Recently, I read an article on so-called digital dust, expressing the fear that in the fast changing world of digital formats and storage media, information and with this knowledge might get lost that had been stored on old magnetic tapes or 5½ inch floppy disks. The view was expressed that in the printed world we are still able to read old books since the code has not changed over centuries. I believe this to be naive.
Give a 16 century manuscript to a guy on the street, or even a university student… how many would be able to decipher the texts? Or confront them with different code of a Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, etc. book of that periode – same result, surely. Only a few trained experts are able to transcribe/translate it for us. The parallel is true for our present machine world.
The amount of digital information produced requires us to create new strategies to retain and preserve it digitally. In the old days humans invented libraries, but who knows what they based their selection on and how many works did not make it there and are now lost?!