Monday, October 24, 2005

Technology Tower of Babel

Thomas Fey, a futurist at the DaVinci Institute, suggest a transformation is afoot and that libraries have opportunties to exploit.

I am not certain I agree with his Trend #4, the one about getting close to finding a stable format for storage. Perhaps we will reach some point where we will reach the ultimate storage particle. But size isn't necessarily the deciding factor on what formats will live and which will be replaced. The whole VHS vs. Beta competition is a ready example. To his credit Fey recognizes that we will pursue other "information efficiencies such as speed, reliability, and durability". But it is precisely those advances in information technology that will continue to replace one generation's latest and greatest technology with something new.

And it is not just on the hardware front. I've got data tucked away from my early days of writing hypercard scripts that I cannot meaningfully use anymore. The access problem isn't in the storage medium as this data still sits on my current hard drive next today's email. New operating systems, new file formats, and new applications replacing older software will make our technology "Tower of Babel" all the more challenging as we try to maintain access for future generations.


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