blog: Ease of Identification

I thought about Rob Pike’s piece on the value of physical prints. He gives three examples: Photos from the Scott Antarctic expedition, photos from his family and, as contrast, tapes containing early development records of the Unix operating system. He talks about the need for curation of digital information regarding software, hardware and formats. I miss a prior step: Realizing that something of value can be found in the haystack of bits; the Identification of valuable data.

Once the penguin poo was cleaned off the films from the Antarctic, it was clear what they were. You could already get a good idea about their content by holding them up against the light. Even simpler for the shoe box of family photos, no penguin poo (I presume). The content was immediately identifiable. In case of the DECtapes, I imagine they were marked and contained relatively few different things.

Now imagine someone inheriting your hard drives. Assume they are readable - hardware, file system, file formats and all. Said someone now has huge piles of data created by you mingled with data you just consumed. There are audio files mixed with videos mixed with spread sheets mixed with pictures mixed with other stuff, probably badly (“not”) separated into own and foreign work and in crude folder hierarchies. Hopefully the lucky heir is willing to put in the work required to separate the good hay from the worthless hay.

Prints have an additional function: If it is important enough to print, odds are, it has some worth. It eases the identification part of the process.

Posted in analog
2017-06-15 11:40 UTC