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CODE4LIB  March 2012

CODE4LIB March 2012

Subject:

Re: old stuff

From:

Al Matthews <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Code for Libraries <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 28 Mar 2012 09:09:04 -0400

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text/plain

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text/plain (105 lines)

That seems to me an excellent answer, especially since my question was too broadly set. Thank you.

I think what still bothers me is that it requires a trip to ebay, or a vm or two, and some maybe not-quite-trivial forensics generally, to establish whether there is worthwhile data on a disk (or magnetic reel, whatever) for starters.

Archives are already in perpetual backlog, and based on some past work I'd say only a leading subset of these have sufficiently technical staff.

I'm surprised that hardware-sharing hasn't emerged as an initiative (assuming it already takes place as a service).

Thank you,

--
Al Matthews, Software Dev,
Atlanta University Center

-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of David Uspal
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 5:53 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [CODE4LIB] old stuff

Al,

   I'm not an archivist by trade, but I had some thoughts on the subject, (and the person who sits behind me is, so I bounced my ideas off her to make sure I'm not talking inanities).  Anyway, here goes:

   I think when people look into archiving/storing digital media, they look at it as one question -- is it worthwhile to save/catalog/store this item?  To me though, there are really two completely separate questions being asked here:

   1.)  Is the data on the disk unique or special in a way that makes the data itself (i.e the ones and zeros) valuable.
   2.)  Is the physical object itself unique or special in any way (including it being a unique copy, marginalia, notable owner, etc) that makes the physical object valuable or makes the item an "object d'arte".
       2a.) As part of two, if the object itself is not unique or special, is it part of a larger collection or set that is unique or special (a complete collection of first print Sierra games, a disk used in a Cray that was used in some big scientific discovery, etc)

   Answering yes to one of these will probably incur a completely difference response than if yes was answered to the other.

   Some generic examples:

        1.) I have a 5 1/4 with some of my old high school papers on them.  In terms of data value, because it's the only copy of these items, the value of the data is high.  Since the disks are generic floppies without significant markings, I'd value the worth of the physical object as low.  Therein, best bet would be to transfer the data off using an old 5 1/4 drive and put the data into a more long-term archivable solution (cloud storage, steady state drive, etc).  You can see how this example can be used on university or corporate archival materials -- the physical object has much less worth than the data contained therein.
          2.) I have a first edition copy of Zork I on 5 1/4 disk (may even have box/instructions/box fluff).  Here, the data on the disk is of low value -- there are copies of Zork I all over the internet and I essentially download a copy to my hard drive for free (or even play on my browser if I so choose).  On the other hand, its an original copy of Zork I with box/fluff, so the value lies not in the data but the physical object itself.  In this example, I would store the disk as per best practices (good tips found here:  http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/archives/preservation/magnetic/index.cfm).
          3.) I have a copy of a Final Fantasy cartridge for the original Nintendo.  Again, you can get the data pretty readily for a large pool of resources, so the data itself is of little value.  Final Fantasy carts are pretty common too, so the value of the object itself is pretty low.  On the otherhand, the cart is part of a complete collection of Nintendo cartridges and licensed merchandise, so the value in this object now lies in the fact that it exists within a collection, and has value due to that collection. (Plus, it's always better to play a game on the original machine than play it on your Android, loading screen times notwithstanding...)  A similar example would be blank punchcards for an old Sinclair ZX81 -- the cards themselves don't have value, but added to the Sinclair as a "complete package" they suddenly do.

    Other items from your post:

    Hardware: eBay is your best friend.  You can rebuild your Tandy 1000 from parts on eBay.  You can buy a complete and whole Tandy 1000 on eBay.  I buy used car parts all the time on eBay to keep my junkers running, same principle can be applied to most old machines (fun fact: you can still buy parts for a DMC DeLorean on eBay).  The only area you'll get stuck is if its media for a machine that REALLY old (much like parts for a very very old car).

    Software/Emulation:  for examples that fall under "1", the good news is a majority of this material will usually be readable/obtainable since emulators for most old machine types already exist, and are almost always "free" (I just fired up my C64 emulator the other day). The most frequent snag I hear in this area is that data was saved in a proprietary format from some proprietary software, and that there isn't a good data interpreter available to read the data.  Not much to do here except to see if you can fire up the old software (or in the worst case, break out your hex editor).  Storage of these items can be done in the same way as your other digital assets -- store the original along with the functional copies/transcripts so that they're immediately usable but still allowing access to the original.

    Budget:  It's exactly the same issues with this as with a special collection of books -- storage space, temperature control, curation, and collection.  I strongly believe you can apply your print archival skills to digital media and not miss a beat.  Yes, digital media archiving has budget issues, but so does every other collection type.

   This is running long, but I think in total the preservation of digital material is very close to the methods and policies of keeping any other materials (store at proper temperatures, handle as appropriate) and the methods of curating/archiving the collection are almost exactly the same, outside of the fact you're really evaluating two items (the data, the physical object) rather than just one.


David K. Uspal
Technology Development Specialist
Falvey Memorial Library
Phone: 610-519-8954
Email: [log in to unmask]





-----Original Message-----
From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Al Matthews
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 1:52 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [CODE4LIB] old stuff

Hello. I have a local question that I will assume to be general: how do those of you involved in special collections and the like - especially in the event that those collections are born digital and perhaps not entirely recent - deal with issues of evaluation of digital assets?

One difficult example might be: sharing or procuring a specific kind of technical resource (where an "extreme" case might be, a 3.5" or 5.25" disk - or suppose it's DOS-era magnetic media, for an alternate challenge) among institutions who aren't prepared to amass collections of such.

To me this touches on hardware, software, emulation, expertise and budget issues all at once.

Thoughts?

Thanks,

--
Al Matthews, Software Dev,
Atlanta University Center



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