Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Technology

1086 Domesday Book Outlives 1986 Electronic Rival 419

Posted by timothy
from the word-to-the-printed-word dept.
mccalli writes :"Thought people might find this amusing. In 1986, the UK compiled an electronic domesday book. They used BBC Master computers to do it, and the result was put on laserdisc. I actually used this project whilst at school. This article states that nothing can now read these merely 15-year old discs. The original, written approx. 1086, is still doing fine thank you very much." Sounds like a good candidate for Bruce Sterling's Dead Media Project. (Speaking of Sterling, the "graying cyberpunk" has an interesting article in the Austin Chronicle on the upcoming SXSW Interactive conference called "Information Wants to be Worthless" -- thanks to reader ag3n7.) Update: 03/03 19:38 GMT by T : That's "domesday" not "doomsday."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

1086 Domesday Book Outlives 1986 Electronic Rival

Comments Filter:
  • Doomsday? DOMESDAY (Score:3, Informative)

    by SplendidIsolatn (468434) <splendidisolatn@NOsPaM.yahoo.com> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:20PM (#3101940)
    Domesday, not doomsday...BIG difference. Domesday compiled basically a census of 'who's who' in England. Doomsday means we all go boom or something. That's sort of an important thing to get right.
    • by Peyna (14792)
      Yeah, this is first time editor mistakes have really mislead me, since it was something I was unaware of. Most of the time if they make a mistake, I know what is going on, and can shrug it off.

      I wonder would happen to a newspaper editor that let one blatant error slide each day?

      • by JabberWokky (19442)
        I wonder would happen to a newspaper editor that let one blatant error slide each day?

        You don't read the paper often, do you? Hell, both AP and Reuters kept referring to the anthrax virus - something that I have never heard of despite many years of microbiology. The anthrax bacteria, yes... but a virus? Wow.

        --
        Evan

        • Actually, according to this [the-scientist.com], the labelling of it as a 'virus' was started by a government spokesperson, whom much of the media followed.

          That is more a case of unfamiliarity with the subject. You would think that when you are dealing with a specific news area, the people posting the articles should have the sense to know what is what, or at least the ability to research it.

          • That is more a case of unfamiliarity with the subject.

            Okay, and...

            You would think that when you are dealing with a specific news area, the people posting the articles should have the sense to know what is what, or at least the ability to research it.

            So in other words, this instance was a case of unfamiliarity with the subject.

            --
            Evan

    • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:51PM (#3102060) Homepage
      Actually, "Domesday" IS an old spelling of "Doomsday" (and the book was also referred to as Domesdei). It referred to the fact that the census was both unavoidable (EVERYONE was examined), and a final verdict--in other words, if the Domesday book said that Hugh de Montfort owned the castle at Saltwood (which, if anyone cares, he did), then he had the full weight of the law behind him. Any brothers or cousins who came forth to dispute that would, in theory, be ignored.

      The humor of the title probably wasn't appreciated by many of the people chronicled in it, as the study was carried out on the orders of William I, who had just conquered them. It was, in many ways, an inventory of what he had just gained by beating the Saxons and taking their lands.
      • by Zachary Kessin (1372) <zkessin@gmail.com> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @05:45PM (#3102493) Homepage Journal
        Infact it did mean day of judgement, just not by G-d but by the King and his tax collectors. William the Bastard (AKA William of Normandy) had just taken over England, and he wanted to know what he had and more importantly how much it should pay in taxes. It historicly a very interesting document, and you probably can find large parts of it on the web. In both the original Latin and in Modern English.
      • by screwballicus (313964) on Monday March 04, 2002 @05:08AM (#3104540)
        This is getting more than a little nitpicky, I know, but here's the authoritative version:

        Mitchell and Robinson's A Guide to Old English [amazon.com] glosses 'dom' as 'judgment' and 'dæg' as 'day' ('dæg' being just the pre-invasion West Saxon spelling of 'day'). '-es' in 'domes' is just the genetive singular inflection for masculine nouns. So "Judgment's Day" is the closest you'll get. 'Domdæg' is actually the original (10th century West Saxon) Old English term, literally translating as "judgment day", in the Mitchell and Robinson text.

        A caveat: Because the word 'Domesday' was written post-invasion, it's technically Middle English, but comes directly on the heals of the Old English period and so has more to do with King Ælfred's language than Chaucer's.
    • Domesday compiled basically a census of 'who's who' in England. Doomsday means we all go boom or something.

      It's just an archaic spelling of the same word, though I guess it's a fair point that some non-British readers may not have heard of the Domesday Book. The name was a deliberate allusion to the census as something akin to the final judgement that was supposed to follow the second coming of the messiah.

  • I took part in this. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by palfreman (164768) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:23PM (#3101951) Homepage
    I was about 10 at the time, and myself and about 3 schoolfriends survayed places like Westmarsh in Grimsby, Lincolnshire. It was quite goog really. I think it was organsied by the childrens TV programme "Blue Peter" or something. Obviously a waste of time retrospect, but still fun for a ten year old.
  • Should have used (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jsimon12 (207119) <tzzhc4 AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:23PM (#3101952) Homepage
    They should have used microdots or long lived microfilm, or really anything other then electronic media. For longevity sadly uou need something tangible.
    • They should have used microdots or long lived microfilm, or really anything other then electronic media.
      Microfilm? Walk up to any reference librarian and say "Microfilm" and watch them shudder. Unstable stuff that get's chewed up by it's readers, akward as hell to manage (all the spools look alike and the lables are traditionially 'bout useless) and generally of terrible photographic quality. The only bennie is that it is smaller then the paper documents replaced but even for old high-acid cheap newspaper it's proving to have a shorter lifespan.

      Any other media? Punch cards? What's the encoding? Paper tape same thing. Clay tablets? Storage and retrieval are hell. Printed? Storage and security are difficult and expensive, just ask the folks at the old library in Alaxandria.

      There ARE mediums that can be assumed to be reasonably long-lived. Text on gold foil is pretty good, there are lots of other more exotic but similar-in-concept technologies. Of course one pertinant question is if anyone *cares*. If it was just realized that the modern Domesday Book was unreadable clearly it wasn't a standard reference. Yes it might be a loss to future historians but I doubt there's much in it that isn't replacable from any of the numerous more popular references.

  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:25PM (#3101958)
    Does it really matter if the disks are unreadable? If the data wasn't important enough that somebody didn't say, "hey, we need to transfer this stuff to new media," then maybe it's not such a big deal. At a minimum, I presume that it means that the data wasn't being used by anyone, or they'd have noticed that it was about to become unavailable.
    • by j7953 (457666) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @04:05PM (#3102104)
      If the data wasn't important enough that somebody didn't say, "hey, we need to transfer this stuff to new media," then maybe it's not such a big deal.

      That's probably true in this case, but with more and more "cultural works" being stored on digital media, I suspect case like this one will become more frequent in the future.

      The thing that should make you really worried, though, is that simply transferring the stuff to new media might not even be possible.

      Have you copied your VHS tapes to DVD yet? Oh, wait, you can't -- it's Macrovision protected and Macrovision filters are illegal. (This is already the case thanks to the DMCA.)

      Will you copy your audio CDs to audio DVDs? Oh, wait, you can't read them in a computer, a computer that could copy them will be illegal by the time CDs are outdated (thanks to the SSSCA).

      Yes, sure, all of the data will still be available in some central location at the publisher. But what if Disney forgets about some movie, just like someone forget about this laserdisc? How many content has already been lost thanks to online news services going out of business or corrupting their database or whatever, simply because none of their readers stored the content on his hard disk?

      I assume that a large amount of online content has already been lost. Maybe [put some failed .com here] published a great article two years ago, which is now not available on the web any more, but someone still has a copy of it. Unfortunately that someone cannot legally publish it, thanks to copyright legislation. Yes, it can be published in about 90 years, but will that someone still live then? Will he have copied the data to his new computer whenever he got one? Will it even have beem possible for him to copy the data, or will an SSSCA-like computer have prevented that?

      • We'd better care (Score:4, Insightful)

        by qweqwe (104866) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @05:21PM (#3102386) Homepage
        It's even more than cultural work. Scientific work can be lost. Just because something is unimportant now, doesn't mean that it won't be in the future.

        Take the case of the Aloutte satellite that was launched in 1967.
        http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/8434/essay. htm
        It collected tons of information about the ionosphere and stored that information on now obsolette tape. At the time, the information was processed and condensed and placed in an archive.

        There are tonnes and tonnes of these tapes. Twenty years later, historical information on the o-zone layer became important. Since the original Aloutte researchers weren't looking for o-zone data, they never bothered to analyze that data. The only way to do that is to go to the original tapes.

        The problem is, only a few machines can read these tapes and since the tape readers are *extremely* slow by todays standards, it will take years to transfer all that information to CD. What's worse is that some of the tapes are already worn out, so a good deal of information will be lost.

        Just imagine what would have happened if the ancient greeks were so advanced that they stored all their information on CDs. We'd never get out of the dark ages, because people lost interest in preserving knowledge while Rome was crumbling.

        All of Aristotle, Euclid, and other scientist's work would be on CDs that no-one knew how to read. No-one would even know what the CDs were for. They'd get as much respect as AOL CD, being used as frisbees, placemats, decorations, or just thrown in the trash.

        • Questions (Score:3, Interesting)

          by roystgnr (4015)
          Exactly how big would an archive that takes "tonnes and tonnes of these tapes" be if it were put onto paper? How much would it cost to store? Do you think people would still pay to store it for 20 years if they did not need it?

          How "extremely slow by todays standards" are human beings reading paper? My guess would be hundreds of times slower than the most obsolete tape reader.


      • Have you copied your VHS tapes to DVD yet? Oh, wait, you can't -- it's Macrovision protected and Macrovision filters are illegal. (This is already the case thanks to the DMCA.)
        Yes I have and the DCMA can't force me to use Macrovision on content that I own. (My home movies, my videography from college...) and anyone that was big into VHS has a macrovision scrubber which made the resulting video even better to watch on that big screen projector... so that isn't an issue either. What IS an issue is that noone wants to take the time and effort to convert their VHS copy of "sneakers" they just buy the DVD for $9.95 at Target. Yes anything that I want to keep has been Mpeg2 encoded. Granted most of it is still on DLT tapes around here (that which I only had Vhs copies of left. I havent converted anything that is on Betacam SP as this will be a standard for another 10 years at least)

        Laws dont keep you from backing up anything or converting from a old technology to new.. It keeps you from making copies of things you dont own. (ownership of IP is still a stupid concept that only corperations can make sense of..)

        AS for that laserdisc... I highly doubt that it is unreadable.. Hell I still have a n old EBCDIC 9track tape drive WITH a ISA card that will talk to it. and my Pioneer Laserdisc player has a data-out port. (plus if it displays it can be decoded.. I retrieved data off of a backup-VHS tape that was made in 1984 with that abortion that radio-shack sold to backup a computer to a VHS VCR.)

        The points you make are assuming that everyone wants to obey the law. Driving on any highway in america will answer that question easily.. Americans ignore any and all laws that they dont believe in or that inconvience them. (speed limits are laws.. yet all of you break that law daily.)

        Yes it's "against the law" but that means nothing to normal people anymore.
    • Actually yes, I care. I took part in the project when I was 9, and I helped survey the old tannery and the stone masons in a small village called Strensall in North Yorkshire. Both of those businesses are no more now (I think the stone masons simply closed, and the tannery is a housing development). These things are important to historians, to be able to track things back through time, and they're important for various sentimental reasons too.

      I hope something is done about this, but I certainly don't have the power or the resources to influence the right people.
    • Does it really matter if the disks are unreadable? If the data wasn't important enough that somebody didn't say, "hey, we need to transfer this stuff to new media," then maybe it's not such a big deal. At a minimum, I presume that it means that the data wasn't being used by anyone, or they'd have noticed that it was about to become unavailable.

      Wow, that's astonishingly short-sighted and narrow-minded. There are a lot of important things whose importance was not realized at the time, or for some time afterwards. The most obvious example that springs immediately to mind is Gregor Mendel's experimental work, upon which our entire understanding of genetics was originally based, and which went unpublished and ignored for years.

      Unlike technical manuals, the value of other forms of information is not necessarily proportional to how recently they've been produced. Even in the hard sciences, studies designed to support theories subsequently disproven can be valuable sources of experimental data further down the road. Certainly something like a census could be immensely valuable to historians -- and only become more so the older it gets.

      Moreover, a lot of valuable data is in danger of being lost not because it isn't worth anything or because no one notices it or wants to preserve it, but because the expense of transferring the data to new media (from, perhaps, acidified paper, microfilm, old digital media, or some other perishable product) is too high.

      The key lesson here -- which I wish the easily-swayed-by-gee-whiz-technology crowd would clue into -- is that media companies think in terms of next quarter, not in terms of anything as vague and unprofitable as posterity. Preserving important information on digital media is little different from burning books. If you want permanence, you need good paper -- a centuries-old technology that the so-called digital revolution has absolutely nothing on in terms of permanence.

  • by andawyr (212118) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:26PM (#3101962)
    While I believe the main topic deals with the lack of hardware to read the laserdisk, the same applies to any document written today. Will there exist tools in 'n' years that will read Word documents written 5 years ago?

    This is exactly why Don Knuth developed TeX. He was concerned about the life expectancy of documents such as this.

    His idea was to write your documents in plain text (the lowest common denominator) and use a processor to convert them to whatever format you need 'today': postscript, html, or whatever.

    It may not be as sexy as WYSIWYG, but it will *always* work.
    • It will work, given you can read the files.
      The problem here is not only the format, but the storage medium as well. My Ph.D. thesis has been stored in wonderful TeX format on those 5-inch floppy disks. They are unreadable now. Fortunately, I still have the printed original, that can be photocopied the old way.

      Dead trees rule! :)
      • by LordNimon (85072) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @04:44PM (#3102237)
        Your mistake, which is something that apparently happens to a lot of people, is that when you discarded the hardware used to read your electronic data, you did not transfer that data to a new medium. You simply discarded the hardware and forgot about the data. There's nothing suprising about this. It would be like selling your house and forgetting to move your furniture out of it, and then moving into a new house and saying, "Damn! I forgot the furniture, and now the owners of my old house have it!".
    • Don't bet on ASCII to *always work*. For a long time EBCDIC was the standard, and it's slowly fading away now...

      People in the late 60's and early 70's thought they could always get their data back when they stored stuff on 7-track tape. Guess where that's gone.. I think a while ago /. had an article about the first Marriner deep space missions from which telemetry was stored on 7-track reel tape. Scientists are still analyzing the information it returned, but find they can't get to much of it anymore simply because the magnetic media has deteriorated.

      There's not any real fix as of yet, and some of the digital information we create today will simply not survive time. An ASCII line with "This is a picture of DNA" has no meaning without the actual picture. The picture might be stored in an ASCII string format, but it will need to be encoded. So you're back to the "Word 1.0" issue, as no-one might remember how to decode and reproduce that picture 20 years from now.

      We'll need to find a storage medium that can be decoded by the one engine that will not fade for a long time; The Human Brain.

      • For those of you who think that print on paper is eternal, you might want to go looking for the novels of Aristotle. Despite the mythology about fires, most of what was lost from the Alexandrian Library was simply not recopied onto new scrolls before it turned to dust. It's an old problem and shows no signs of going away anytime soon.
      • "We'll need to find a storage medium that can be decoded by the one engine that will not fade for a long time; The Human Brain.

        Can you imagine spell-checking your document only for the computer to stop at a word and bring up a box saying, "Oh I know this one... it's on the tip of my tongue... no, don't tell me..."

        Seriously though, as long as the media doesn't deteriorate we can always reverse-engineer to get the data back if it's really important.

        Phillip.

    • Interestingly enough, this is similar to the way most word-processing documents are written on the BeOS.

      The document is just plain text, but all of the formatting is stored as metadata.

      The upshot, is that unlike most word processing documents, they are clearly readable with simple text editors. Even if you edit the document in a simple text editor, the formatting will remain coherent the next time the document is viewed in a word processor.

      Of course this isn't as robust as TeX or such, because it relies on the metadata storing capabilities of the filesystem, and you may be limiting yourself to the BeFS (though there is no reason why NTFS or any filesystem like perhaps XFS or ReiserFS when taking advantage of Linux's VFS couldn't have similar functionality.) Even then , if you were to copy the document to another less enabled filesystem, you would only lose advanced formatting information. The body of text would still be fully useable.

      -castlan
  • ...in this comment. [slashdot.org]

    With more and more of our culture being created and stored exclusively on digital media, there is a real danger that future generations may have little, or even nothing, to tell them what our lives were like, because everything we've left behind is inaccessible.

    (BTW, this particular work is not the "Doomsday" book, it's the "Domesday Book," a comprehensive survey and ledger of the lands and holdings of King William in the 11th century.)

    DennyK
    • (BTW, this particular work is not the "Doomsday" book, it's the "Domesday Book,"

      Quite right. I submitted the story, and it looks my typing habits have been corrupted by too many iD games....

      Cheers,
      Ian

    • Doomsday or Domesday (Score:3, Interesting)

      by palfreman (164768)
      BTW, this particular work is not the "Doomsday" book, it's the "Domesday Book," a comprehensive survey and ledger of the lands and holdings of King William in the 11th century.)

      Not as far as I know. William I was an extremely brutal invader, and after the Sack of Yorkshire in the early 1080s (1082?) his Doomsday book assed the value of Yorkshire to be only 5 shillings - 4 ounces of silver in other words. The invasion of England was ultimately a business venture for the feudal Normansand he needed to know just how much money he could extract from his new estate, as subdivided by his barons etc. Doomsday it was. Now the entire Anglo-Saxon land ownship sysytem was overthrown, people were precisely put into catagories such as villain (i.e. land-owning peasent), tenent (renting land), serf (land-tied part-slave, part renter), and slave. The who period was a bloody disaster for the English, basically to feed the Norman-French war machine. That was why the book was called the Doomsday book as I understood it. I think Domesday is just an archaic spelling meaning the same thing.

  • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:29PM (#3101971) Homepage
    "We're lucky Shakespeare didn't write on an old PC."

    I can still access WordPerfect files from an old home computer from 1987. That computer still has a floppy drive which I can write files to. It still has the capability of connecting a null modem up to it for file transfer. Granted, that's not the easiest thing to do, but it's still accessible.

    There HAVE to be some laserdisc readers someplace in the UK that can read this. The point they're probably making is 'be wary of putting too much faith in technology'. That's a good attitude to have, but simply putting a bit more thought into keeping the data available in multiple formats would help ensure no loss of access. Hell, this was a multimillion pound project - they couldn't burn any of this to conventional CDs too? Yes, you couldn't run out to Dixon's or BestBuy and get a CD burner for $100 like today, but I'd have thought a bit more technology was available to a multimillion pound project.

    "Unfortunately, we don't know what we will do after that. We could store the data on desktop computers - but they are likely to become redundant in a few years. "

    Yes, the desktops might, but the data won't. Put the data in normal, documented data formats, and put them on regular drives, CDs, ZIP disks, DVD, whatever. Don't put all your digital eggs in one basket, should be the lesson. OR, simply have a technology upgrade plan in place for data that is important enough to outlive the media on which it is contained. Data that was worth millions of pounds at one time should merit a stipend of a few thousand pounds a year to keep it accessible.
    • Nonetheless, NOTHING we've developed beats good 'ole paper for longterm storage and useability. It is an absolute certainty that in 50 years, 100 years, all your CDs, DVDs, floppies, zip disks, etc, etc, will be useless and any data stored thereon will be unreachable. Not so with books (REAL books, of course, not bogus e-books). Books 2000 years old are still accessible and readable.


      The only way to protect information for the long haul is some form of printed format for the REALLY important stuff. Beyond that, the best you can do is faithfully keep copying data/information from a dying "standard" to the latest, greatest new "standard" which will be OK for a decade or so, then transfer again ad infinitum.


      Obviously, for some things, the high-tech solution is useful and neato but for anything long-term (we're talking many decades to centuries to millenia) high-tech is not the most efficient or safest way to go.

      • Oh yeah, with regards to my "...the best you can do is faithfully keep copying data/information from a dying "standard" to the latest, greatest new "standard" which will be OK for a decade or so, then transfer again ad infinitum" statement, this only holds safe and longterm barring any sort of civilization-trashing catastrophy. All the dilligent saving of information from CD to DVD to crystal to whatever comes later will be for squat when something happens that reduces technical society to something simpler. All that nice stored data becomes useless trash whereas an ancient book remains accessible.

      • I would argue that some analog storage media would be good. I refer to LPs and to celluloid film.
  • Long Now Project (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jonv (2423) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:30PM (#3101975)
    Although more well know for its clock project the long now foundation [longnow.org] is also looking at this problem.


    I thought the original goal of the doomsday project was to allow every school in the UK to have a copy. So there should be a BBC Master hooked up to a laserdisc player in almost every school ?

    • So there should be a BBC Master hooked up to a laserdisc player in almost every school ?

      BBC Masters? The state schools in the UK are so poor they can only afford Acorn Electrons or RM Nimbus 186's. :-( Laserdisc? Isn't that kinda like a bigger version of the 8 inch floppies we use here at the school I work at?
  • by jsmyth (517568) <jersmyth.gmail@com> on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:35PM (#3101996) Homepage
    For Long Life (and I don't mean the clothing/hair products advertisements ;-), look to either empirical evidence, or other fields. The oldest surviving written information we have is carved in stone or drawn on stone. Cave drawings, the Rosetta Stone, various tablets and artistic carvings... I could go on.

    Voyager (and Pioneer, if I remember rightly) made use of etched metal plates. None of this biodegradeable paper stuff, or indeed any other messaging mechanism that needs some middle translation layer between medium and understanding, beyond of course the natural interpretive layer we assume the eventual reader will have - the same way we can view a painting or listen to a song without understanding the language or thought flow of the originator.

    Why the obsession with "new media"? The content on the internet will not remain in its current form forever, nor will CDs, DVDs, Laserdisks, 8-channel cartridges, Compact Cassettes, Vinyl LPs, etc. They're great, perfect for the here and now - but if we want to leave something for posterity, better Keep It Simple, Sirs.

  • Remember the old LP-sized things?

    The Domesday Disc (note spelling) was a double-sided videodisk that ran into a modified videodisk drive attached to a likewise modified BBC Master, a rather nice 6502-based microcomputer. The Master's video output went through the videodisk player. What happened was the client software told the player to display a particular frame, and the Master would overlay graphics on top of it. There was also a mechanism for reading raw data from the audio portion of the videodisk. It was really quite simple (but horribly expensive).

    I would have thought that a conventional computer Laserdisk player would be able to get all the data off.

    A few discs were made for the system, but the Domesday Disc was the only one that was mass produced. If you're interested, there's lots of information on the Domesday Project [atsf.co.uk] page.

  • What is this? (Score:5, Informative)

    by UnifiedTechs (100743) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:38PM (#3102009) Homepage
    If anyone was like me and had know idea what this book is check here:

    www.domesdaybook.co.uk [domesdaybook.co.uk]

    Sorry, I posted this once already and typoed the link.
  • The Observer article from which this is drawn is here. [observer.co.uk]

    From that article:

    Betamax video players, 8in and 5in computer disks, and eight-track music cartridges have all become redundant, making it impossible to access records stored on them. Data stored on the 3in disks used in the pioneering Amstrad word-processor is now equally inaccessible.

    Needless to say, the term redundant simply means that using standard equipment you'd have problems reading this data. But specialist media recovery firms maintain old machines and there are several that will convert your old 3-inch Amstrad disks or that Betamax wedding recording, for a fee.

    The Domesday 1986 disks are undoubtedly difficult to access without specialist equipment, and that's the real problem--eventually any nascent technology will become obsolete and data will be lost. Eventually it will no longer be economic for data recovery companies to maintain their obsolete machines.

    Paul Wheatley: "That means we have to find a way to emulate this data, in other words to turn into a form that can be used no matter what is the computer format of the future. That is the real goal of this project."

    If they have any sense they'll store most of it on fiche and store that in good conditions.

  • Eventually we will move on from this format. I have about 40 movies in DVD format, and it'll probably eventually beat out my VHS collection (at ~700).

    I'm hoping that once we move on to yet another larger format that there are some countries free enough that I can download a program that will allow me to move the DVDs to the new format.

    Oxidization also bothers me.
    • The whole point of copyright is to grant the author a temporary monopoly on distributing his work so that he can make a decent salary on his work (If he's a reasonably good artist) and then have the work go into the public domain where presumably it can be preserved for posterity.

      With the length of copyright terms, the illegality of copying a protected DVD (or even discussing the methods used to do so, according to the MPAA) and the shelf life of the media, the industry can make their money on their works and guarantee that they never live to see the light of public domain. Neither film nor DVD will survive long enough.

      On the other hand, in 100 years, no one will remember who Britney Spears was, either, so I guess it's not all bad.

  • Source article (Score:5, Informative)

    by thegrommit (13025) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:44PM (#3102039)
    The ananova story is a strangely stilted summary of this Observer story [observer.co.uk]
  • They have this at the top of their webpage:

    Unfortunately, due to server difficulties The Domesday Book Online has been unavailable for a short time. We apologise to all those who have tried but been unable to get to the site. The site as it was is now back online, but a new and much improved version will soon be unveiled so watch this space...

    And now they are going to be slashdotted. Ironic.

  • He has now started work on Camileon, a program aimed at recovering the data on the Domesday discs.

    "We have got a couple of rather scratchy pairs of discs and we are confident we will eventually be able to read all their images, maps and text," he said.

    "Unfortunately, we don't know what we will do after that. We could store the data on desktop computers - but they are likely to become redundant in a few years.

    "That means we have to find a way to emulate this data, in other words to turn into a form that can be used no matter what is the computer format of the future. That is the real goal of this project."

    How about printing it on paper? Amazingly, it seems that the best way to 'emulate' the data over the past many centuries is to use a physical medium that requires no electricity, no magnetic readers, no lasers, no pools of mercury - only decent eyesight and some light. Hell, it's even portable!

    If they complain that they can't fit it all on paper because there's too much data, then they should use very small print and include a magnifying glass like my grandmother's old unabridged dictionaries. It was still possible to read them without the magnifying glass if you got your eyes really close to the paper and squinted a little.

    And if they complain that printing all the data on paper is too expensive, they should keep in mind how much money (2.5M) was wasted on the previous project. Better to spend more now and have it last a bit longer than 15 years.

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -- Gandhi

    • Paper? Be careful... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ethelred Unraed (32954) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @06:09PM (#3102601) Journal

      The problem with paper is that only highly specific types of paper are all that durable over many years. Most normal kinds of paper that you typically see have a high acid content, which causes them to yellow and then disintegrate with age. Your average paperback book will start to crumble in a few decades or so, most newspapers even earlier. I have quite a few paperbacks that are about 20 years old (which is when I started buying my own books), and they have definitely started to yellow and turn brittle even though they have been stored in a dry, clean, reasonably climate-controlled place (i.e. my living room).

      Acid-free paper can also deteriorate over time, especially if handled a lot (since sweat from fingers also contains acids and bacteria) or just exposed to the air (which is also slightly acidic in normal circumstances, especially if the air is at all polluted), and also depending on the kind of inks used. Soy inks, which are increasingly popular with mass-printed media, may decay or fade over time (though they have not been in use long enough to know for sure); offset inks can also turn acidic if not properly mixed and/or discolor over time.

      So it's not as simple as just "printing on paper". You need to use specially-produced acid-free (slightly alkaline) paper; use a non-acidic ink with a chemically stable pigment; and store it in climate-controlled conditions, where it can't be handled or even breathed upon.

      Ironically, parchment and soot ink have proven remarkably stable over time. So long as parchment books were not stored in overly bad conditions (too damp or in polluted air), they held up for many hundreds of years with no trouble.

      In a way, this story comes as no surprise to anyone who's interested in calligraphy and medieval history -- take a look at the books in museums, like the Lindisfarne Gospels at the British Museum or the Book of Kells at Trinity College, Dublin, and they look amazingly bright and fresh some 1300 years after they were made.

      Those monks wanted to write for a very long posterity, and stumbled on just the way to do it -- sheepskins (vellum) and ink out of bone black.

      If you're interested in medieval writing materials, check out these pages:

      Ink Recipes [regia.org]
      Handmade Paper -- Archival Paper [handpapermaking.org]
      Medieval Manuscripts [swaen.com]

      Cheers,

      Ethelred [grantham.de]

  • by TheBracket (307388) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:47PM (#3102049) Homepage
    I remember when this was being compiled, and when my school first received one. We had a number of BBC micros and masters around the place, and I was the person they always called upon to set things up - then, as now, computers terrified a lot of people.

    The Domesday Book on laserdisk was pretty neat; you could look up pertinent details for your local area, and it formed the basis of a lot of good history projects. IIRC, it had some primitive hypertext facilities.

    I'm absolutely positive that this could be resurrected if needs-be. Enough copies of this went out to schools that finding a readable laserdisk shouldn't be a problem, and there has to be a working reader somewhere. I seem to remember that the data wasn't in any particularly obscure format, so mounting it on a BBC Master and sending it to a different machine shouldn't be too difficult.

    If needs be, one could probably export the whole thing and mount it via a hacked BeebEm.

  • by buckrogers (136562) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:48PM (#3102051) Homepage
    Look around at what we have that will last 10,000 years... Nearly nothing will last that long. All the plastic, all the books, all the concrete will be dust. Metals will all corrode away to nothing. Even if a DVD would last that long, the encryption in it would prevent it from being read. Imagine if egyption hyroglifics had been encrypted too. We would know nothing about them at all. And most source code and data is compressed, can you imagine trying to figure out LZW compression without knowing anything about it.

    We only build things to last 100 years at most anymore. And most things get torn down long before that. The only thing we make that lasts longer than that is our toxic waste.

    Can you imagine how suprised a future archielogist will be when they dig into some radioactive waste that is still active in 10,000 years? Lethally suprised. *L* Maybe there will be legends of curses on people who dig in ancient sites? Kind of like the curse of the mummy.

    There may have been civilizations before that were just as advanced as our own. When they collapsed they may have simply vanished with nary a trace in just a couple of thousand years. It isn't as hard as you think. A 1 mile wide asteroid hits the earth, dust obscures the sun for a few years so that all the plants die and the people fight and die for the few remaining scraps of food.

    I often wonder if maybe the few real UFO's that are seen and the aliens that we hear about are visitors from space colonies that these previous civilizations managed to place on the moon or in the asteroid belt. If they aren't all the feverored imaginings of half crazy people.

    • Look around at what we have that will last 10,000 years... Nearly nothing will last that long. All the plastic, all the books, all the concrete will be dust. Metals will all corrode away to nothing. Even if a DVD would last that long, the encryption in it would prevent it from being read. Imagine if egyption hyroglifics had been encrypted too. We would know nothing about them at all. And most source code and data is compressed, can you imagine trying to figure out LZW compression without knowing anything about it.

      Bad arguments all the way around!

      A team of programmers including a 15-yr old broke the DVD encryption within a few years - I am sure that humans 10k+ years from now will be able to replicate that same type of work! Second, the Egyptian writings were in fact encrypted - ideogram languages are very effectively encypted. Essentially they many are encrypted using "one time pads" (where the "one time pads" are the language themselves. As you might know, one time pads when propertly implemented are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time. This is why you will see entire ancient languages which we larely do not understand.

      There may have been civilizations before that were just as advanced as our own.
      Name five. Or actually, name two.

      Finally, we have the ability to build structures to last thousands of years, its simply not feasible - thats all. When I build my house shall I go for the "last thousands of years" model that costs $10M or the "last a few generations with minimal upkeep" model that costs $120k. But be not decieved - go look around an upscale cemetary sometime - there are burial chambers that *will* indefinately - concrete reinforced, rebarred, marble effaced monoliths that will stand the test of time just as well as any other cave.

      Information that is important will be propagated as needed.
      • "As you might know, one time pads when propertly implemented are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time."

        Minor nit, but one-time pads properly implemented are uncrackable.

      • Second, the Egyptian writings were in fact encrypted - ideogram languages are very effectively encypted
        Properly speaking, Hieroglyphs and the more common everyday hieratic are not ideographic languages. While they do include some signs that represent entire words, the majority of writing is phonetic. Initial attempts to translate the writings of ancient Egypt failed mostly because people assumed that the writing was ideographic.
      • >>Bad arguments all the way around!

        Errr, no.

        >>A team of programmers including a 15-yr old broke the DVD encryption within a few years - I am sure that humans 10k+ years from now will be able to replicate that same type of work!

        No, they had one key that wasn't encrypted to begin with that let them decode the system. If you don't know the layout of the file system to know which groups of bits are the unencrypted key, you will never, never, never be able to decrypt the data. They also kind of knew what the output is going to look like, and already knew how to decode the compressed video and audio streams, something that will not be doable in 10,000 years.

        >> Second, the Egyptian writings were in fact encrypted - ideogram languages are very effectively encypted. Essentially they many are encrypted using "one time pads" (where the "one time pads" are the language themselves. As you might know, one time pads when propertly implemented are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time. This is why you will see entire ancient languages which we larely do not understand.

        Ideograms are _not_ one time pads. One time pads change with each message. A language is consistantly used.

        >> Name five. Or actually, name two.

        1. Maya. Very advanced mathematics, their calander lasts 10,000 years without any corrections. We have to correct our calendar every 4 years, and again every 100, 400, and 1000 years. They vanished without a trace most likely because there was a drout and thier extensive irrigation systems failed. An irrigation system that we are only just now matched in scale here in the US.

        2. Atlantis. All the myths about previous civilations have been rolled into this one fabled land.

        3. Acient Egypt. We would have to struggle very hard to match the engineering needed to build the pyramids, and even with laser surveying we would struggle to be as precise as they were. Let alone moving the 100,000 ton blocks that make up a lot of their construction.

        4. There are the huge deserted cities swallowed by the jungle to be found in Asia.

        5. In the Americas there are the mound building indians of Ohio.

        6. And the cliff dwellers of the South West.

        7. The Romans had every luxury, including hot and cold running water, sewers, hot tubs and saunas. They even had huge automated mills that were ran with water power to process the grains every year. They also were building steam engines just before they failed. Their failure is also know as the dark ages. When empires fail they leave chaos and ignorance behind.

        8. Ghenis Kahn's empire streached from the Pacific Ocean in China, to Poland and down to the meditranian in the middle east. Nothing is left to show that this empire existed, except in the history books. It was the largest empire to ever exist on the face of the earth. It could also field an army of 5 million men and keep them on a campaign for years.

        9. Carthage lost against Rome and not a single thing remains of them except for a few footers of some buildings.

        I can go on and on all day long. There are hundreds of advanced civilations that have come and gone, whose only existance lives in word of mouth or in copies of copies of copies of writings from word of mouth.

        We know that there was an extensive trade network in prehistory, because cocain has been found in Egyption mumies and cocain is only available from South America.

        The city of Troy was also thought to be a myth and never exist, but it turns out that it did exist. It was actually under a city that is now called a different name.

        I named more than 5, do I get a prize?
        • There may have been civilizations before that were just as advanced as our own

          That was the original post. I asked for five, or even two examples of civilizations that were just as advanced as our own. There have been none others. NONE. The examples you list are of advanced civilizations. But do not be fooled - they were not as advanced as our own

          So now, you do not get a prize.

          Second, the point abotu digital media ala DeCSS - the point was the people reverse engineer protocols and more complex things from scratch without knowing anything about it (except for an example). For example, during WWII the Russians created exact duplicates of the "Flying Fortress" based on three or four that ended up in Russia on accident. They completely mastered the design and mechanics of the plane based only on working models. Not an easy task.

          Likewise, using just deductive logic and a few working examples most anything can be reverse engineered. Foreiogn knock-off artists can reproduce just about any thing electronic. Hell, the entire GNU project is based around the idea. Granted we have pretty good idea of the realm of which we are working.

          I have confidence that humans (or successors) in 10,000 years will be able to successfuly extract digital information from our current technology - just as we are able to decode data from civilizations thousands of years ago.

          Finally, you are entirely wrong about Egyptian wall-writings/etc. Contrary to popular belief there was no established ideographic set - they were different per artist. The symbol for something from one to the next was clearly different - such that historians now write tomes discussing the various styles of different artists. The bottom is line is that many of the ancient "languages" are essentially encrypted, and that decoding requires "brute force" attacks, or relies on weaknesses in the "protocol" - ie two artists writing the same thing on different pieces. Calling these ancient forms of writing "consistent" or even so much as "languages" is at least partially inappropriate.
          • >>That was the original post. I asked for five, or even two examples of civilizations that were just as advanced as our own. There have been none others. NONE. The examples you list are of advanced civilizations. But do not be fooled - they were not as advanced as our own

            The Mayan calander is _more_ advanced than the calander we use. The Egyptians build structures that we would struggle to build right now. Atlantis had flying machines, according to the legends. So I gave you at least 3 examples of civilizations that are _more_ advanced than we are now.

            It's funny, we have cars, but how many people can build their own car? 1 in 10,000? We have TV's but how many people can build their own TV? 1 in 100,000? How many people can build their own plane? 1 in 1,000,000? How many can build their own jet plane? 1 in 10,000,000? Face it, we are barbarians, we use things, but they might as well be magic to us. If civilization breaks down, it will go down fast and stay down for a long time. And very few traces of our existing civilization will remain.

            By what standard are you saying we are more advanced? Most people in the world live exactly the same as their ancestors live. They might occassionaly see the jet trails of their overlords in the sky every now and again, but have no hope of ever flying in one themself. They use animals to power their farm implements. Maybe 5% of the people in the world own a car and live like most americans do. But even now 20% of americans live in abject poverty. You just need to get out more and open your eyes. It's fun to raise 3 kids on minimum wage.

            Building cool machines is not the only definition of civilation, especially when 95% of humans never get to use those machines. And I've talked to a lot of people in chat who seem to only be able to say, "Any hot babes wanna give me a blow job?" Yeah, that's the reason we have the internet, so assholes can attempt to get laid. Try to engage them in a conversation about Platos' republic will more than likely result in a "Platos who?"

            I think that you are ignorant if you believe that the education that a greek got wasn't as good or better than the college education that we get from a State University now. Remember, that some of these people were taught in person by Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato. These three people are the foundation of modern Western thought. More than likely, only an echo of their knowlege was passed down to us. I only recall a couple of good college professors out of the dozens that I've had and none of them were as good as these people were.

            >> Likewise, using just deductive logic and a few working examples most anything can be reverse engineered. Foreiogn knock-off artists can reproduce just about any thing electronic. Hell, the entire GNU project is based around the idea. Granted we have pretty good idea of the realm of which we are working.

            What working example? In 10,000 years there will be no working examples of DVD players. I doubt the DVD's will still be good in 10,000 years, because of the plastic falling apart, but I know for a fact that all the DVD players will be gone in 100 years.

            >> I have confidence that humans (or successors) in 10,000 years will be able to successfuly extract digital information from our current technology - just as we are able to decode data from civilizations thousands of years ago.

            But you just said that there are languages that we _can't_ translate, and I agree with you. Without the rosseta stone we would not have been able to translate Egyptian either. So _no_, they won't be able to decode everything, unless they can find a rosetta stone too.

            As far as you saying that Egyptian is different between artists, that's pure crap. It isn't even a pure ideograph system, because some of the symbols are phonetic.

            Here is the link for knowing that Egyption had phonetic symbols, also how they used the rosetta stone to translate Egyption to modern languages.

            http://www.chesco.com/~cslice/aurora/rosetta/ros et ta.html

      • by sconeu (64226) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @09:10PM (#3103340) Homepage Journal
        A team of programmers including a 15-yr old broke the DVD encryption within a few years - I am sure that humans 10k+ years from now will be able to replicate that same type of work!

        However, said team had some idea of the purpose behind that shiny silver disk, and some idea of what the plaintext should look like.

        Consider 12000 CE.
        You're an archaeologist, and you find a shiny silvery disk approximately 10 flurburbs in diameter. What is it for? It has some markings on one side that your specialist in dead languages tells you says, "Porky's 2: The Next Day". The other side apparently functions as a diffraction grating.

        Now what?
    • People have already thought of this.

      WIPP Exhibit: Message to 12,000 A.D. [halcyon.com]

      This goes through all of the technicalities of signposting things so that people in the future will stay away from them or be aware of dangers into the future.. even if they can't understand English.

      There are a lot of diagrams there.. most of the ideas revolve around using imposing spikes.. or 'universal' pictures, such as that of someone dying.
    • Imagine if egyption hyroglifics had been encrypted too.

      They were, in a sense--the Coptic language had died before modern scholars started to read them.

      Pepys deliberately encrypted his diary using a homemade shorthand, and wrote some of the sexual passages in a vulgar dialect of latin.

      The current generation of DVD encryption is no challenge to a good mathematician.

    • I was thinking this very thought the last time that I was in Las Vegas. After an armageddon or something, all data of our civilization would be lost. The nevada sand storms would cover and preserve the Luxor hotel. The future civilization would dig and find the huge pyramid. What would they think went on there? It must have been some sort of religous gathering place for the slaves. And what of the significance of the Sphinx in front of the Luxor? Is it pointing to the other, slightly older Sphinx in what used to be Egypt? This one group of people must have migrated via a frozen channel or something. Or maybe they had aliens helping! What else could explain it? There is no evidence that this ancient civilization had any other high technology. { it is all dust now }

      hehehe

      Encrypted computer data will lead us into a new dark age of information if people are stupid and decide to archive books and artwork digitally and destroy the originals. Tablets and oil paintings are more effective to document history.

      --Jeff
  • My understanding is that laserdiscs are analog media, not digital. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that the data didn't last?

    Anyway, I still have a laserdisc player in my livingroom, so they aren't dead yet! hehe.
  • by phreakmonkey (548714) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @03:53PM (#3102063) Homepage
    Shakespeare's work was never in danger of becoming "obsolete" and "unreadable" because it was popular.

    Think about it. Pick a very popular recent source of art.. say, the Beatles. How many formats is their work stored in? In how many languages? Really, this is a good argument for Peer-to-Peer media sharing systems. It takes media that society considers important and replicates and archives it all over the world..

    Much how popular folk songs have been passed from generation to generation via spoken or sung words, current media is being passed around the globe and stored on everything from hardcopy to harddrives to optical media.

    The only information we have to worry about losing is that which is forgotten by the masses.. for it is in danger of not being replicated and passed around.

    • Yep. And as long as the Beatle's music is considered important enough by enough people (which is probably at least a few centuries, maybe longer -- "Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, and the Beatles" isn't a joke) it will continue to be transfered to whatever the storage media of the time are. That's the point that I think everyone crying "put it on paper" is missing: Of course electronic media are perishable, and of course whatever snazzy new high-capacity storage medium you're using right now will probably be obsolete in a decade, but as long as you can and do transfer from one medium to another, preferably backing up in multiple locations on multiple types of media, your data is more likely by far to survive for the ages than a single paper copy somewhere would be. That such effectively infinite copying and storage is possible is one of the wonders of the electronic age -- we just have to be smart enough to take advantage of it properly.

  • ... no kidding.

    Digital storage *is* perfectly viable. But digital storage 15 years ago and digital storage today would be like comparing accountancy before Arabic numerals and after.

    Today reliability, speed and capacity is what, 1000 times greater? No more need for weird compression techniques -- plain text (or TeX) documents can be stored. Viciously *uncompressed* graphics, too.

    With 6,000,000,000 people on the planet, surely we can task a few of 'em with keeping the media current.

    (Also, to be pedantic: Optical media are disCs, magnetic media are disKs.)
  • The information stored on the laser discs which is the equivalent of several sets of encyclopedia's is now impossible to access, reports The Observer.
    And then...
    He has now started work on Camileon, a program aimed at recovering the data on the Domesday discs. "We have got a couple of rather scratchy pairs of discs and we are confident we will eventually be able to read all their images, maps and text," he said.
    Sorry, I thought that was ammusing. Perhaps their definition of 'impossible' simply means, 'it'll be kinda hard.'
  • ... Where can I get a Chu Mei Feng VCD before it goes bad?
  • A computer and network geek who seems to go by the name of markl and nothing else has some fascinating pages on the Domesday Project. [force9.co.uk] He even seems to have some movie clips but I have not looked at them.
  • by Have Blue (616)
    I anticipate a day, 2,000 years hence, when a copy of DeCSS becomes a new Rosetta stone for all those DVDs cluttering up archaeological institutes :P
  • obsolete desktops. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Restil (31903) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @04:12PM (#3102131) Homepage
    I had a desktop computer 15 years ago. I can still read the media from it. Granted, 5 1/4 floppy drivess aren't exactly sold new in stores anymore, but I guarantee I can still find one if I need to. I worry more about the media itself being unreadable due to age rather than not having the required equipment to read it.

    Is it really such a difficult project to simply upgrade your digital storage as time goes on? Even though people might see this as a waste of time, consider your savings in storage. Converting old media, especially old magnetic tapes (think nasa) to newer, longer lasting, and SMALLER media formats, just makes sense. Nasa isnt' going to suddenly quit collecting data, its going to continue. The savings in physical storage space alone would make it worth the effort. The fact that this information will then continue to be accessible for generations to come is just a benifitial side effect. :)

    -Restil
  • From http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk [domesdaybook.co.uk]:

    Unfortunately, due to server difficulties The Domesday Book Online has been unavailable for a short time.

    The original book even outlasted the online version! ;)

  • Digital Archives (Score:2, Informative)

    by Skjellifetti (561341)
    I worked on a digital archive project at a library research institiute (OCLC [oclc.org]). Digital archives are a royal pain. You first have to transfer the analog material to digital. Doable, but costly. Then you have to have a way of indexing it. And remember, we need an index scheme that can handle poetry, baseball cards, and music scores as well as gov't docs and books. Then you need to be able to store it. Finally, there is retrieval and display.

    Now make it all last a zillion or two years. Any digital media we have today (tape, cd, etc.) might last 20 years if you are lucky. Even if you built a special purpose computer to store it, the silicon chips themselves might last only 20 years before they break down. If you can find a media that lasts, then you have to guarantee that the format will be readable. This requires that you archive the software that reads the format and perhaps the OS that the software runs on.

    A digital library also loses a lot as well. If we archive the Domesday Book and lose the original, we have lost any opportunity to learn about the paper and ink technology of the original copy.

    There is a branch of Library and Information Sciences that studies these problems. There have also been a couple of ACM CACM issues devoted to some of this.
  • Dumb. (Score:2, Insightful)

    This is what linux is for. My god, someone is even writing an Apple Prodos filesytem module... and I'm trying to convince a friend of mine to do the same thing with a userspace program he wrote, that reads Atari 800 disks.

    Anyone ever heard of a catweasel board? Even GCR encoded floppies, all the way back to the 8 inchers are readable. Truly, with a little effort, I don't see the problem they are having. Pull the stuff off these discs, and archive it on cd or a big RAID array somewhere. Hell, people would mirror it too, as far as that goes. And as for a file format that won't be obselete? I'd go with html myself, though pdf wouldn't be too awful. Sure, these might be old and crusty in 10 years, but we'll never suffer from a way to read them. Someone will always write new software for these formats, and only that if for some reason the old software itself won't compile. This is truly a hardware issue, and not too bad of one at that.

    Of course, the Luddites have to have something to complain about, might as well be this.
  • The article claims that the 1086 Book is still "perfectly usable". It is not. In order to understand it one has to know 1) Latin and 2) the odd medieval abbrevations common to Latin manuscripts in England at the time. Both these skills are just as obsolete as BBC microcomputers. I don't see how they are any different, really.
    • The article claims that the 1086 Book is still "perfectly usable". It is not. In order to understand it one has to know 1) Latin

      In order to understand the source code to your precious Linux kernel one has to know 1) C

      and 2) the odd medieval abbrevations common to Latin manuscripts in England at the time.

      sed makes short work of those once the text has been ocr'd into a computer.

      Both these skills are just as obsolete

      Hardly. The Italian language is nothing more than the modern form of Latin. Any Italian speaker could be up to speed on Latin in a matter of weeks.

      as BBC microcomputers.

      The difference between knowledge of Latin and possession of a BBC micro is that Latin is software, whereas a BBC micro is hardware, and hardware costs much more to physically reproduce than software does.

  • Ok, let me get this straight - they compiled lots of data, archived it with some nifty modified laserdisc thing, and forgot about it for 15 years. Now they're complaining that they can't read the data because the equipment used to read it is obsolete. Huh? If it were truly obsolete, then it wouldn't be around because newer technology is capable of doing the job better. Since nothing new is doing the job at all, the old technology is not obsolete - it is still more useful than anything else for retrieving the data. It sounds like they got rid of the old technology because newer technology could do other things better, completely forgetting what they were using the technology for in the first place. If you are archiving electronic data, you need to maintain the data AND the technology to recover it! This isn't like that really stupid episode of Sliders (redundant, I know) where they encode all the knowledge of a civilization holographically onto a crystal and send it away in a rowboat with a couple of kids who know nothing about holography, expecting the data to somehow make itself readable. On second thought, that's exactly what happened here...

    That means we have to find a way to emulate this data, in other words to turn into a form that can be used no matter what is the computer format of the future.

    Hey moron, why not move the data over to the new media formats as they gain popularity? This isn't a "write once, throw in closet for all eternity" application we're talking about here - isn't the point to have access to the information? It's not like you need to get monks to spend their lives transcribing text to copy the data - it's already in an electronic form that can be copied automatically and checked against the original with little or no difficulty (unless the data format is proprietary and requires a custom reader that nobody knows how to build, which somehow wouldn't surprise me). And it's not like old formats disappear overnight - there are still people using 8-Tracks and Beta VCRs, so I don't think CDs and DVDs will vanish before the data can be copied (unless the SSSCA takes hold, in which case it won't matter because we won't have control over information anyway). If I can maintain copies of school reports I wrote 15 years ago and have no need to access, why can't people maintain data that cost 2.5 million pounds to gather?

  • Fahrenheit 451 anyone? The intermingling of the message of the medium with the message carries meta information. For myself, as a Canadian, the Domesday Book carries the stamp of the defeat of the saxons by the normans. (didn't the saxon king and his men fight two battles on the same day, winning the first and losing the second?) The written word in the barely literate world of the 11th century carried with it the near magically quality of standing against time until DOOMSDAY :-). It's interesting to see the character of a people continuously redispersed through the newest medium. The Brits, maintaing the monarchy, would choose the Domesday Book to be among the primary works dispersed through the latest medium. Is the class system of Britian still strongly entrenced in the collective consciousness? My stepfather, whose family is listed in said book, is fond of saying the British upper class breeds their children as well as it breeds horses. No matter the medium the idea contained in the Domesday book will last as long as the character of the British people.
  • For example, nobody is publishing software on 5.25 inch floppies anymore, but my new (athlon) desktop can still read them quite easily, thanks to the simple expedient of "liberating" the appropriate old drive from my high school. It looks odd next to my dvd-rom and 3.5 inch floppy drive, but it works fine. Thus, all my old backups and software are accessible, and can be copied to modern media.
  • Original Article (Score:2, Interesting)

    by swmccracken (106576)
    The Observer [observer.co.uk] is the original source of this article. The linked version is a reshash of that, but the Observer is more informative.
  • by sheldon (2322) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @07:26PM (#3102960)
    They had the original Domesday book on display at the White Tower for the millenial celebration.

    I stood in line for 30 minutes so I could see it, and I can assure you it is not perfectly useable. First of all you have to know Latin and how to read really bad handwriting.

    You're also not allowed to take pictures of it, and if you try to do that or even touch the book these guys with guns point them at you and say "Don't you dare."

    I'd have better chance at decrypting DVDs, or reading the Windows source code than using the original Domesday book.
  • A common misspelling - I'm sure a lot of people hitting my review of Connie Willis' Doomsday Book [dannyreviews.com] (a decent sf novel) are actually looking for the Domesday Book!

    I wonder if that was the idea in Willis' choice of title?

    Danny.

  • A lot of people seem to be saying "But I can still read 5 1/4 floppies and they're from 20 years ago!" Think longer term. Will you still be able to read them in 100 years? Don't say "Before they wear out, I'll copy the data to something new." What happens after you're dead? Will the next generation care about crufty old data as much as you do? This is assuming the civilisation survives and there even *is* another generation to copy it. The problem is that, even if you are religious about keeping the data safe, it only takes one generation, for one 10 year period (or whatever the medium's life is) to forget, not care, not have the resources, etc and the data is *gone*. One slip up 70 years from now and the data won't be there in 100, when it might be needed. This is the main problem with active preservation.

    The other part of this is: What we consider important may not be what historians of the future consider important. They will most likely want to know how we lived, etc. We might save historical records, scientific data, etc but is anyone religiously copying DVDs of popular shows and will they keep doing it for as long as it takes?

    So, with your limited resources, what do you save? Apollo mission logs or 'N Sync?

    See the problem?

  • by tbray (95102) on Sunday March 03, 2002 @11:25PM (#3103763) Homepage Journal
    There can't be many /.ers who got their hands on this thing, but I did. It was a big ol' honking LD, silver thing the size of an LP, with a big box to play it. It had a beautiful UI where you could click on the map and zoom & move around in in a totally intuitive way. When you got down real close to a town or neighborhood, the explanatory text was all written by fifth-graders in a set of school projects - it was flat and unstylish but very vivid. It was so beautiful that I literally got tears in my eyes the first time I used it.
  • by radish (98371) on Monday March 04, 2002 @06:47AM (#3104658) Homepage

    Last time I was there, the Science Museum in London had a working setup. All they have to do is figure how to hook it up to a CD burner and problem solved :)

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming

Working...