>My initial thoughts were partly prompted by seeing boxes of
five-and-a-quarter disks in an office throw-out bin (no drives now, I was
told); by memories of my old PCW three-inchers;<<
There are still some of us who can still read and convert those discs! I
do it all the time for people who have been told when they buy their new
computers, "It can't be done!" . That is how I got into data transfer in
the first place, but being told, "It can't be done" when I knew in theory
that it could. I persevered and eventually I could transfer data from an
electronic typewriter with a 4K memory to my faithful old PCW.
My original PCW data has now been through at least six different computers
and as many different programs, all without having to retype anything. I
have always updated my data onto the latest media. The big difference here
is that I still have all my old equipment and can even read some BBC discs
on my PCW.
I fully agree with Barney that we MUST use the belt and braces techniques.
This was summed up beautifully in a letter to Family Tree Magazine about
three years ago and I reproduce it here with Michael Armstrong's blanket
permission for me to reproduce it anywhere I think it will benefit family
It was from Brian Mayhew in Canada and was titled 'What's a Video, Dad?'
I read with interest the article, " The Motion Picture" in the January
issue, together with subsequent correspondence in "Readers' Letters".
While it may be an excellent idea, for those with the interest and
opportunity, to make such for their own and others' use, I would suggest
that anyone visiting using this method to make a permanent record for their
descendants or posterity should think again.
The problem is not so much the durability of the recording media but rather
the inexorable onward march of technology. The key issue is surely the
fact that all those methods, whether home movies, video types, computer
disks or compact video discs, require the use of sophisticated
elecro-mechanical devices in order to retrieve the information they
If you have inherited a verbal family history recorded by your ancestor
Thomas Edison on a waxed cylinder, where would you go today to find a
playback device to allow you to retrieve it? As a or recent example,
suppose you have data recorded on an eight inch floppy disk (quite common
10 to 15 years ago). Where today can you buy a disc drive to read it?
I suspect that, 100 years from now, most people who find a box of home
movies, discs or videotapes fact away in an effective will not even
recognize what they are, let alone be able to extract the information they
contain. While computers, video cameras and such are great tools to assist
in gathering and information, they are not a good choice for its permanent
The written record, whether committee to paper, microfilm or fiche, has the
advantage of easy recognition as information and is accessible with, at
most, a simple optics system with no duplicated parts to become obsolete,
wear out or malfunction.
~~ Jeanne Bunting (nee Attersley) Ash Vale, Surrey, UK