the end of the 80s? Or use quirky DOS programmes with Windows
XP? Bearing in mind that that is only 15 years or so (and even less for
DOS), imagine the situation in 100 years time. Our ability to study to old
photographs is entirely down to the fact that they exist in a 'real' form,
and when stored carefully will survive for a long time."

I think we need to distinguish between storage medium and data format.

Data can easily move from one storage medium to another, this allows us to
move to increasingly higher capacity data storage media without the need to
worry about changing the data format to suite the new storage medium.

Similarly, it is the storage medium that affects the long term storage of
the data, not the data format itself, which has an indefinite ability to
retain the information.

Most businesses, have an archiving environment that ensures that the
hardware required to access the archive material is held for as long as the
archive is required. Should new technology come along that provides a
significant advantage, then the archives are moved to that technology.
Similarly, the means to access the data formats held in archives needs to be
maintained along with the archive.

So if all records are stored in JPEG format and the software used to read
the archives removes support for this standard, then the archive should
migrate all JPEG images to an format that is accessible (or, as is often the
case, special computers with the ability to read the archive data structure
are maintained with the archive).

The question of the longevity of the medium used to store data is largely
irrelevant, I have data which was originally written on 8 inch floppies and
has steadily been moved onto newer storage materials over time, now they are
stored on CD, which will be around for a significant amount of time (DVD's
of course can read CD format). An odd feature of computer archives is that
the cost of maintaining existing archives by transferring to new
medium/format is largely met by the reduction in space that results from
moving to new storage devices.

It is important for all people storing data that will need to be accessed by
a common audience to agree and stick to data storage standards, for example,
archive images in TIFF format, output documents in JPEG format. Otherwise a
large and unnecessary cost will be transferred to users of the archives as
they struggle to find software that supports all the file formats used. (I
have four software packages that I use, simply to be able to read all the
images that I see).

There is less need for us to use similar storage devices or technologies, as
long as it can be read, it matters little to the reader is the data is held
on hard disk, optical disk or even floppy disk - the norm is to provide
access via network, which is a transparent means of transferring
information.

In terms of computer printout life, the insurance industry has done a lot of
work on this, and most have decided that the life of the printout is so
unreliable (thermal images may only last weeks, for example) and have moved
to a system where every document is scanned and stored digitally, for
example, Legal and General moved to scanning all customer documents about 6
years ago. They still hold onto the printed documents, but typically for
legal reasons only and there is increasing pressure to remove the
requirement for paper archives altogether.


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