A medium increasingly rare

Our words grow ever ephemeral:

I interviewed Neal Stephenson years ago about The Baroque Cycle, and he said he wrote it with pen and ink to feel more in sync with the period. He also said he went to the British Museum and read Isaac Newton’s original manuscripts and they were still legible centuries later, while his study was full of old floppy disks that he could no longer read.

It might be well to remember that the Compact Disc, still venerated in some circles as the ne plus ultra of audio delivery systems, was originally intended as a convenience format: had they meant to sell it as a high-fidelity medium, they would have given it a name not quite so mundane.


  1. fillyjonk »

    17 April 2019 · 11:47 am

    True. I have books published 100 years before I was born that still work fine; a couple papers I wrote in 1991 I can no longer access because of disk-rot. (And worse: the painstakingly made archive of my dissertation data has apparently bit-rotted on its CD Rom).

    I also know lots of people (my brother is one) who are going back to vinyl as apparently a more “permanent” medium for music.

  2. McGehee »

    17 April 2019 · 1:58 pm

    Big Tech loves that floppies and CDs aren’t reliable longterm storage media; it encourages people to keep their data “live” on cloud storage accounts, where backups and server maintenance cycles conspire to keep data from vanishing into the ether (as long as you don’t ask too much of your cloud-sync utilities and end up causing your own losses, as I’ve done more than once).

    Data that are stored away in boxes in the closet can’t be mined for marketing insights about their creators.

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