Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Preserving for Posterity

My brief mention of NASA’s small problem in having mislaid some 198 out of 200 tapes of the first moon landings and of the subsequent difficulties, if they ever find them, of still having the technology to play them, took another blow this morning.

One NASA official doubts that they will be in any fit state to be playable in any case when they are located. It seems the tape used will be unlikely to have weathered the years satisfactorily and will now be too brittle to ever be played.

And your collection of CD’s and DVD’s have a known problem in this respect after merely a few years. Not important, however, as the manufacturers will have conveniently discontinued the machines to play them on by this time! (It cost me a fortune to find the equipment to play my extensive collection of good old LP vinyls – which have a vastly superior sound to my ears than the emasculated noises out of CD’s.)

This does pose a very serious question concerning archival records. Since the abolition of the monasteries a few years ago, you may recall, there is a bit of a dearth of monks willing to spend their days recording matters for posterity in the style of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles or that of Mr. Bede. William the Conqueror’s ode to the tax man, The Domesday Survey, is still readable today, thanks to the efforts of his scribes. It is odd that, in view of the success of their technology, that NASA has failed to develop a comparable means for preserving history.

Just think, many years ago, Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase), sat down to write a letter to his beloved. He had the latest technology at his fingertips. A new pointed stick and the latest in clay tablets from MicroMud, He inscribed the first few words and a little clay figure jumped out. It said “I see you are writing a letter…….”

Abou, who didn’t like being told what to do, threw his new tablet away in disgust.

Many hundreds of years later, an archaeologist found it, still perfectly readable.

And he didn’t have to find a machine to read it with, either.


Post a Comment

<< Home