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The (short) History of Digital Archiving

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Digital long-term archival seems to be an antagonism in itself given that the history of digital computing machinery is only about seventy years old. The first concept of a modern digital computer has already been conceived in the 19th century by Charles Babbage. However the construction of the steam driven computer failed because of the limits of precision in the mechanical workmanship of the time.

About a hundred years later, his vision started to become reality. With the construction of the first programmable electronic computers, the digital revolution started. As soon as digital computers became general purpose machines, archiving of digital data became a necessity. Archiving of digital data is plagued by (at least) three problems:

1. The medium into which the data is recorded may fail with time

2. The technology (hard- and software) to read and write the medium may become obsolete

3. The information on how to decode the digital code on a medium gets lost

In the short history of computing machinery, many attempts have been made to find “the best” storage and archival medium. I will present in this paper experiences of success and failure in the quest of permanent archival of digital data, from the beginning of the history of computing to the visions that loom on the horizons of the future.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • The IS&T (digital) Archiving Conference offers a unique opportunity for imaging scientists and those working in the cultural heritage community (curators, archivists, librarians, photographers etc) from around the world to come together to discuss the most pressing issues related to the digital preservation and stewardship of hardcopy, and other cultural heritage documents and objects. Authors come from museums, archives, libraries, government institutions, industry and academia. Cutting edge topics related to multispectral and 3D imaging, as well as best practices for workflow, sharing, standards, and asset/collection management and dissemination are explored in papers presented at this annual, international event.

    Please note: For purposes of its Digital Library content, IS&T defines Open Access as papers that will be downloadable in their entirety for free in pertuity. Copyright restrictions on papers vary; see individual paper for details.

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