Robert A Amsler amsler at FLASH.BELLCORE.COM
Wed Aug 8 13:37:57 EST 1990

To: jgsmith at bcm.tmc.edu
Subject: Re: Electronic publishing

I guess the first problem would be that not everybody would have a
Mac and produce their materials on a Mac. So, right off you're into
MS-DOS and SUN and etc. workstations.  That multiplies the formats
of the text, but I'd suppose flat ASCII files would be available for

The mechanism for distribution doesn't seem to me to need more than
email, though the VMS systems with their automatic delivery of
files in reply to email requests is a nice capability.

The human moderator is always a problem since it basically requires a
quarter-time person to do the job.  It would really make sense for
someone to fund this being done, since I agree that moderated
newsgroups are worth the effort to the whole community. 

CD-ROM's do not yet have reliable estimates of their longevity,
however they are supposed to last at least as long as contemporary

The problem is misstated. The issue is how long will some company be
in the business of manufacturing equipment on which you can read an
electronic medium. I have 8" floppy diskettes in my office and there
are no readers for them left here.  Very few computer manufacturers
can read the medium on which people wrote data 20 years ago. The
magnetic tapes are at densities no longer supported, and written with
numbers of tracks no longer used. 

The perishability of the medium is a red herring.  What you do with
electronic data is rewrite it at least once a year onto a new copy to
prove it is still readable. The medium would have to change as the
hardware base changed. In short, you HAVE to rewrite it to retain
access to it. That isn't a big deal though and if libraries just
accepted this `dynamic' nature of electronic information they would
have no problem retaining it. They think `static' and that is wrong
in an electronic age. 

Interestingly enough, the last earthquake in northern California
proved that electronic media survived better than print media. The
backup tapes/diskettes were up and running on hardware somewhere in a
few days whereas the libraries were closed for months as many shelves
collapsed dumping everything onto floors and some buildings weren't
safe for occupancy. Saving research data in a computer with backups
kept off site is probably safer than saving things on paper in one

More information about the Biomatrx mailing list