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Living like an Irvanian in a universe filled with Dweasels

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Media formats and standards

March 2, 2007

Iíve spent much of the past couple of years working on what I call ďarchive projectsĒ, that is, converting old stuff I wanted to keep into a newer format.

I scanned over 25 yearsí worth of 35mm and 110mm photographic negatives, something like five thousand photos, saved them as digital images, organized Ďem, and burned them onto computer CD. Iíve been converting my old audio cassette tapes (about 300 or so of Ďem) to audio CD and moving my old Atari 800 and TRS-80 Color Computer games and files onto my Windows XP computer using emulator software. Now Iím scratching my head and wondering if I should go through all the effort of converting my VHS video tapes to DVD.

All this got me thinking about media formats and standards and how they donít survive over time. All that music that people download onto their computers: itís not really permanent. At some point, a few years down the line, itíll have to be migrated to some newer format, either because the format theyíre in now wonít work anymore or the equipment now used to play and record the music wonít be around anymore.

Back in 1982 I migrated all my music from vinyl album to cassette tape. Now, in 2007, Iím migrating all that music (much of which isnít available on CD and probably never will be) and everything I recorded up until around 2001 to CD format. No doubt Iíll have to migrate it again to a newer format, but when? I still have cassette tapes that date back to 1972 and are still playable (my overall ďdeath rateĒ for cassette tapes is probably less than 5% over the years). Will I get 35 years of use out of the audio CD format?

I know, thereís a prevailing school of thought that anything more than a few years old isnít worth saving, but Iíve never held to that view. Iíve got a lot of old stuff Iíd like to continue enjoying, and Iíd at least like to have the option of handing it down to my kids and grandkids.


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March 2007 articles
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The content on this page was written: March 2, 2007
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