What does it mean to have your data in digital form?

Compact Disc celebrates 25th birthday

First discs rolled off presses August 17, 1982. So, if digital lasts forever.. or 5 years, whichever comes first, CDs may (may!) last forever.

The news story follows the way that CDs changed the music industry.. the rise.. and, with other digital formats, the fall. But the part that interests me the most are the techno-geeky deets about how the CD came to be, well, the CD:

Yet it had been a risky technical endeavor to attempt to bring digital audio to the masses, said Pieter Kramer, the head of the optical research group at Philips’ labs in the Netherlands in the 1970s.

“When we started there was nothing in place,” he told The Associated Press at Philips’ corporate museum in Eindhoven.

The proposed semiconductor chips needed for CD players were to be the most advanced ever used in a consumer product. And the lasers were ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 16, 2007 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitality
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(UPDATED) goes beta: Their Terms of Service Stopped Me Cold

The promise of is compelling. Store information about your life. Forever. They’re thinking way far ahead– they’ve established a non-profit foundation to store the stories in perpetuity. Sounds great. But I’m not going to use the site. (Well, beyond a quick signup and look see.) The Terms of Service has a big gotcha in it: You grant and its parent company, Eravita, a 6% (minimum) royalty of any money you make on the proceeds of any commercial creative endeavors of the story of your own life.

UPDATE: I heard from the site’s COO. They’ve changed the TOS and deleted the objectionable part. Continue reading the original post and, at the end, the relevant portion of email from’s COO.

The TOS was brought to my attention by my friend Cynthia, who visited the site the first day it was open.

Today’s the first day I’ve had a chance to visit, and I’m rockin’ back on my heels. I’m scared to even sign up to see what is behind it. 

Here’s the part of their TOS in the big capital letters (side note: Why oh why does the most important stuff get printed in all caps, which, when presented in paragraph form, make the most important stuff the hardest to read?)

Note: They updated their TOS, view note at end of this post for more info.


Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 07, 2007 in • DigitalityFamily History SoftwareLongevityPersonal History
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Digitization Resources

I could spend a good, long day getting lost in these Digitization Resources links by Hurst Associates at Digitization 101. From a workshop Jill Hurst-Wahl led at the Comptuers in Libraries conference.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 18, 2007 in • DigitalityLinksLongevity
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The Lost last 20 years; and a plea for paper (!!!)

1980-2000 has disappeared into the ether. Sorry. The history that’s being written right now does not have this kind of sensory fulness (if it’s being saved at all): “I have recently spent many hours in the National Archives, ferreting through the wartime records of MI5. The sheer richness of written material is overwhelming: letters, memos, telephone transcripts, diaries, scribbled notes in the margins. You can smell the pipe smoke and personalities wafting off the pages.”

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 26, 2007 in • DigitalityLongevity
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History Digitized (and Abridged) Follow-up

A follow-up post (read my previous) with various responses to the Katie Hafner article on History Digitized.

But before I do, I’ll offer my own, small what-if thought about how to get a bigger budget to digitize historical artifacts: I know of efforts and companies moving into this space. What they do: Digitizing Your Memories. Your Personal History. (Heck, this site is also an effort in this direction). Suppose that the players in this space were to create a fund from a small portion of proceeds of each company? The fund would underwrite digitization efforts. It’d never get as big as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but it’d be focused on This One Thing.

Speaking of Bill Gates, David Rothman compares libraries to the steel industry (once a giant, now a weak shadow of its former self), concentrating on library budgets in a “follow the money.” What’s the library budget per person? He’s got the goods. Incidentally, Andrew Carnegie, who founded (funded?) so many libraries, got his money from steel. Rothman looks at the benefactor Bill Gates, and what his fund is buying (computing equipment) and what it is not (digitizing the data, the content, the stuff). Rothman’s Steel-and-Libraries inspiration comes from a post by Peter Brantly, digital librarian: There was a moment in the history of the steel industry where it could have adapted ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 12, 2007 in • DigitalityHistoryLongevity
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History: If it isn’t digital, it doesn’t exist

History: Digitized and Abridged. Not everything will get digitized. And the non-digital will be overlooked. This NYTimes article by Katie Haffner provides a fascinating (and sobering) twist on the trend toward digitality. [via Dave Winer, Scripting News] It’s very expensive to transfer all those archives of artifacts into digital form. Who will support the digitizing of historical artifacts? And how much stuff – and history– will get “lost” as an increasingly-digital-aware public overlooks the items that aren’t in digital form?

While the Internet boom has made information more accessible and widespread than ever, that very ubiquity also threatens records and artifacts that do not easily lend themselves to digitization — because of cost, but also because Web surfers and more devoted data hounds simply find it easier to go online than to travel far and wide to see tangible artifacts.

The article touches on matters of copyright. Copyright laws—which have extended the term of copyright from the original 7 years to over 90 years—does not touch on matters of digital preservation. An example of how things get mucked up as a result: A collection from Leonard Bernstein was donated to the Library of Congress. In ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 11, 2007 in • DigitalityHistoryLongevity
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Save My Memories

A website devoted to longevity and preservation of digital photographs. A site put together by the International Imaging Industry Association (I3A). Cause you want to “remember the day in pictures” but not have your digital images go to “file heaven”– that location the bits go when your disk drive crashes or you accidentally erase the files.
[via Digitzation 101 via Richard Hess]

And while digital technologies have changed the way we capture and share photos, the desire to safeguard our visual heritage today, and in the future, remains essentially the same.

The companies that comprise the International Imaging Industry Association, or I3A, understand this all too well. That’s why we created this site—to help you understand how to protect and preserve your photographic memories for years to come.

The issues with digital preservation of photographs are bascially the same as the issues of digital preservation of spoken word stories. Once the files exist as digital files (hey, it’s all bits), you’re in the realm of preserving digital media. This page ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 11, 2007 in • DigitalityLongevityPhotographs
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Protecting CDs

The Practical Archivist: Have you been protecting the wrong side of your CDs? With link to a cutaway image that. Ow: she recommends jewel cases, not envelopes. Sigh. (Yep, I use envelopes)

I no longer use Sharpies on my disks, but CD/DVD markers made for the purpose. Sally Jacobs recommends writing only on the clear center section of the disk. I’m not there yet.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 04, 2007 in • DigitalityLongevity
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CES and Macworld are nigh

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Macworld are this next week. Various news websites are all a-twitter about what news and annoucements will be coming out of each show. Who’s going to introduce what? I’ll be following along, on the lookout for whatever news comes out of each show, especially as it affects tools for recording and preserving family memories.

On the Macworld front, there’ll be software and hardware announcements and new releases. Same thing with CES, only it’ll be more hardware than software.

I wish I were there to speak face to face to the vendors to ask how the new new new stuff they’ve been working on is supposed to last for decades, yea, even for generations. This is a whole part of industry that thrives on innovation, leaving behind yesterday’s woo-woo cool thing in order to focus on the next new hot thing. I mean, really.. they just have to make their quarterly numbers.

I’m not attending either show, but feel a bit nostalgic about both: My first trade show ever was working at Comdex in Las Vegas (alas no more; it ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 06, 2007 in • AudioAudio: HardwareDigitalityLongevityVideoVideo: Hardware
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The Joy of Obsolescence

Sally Jacobs writes The Practical Archivist, a new blog find (well, I found it through Moultrie Creek’s Family Matters site).

About the site: “Archiving tips and geeky tidbits for genealogists, history buffs, and keepers of the family photo album. Written by an archivist who never met an antique photograph she didn’t like.”

Sally Jacobs is seriously into obsolescence. (!!) No, really. I’m trying to figure out which of her posts to highlight, and I’m drawn like a magpie to her shiny jewels about fading things. Here are the topics of three of her recent posts:

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 03, 2007 in • DigitalityLinksLongevity
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Happy New Year

Happy 2007! I live in the greater Pasadena area, and that city throws a big annual floral New Year’s party for a large number of visitors and an even larger television audience. We were wakened by the non-stealthy roar of the Stealth bomber (& 2 fighter escort jets) at 7:30 this morning– the jets fly in wide circles near the mountains before they start the parade just after 8 by strafing the 5+ mile route. We went outside to look, and discovered that the best way to spot the jets is to stand outside and shiver for a bit waiting for the next pass; by the time the sound reached us, the jets receded from sight.

My first in-person viewing of the parade was 1983, and believe it or not, the memory of that day is relevant to this site’s theme of digital tools for preserving memories.

On New Year’s Day in 1983, I worked the parade. I walked up and down two aisles of bleachers right near where the parade turns the corner, smack dab in the prime TV-camera viewing region. I sold Kodak film to loyal alums and boosters of the two college football teams. I did it to raise money for an overseas trip I took in the spring of that year; my school had exclusive rights to sell Kodak film along the parade route.

Today, while watching the TV coverage of the parade—-what? You think I braved the crowds to go down to the parade route? If you don’t live within walking distance or snag an invite to a parade-viewing party, the best way to watch it is in HiDef TV a few miles away. ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 01, 2007 in • DigitalityLongevityPersonal HistoryPhotographs
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Digital History year in Review

An abcedary list: Digital History Year in Review.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 29, 2006 in • DigitalityHistory
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How I might keep track of a bunch of old letters

I have a bunch of family letters. The letters in the attic from this site. I wish to set up some sort of systematic way of digitizing them. This post is an articulation of a possible scheme for doing so. It’s not even a proof of concept, it’s just the concept– a plan of action thinking through what I’d like to try to do.

Scan all those letters? I am a masochist. But if I want to scan them all and somehow make sense of them digitally, that makes me a systematic  masochist.

The letters are mostly to my grandmother. Some are to my grandfather from his sister and parents. But they’re basically the attic-box correspondence with their family. My great-grandmother wrote her daughter weekly. In addition to the news of doings from home and her teahing jobs, the dispensing of advice and how to cook this or that, my great-grandmother’s letters include fascinating details such as prices for objects, newspaper clippings, and a prodigious dose of nagging “Why don’t you write me?”, and more.

When dealing with ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 18, 2006 in • DigitalityLetters in the AtticPersonal History
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Preserving history in obsolete digital formats

Digital Domesday Book lasts 15 years not 1000. This March 3, 2002 article illustrates the hazards of entrusting your digitized bits to a dying format. By December 2002, researchers successfully retrieved the bits. The Domesday book, created in 1086, is a record of the state of Britain at that time.

The digital archive, and how it got locked:

The special computers developed to play the 12in video discs of text, photographs, maps and archive footage of British life are - quite simply - obsolete.

As a result, no one can access the reams of project information - equivalent to several sets of encyclopaedias - that were assembled about the state of the nation in 1986. By contrast, the original Domesday Book - an inventory of eleventh-century England compiled in 1086 by Norman monks - is in fine condition in the Public Record Office, Kew, and can be accessed by anyone who can read and has the right credentials. ‘It is ironic, but the 15-year-old version is unreadable, while the ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 03, 2006 in • DigitalityLongevity
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OurStory launches, first impressions (it’s Beta, and it breaks)

(updated) OurStory, a web app for sharing personal and family stories, just launched. I’m trying to check it out and got stuck at the new user registration page. The Terms of Service is two words shy of 3600 words–oof! (It’s displayed in an impossibly small box, 9 lines high. It took me over 40 clicks on the scroll bar to scroll through it all.) And that doesn’t count the privacy policy, which I think is more important– if I’m going to put stuff from my own life–words, photos, media files, onto their servers, I want to know what sort of safeguards they have about that data, and whether it’s still “mine” or does it become “theirs.”

My thoughts and expectations, before even seeing what’s inside: I expect that the site will provide a way for me to organize things. It will ask questions to spark stories. I assume that it will allow for uploading of pictures. Movie files? Audio files? Don’t know yet, but would assume so.

One concern I have at the outset is that I must register before the link called Q&A works (it leads to a register screen). Since the site has hinted about asking life questions, I don’t know whether Q&A refers is a differently-named FAQ  about the site or not. Also, the site doesn’t have a set of screenshots displaying what it’s like once you’ve signed up. The site is in beta, and no doubt the ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 17, 2006 in • DigitalityFamily History SoftwareLongevityPersonal History
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