Depressing article

Chuck Guzis cclist at sydex.com
Fri Jul 14 11:39:47 CDT 2017


On 07/14/2017 08:37 AM, Toby Thain via cctalk wrote:

> Calculations of how much storage would be required aren't of much
> interest if the data itself isn't safely or cost effectively recoverable.
> 
> The fault here isn't with NASA -- it's that few of us are able to store
> artefacts in suitable conditions, have means or time to properly process
> or archive or publish them, or have succession plans for what's in our
> basements. Of course, relatives (if any) eventually have to deal with
> them at the worst moment, generally without means, context, or time.

You have no idea how much data is stashed away in the form of tape in a
NASA/JPL warehouse.   Many of the tapes have very sketchy labels--you
have to remember that NASA is a lot like many of contract vendors like
Lockheed.  A project winds up, much is discarded.  An employee leaves,
whatever he leaves in the office is either shredded or warehoused.

A lot of the JPL tapes that I'm working with have little information on
the labels--a tape number, the person's name, his extension.   Often,
not even the density/number of tracks on the tape.   Few contain
ANSI-type volume labels--and you have to be a pretty good guesser to
even determine what *system* was used to create the tape.   At some
point, without context, it's all just bits.

For the companies that do special work for government, the product left
over after the conclusion of the contract is often viewed as a security
liability and so is destroyed.   I recall one such situation that, were
it not for a tape kept as a personal possession, a contract worth a
couple hundred million dollars would have been lost.

As far as what's on the Internet--forget it--not even Brewster Kahle can
keep up with it.  We're writing our history in dry sand in a windy climate.

--Chuck



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