(+) Preserve Your Data for Generations

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Bill LeFurgy has written an interesting report about ever-changing data formats and the effect on historical studies. The case he described concerns a survey of citizen reactions to the Kennedy assassination that was conducted from November 26 through December 3, 1963, by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. The survey results were recorded on paper punch cards, which were used to input data into the mainframe computer used to tabulate study data. Summary results were then published.

When another national catastrophe struck on September 11, 2001, NORC researchers wanted to replicate the 1963 study by asking the same kinds of questions to assess public reaction. The aim was to compare how the nation responded to two very different tragedies. There was but one problem: how to read the punched cards from the 1963 study?

The old 80-column punch cards were eventually located, and a vendor was found who could read them and convert them to more modern media. The vendor reported that they “had to refurb our punched card equipment, it had been sitting around so long it got a little rusty.” In the end, all worked well and the data set was successfully migrated to a modern data format. The story has a happy ending.

Full details may be read in Bill LeFurgy’s report at http://goo.gl/h2rcC.

This raises a question or two about your genealogy data. How are you saving it for future generations? Will today’s storage media become as obsolete as punch cards? Should you save the information to a different form of media? If so, which one?

Paper has proven to be rather unreliable, especially if only one copy is made. Paper often gets destroyed by fire, flood, earthquakes, and burst water pipes. Paper also consumes a lot of space. That’s expensive space if it is temperature and humidity controlled. Microfilm isn’t much better; new microfilm cameras are now almost impossible to find, and the manufacturers of microfilm already have warned their customers that new, unexposed microfilm will probably become unavailable within the next five years. Once that happens, nobody will be making new microfilms or even copies of existing microfilms.

Various digital media are available, each with its own strengths and shortcomings. Even the so-called M-Disks (see https://goo.gl/CIIqWm) are DVD disks that should last one thousand years, but nobody is predicting that equipment to read them will be available even twenty or thirty years from now.

So, what is the answer? I think there is a simple, but effective answer. However, it does have one major drawback: it requires people.

The remainder of this article is for Plus Edition subscribers only and will remain in the Plus Edition subscribers’ web site for several weeks. SUBSCRIBE NOW to read this article.

There are three different methods of viewing the full Plus Edition article:

1. If you have a Plus Edition user ID and password, you can read the full article right now at no additional charge in this web site’s Plus Edition at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=41702. This article will remain online for several weeks.

If you do not remember your Plus Edition user ID or password, you can retrieve them at http://www.eogn.com/wp/ and click on “Forgot password?”

2. If you do not have a Plus Edition subscription but would like to subscribe, you will be able to immediately read this article online. What sort of articles can you read in the Plus Edition? Click here to find out. For more information or to subscribe, goto https://blog.eogn.com/subscribe-to-the-plus-edition.

3. Non-subscribers may purchase this one article without subscribing for $2.00 US. You may purchase the article by clicking herePayment can be made with VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Card, or with PayPal’s safe and secure payment system.  You can then either read the article on-screen or else download it to your computer and save it.

%d bloggers like this: