Pseudo-Taxonomy on the WWW

Sam James sjames at
Mon Oct 21 12:44:13 EST 1996

I would like to weigh in on Paul Schroeder's side with a further cautionary

Think of all the data carefully archived on punch cards or big tape reels a
decade or two ago.  Suppose you wanted that stuff usable NOW. Could you get
it?  Probably not without a fishing expedition.  How about ten years from
now?  Go to the city dump, find the equipment, etc.  Suppose you archive the
web publications on CD-ROM, or some other apparently long-lived medium?
There are people who seriously doubt the longevity of the physical medium
(in decades), and whether or not the data format will be easily retrievable
in 20 years. Technology under development now could put a trillion bytes per
cubic centimeter of plastic.  When that happens, who is going to keep those
clunky old 10X CD-ROM drives, or bulky old backup tape cartridges?  Who is
going to take the time to reformat and re-store those old e-publications
each time technology takes a great leap in storage/retrieval systems?  Will
every museum of natural history also have to maintain a museum of computer
technology?  While paper may not have the aura of permanence about it
(fires, acids, floods, etc.), it sure looks better for taxonomic work than
electronic publication.  Besides, scanners and OCR equipment are getting
better all the time. 

~  Sam James                ~
~  Dept. of Biology         ~
~  Maharishi Univ. of Mgmt. ~
~  Fairfield, IA 52557      ~
~  sjames at           ~
~  515-472-1146             ~
~ Systematics and Ecology   ~
~ of Earthworms             ~

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