I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Preserving Paper and Electronic Files

We live in a world of constant change. I was reminded of that again the other day when I went to my basement to look for something. I opened a box and saw some old zip drive disks that my dad used to back up his documents. Zip drives were all the rage in the late 90s. In fact, I remember going to a big box electronic store during that time period and calling my dad from the store to ask him what he thought about the price of the zip drive they had on sale.

At his suggestion, I bought it and finally felt like I’d thrown off the limitations of floppy disks that could only store 1.4 MB of information (I take pictures today that are that size). Yeah, I could have been burning things to CD, but I hated the permanency and I hated the process. My new zip drive was cumbersome to take on the road when I traveled, but I did it any way. It did what I wanted it to do. Then along came thumb drives and made zip drives unnecessary and obsolete. Then external hard drives began to shrink in size and price and suddenly, we had a couple of options. Then on-line encrypted storage became affordable and I started using that.

All of these changes took place in the past ten years and I’ve embraced all of them because each one made things a little easier. It is a little disconcerting though to know that the medium we are using today will be at the bottom of a cardboard box in two years. It’s not disconcerting because for sentimental reasons, but instead for content reasons. In previous generations, old journals and letters stood the test of time because paper was the standard medium. How will an electronic journal on an old thumb drive at the bottom of a cardboard box stand the test of time? Will the data still be retrievable in 80 years? Would that generation even have the capability of retrieving the data—even if they knew what they had found?

Paper seems to be the answer, which is hilarious if you think about it. But it’s not the only answer because paper doesn’t survive fires, and spills, and moves. It seems to me that we need to print more of the personal documents we create and then find a way to preserve what we’ve printed, but we also need to store the original files electronically so that more copies can be made if necessary. And with each change in electronic storage, we need to transfer the files.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...