With the advent of CDR and CDRW drives, floppy disks have been rendered
virtually redundant -- in fact I see that some vendors in the USA are
now offering the floppy drive as an option rather than standard
equipment (let's hope those PCs can boot from their CD drive if something
the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook
are revealed for all to see!
So the death of the 1.44MB floppy is probably just a year or so away
and it will soon join the ranks of the 5.25" and 8" floppy disks that
came before it.
In fact, one of the most striking things about the digital revolution
we've experienced over the past 15-20 years is the pace at which storage
formats have become outdated.
Hands up all those who remember vinyl records -- or (gasp!) even 8-track tape
What about the once ubiquitous compact audio cassette tape? Even these are
on the way out -- having first been relegated to the Walkman market
where MiniDisk and memory-stick based MP3 players are already becoming the
preferred option for many consumers.
Even the good old CD is under threat from Super-CD and DVD formats
-- driven as much by the recording industry's need to introduce viable copy-protection
as anything else.
But hang on a minute are we perhaps running the risk of losing important
parts of our history as we continue jumping to newer, ever-better methods
of storing our data?
I have books that are over 100 years old on my shelves and they're every
bit as legible and useful today as they were when first printed -- but I also
have 8" floppy disks on which I stored data just 15 years ago and now
there's just no way I can read them.
Likewise I have the full collection of Beatles albums -- but they're on
vinyl so they won't play on my stereo or 3-in-1 unit :-(
So what's going to happen to the stuff I've currently got stored on 1.44MB
floppies or on my Zip-disks?
And, thinking just four or five years further down the track -- what about
the stuff I've got on CD/CDR/CDRW? My Kodak Gold CDR disks are supposedly
able to store data for up to 100 years -- but where on earth am I going to find
a CDROM drive in 2101?
Constantly converting this information to new media as we keep switching and
changing is an onerous task -- and one which will likely discourage many
people from doing so.
The worrying thing is that it means that we're probably going to lose a huge amount of
really valuable and important historical information as a result of this
In a hundred year's time, will people look back in sorrow at the big hole
which is already forming in our digital records? I hope not.
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