3.664 optical and magnetic media (107)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Mon, 30 Oct 89 20:03:08 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 664. Monday, 30 Oct 1989.

Date: Mon, 30 Oct 89 17:09:06 CST
Subject: CD ROM-Optical Disks -- Archival Storage

[The following has been borrowed with thanks from the PACS-L
seminar. It is one of several on this subject. --W.M.]

The interest in using optical and magnetic based systems for
storage and dissemination is growing at an enormous rate.
Unfortunately there are no standards for many of these devices and
no available independent life expectancy testing of the various
proposed media. Further, there is no assurance that the playback
systems necessary to retrieve data will be supported in the long
term by manufacturers. Major investments at this time are
premature. Pushing in this direction however is not.

Over-zealous marketing claims in this field have led to equally
negative press about those claims. As a recent subscriber to PACS-
L, the mail I have seen reflects these two poles of enthusiasm vs.

I would caution against this topic becoming a matter of "faith"--
those who would like to believe the problems have already been
solved or those who would like to believe new technology simply
isn't needed. Expeditious pragmatic study along with interaction
with the manufacturing community is needed.

This process has already begun. As of June 1989, the American
National Standards Institute (ANSI) Formed the Joint Technical
Commission on Optical and Magnetic Systems (including media). The
United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO)
has begun support of a technical coordinating Committee to look at
related concerns of the International Federations of Film, Video
and Sound Archives. These are two of a number of groups that are
trying to work together to access these technologies and allow
users to make reasonable decisions for their application.

Another example comes from the Audio Engineering Society's
subcommittee for Audio Preservation and Restoration. This
subcommittee is comprised of manufacturers and archivists. As of
October 17, 1989 this group's consensus is that analog reel-to-reel
tape is to be used for long term storage of audio signals. Digital
storage media are not recommended at this time. Why? The primary
concern is a lack of equipment standards that would insure data
retrieval over a long time period.

The marriage of the equipment with the media has become a
number-one priority in the decision-making process.

The following is a press release from the ANSI Commission:

Permanence of Magnetics and Optical Disks

Curators and users of magnetic materials and optical
disks have been concerned with the lack of standards and
specifications on the permanence of these media and the
appropriate systems. This need has led to independent
action by the Audio Engineering Society (Subcommittee S4)
and by the American National Standards Institute
(Committee IT9). These two organizations have recently
joined forces and set up a Joint Technical Commission
which will report both to Committee IT9 and AES. Twenty-
five members attended the first organizational meeting
of this commission in Syracuse, New York on June 19-20,
1989. At this meeting the following scope was agreed
upon: "To write standards, test methods, recommended
practices and specifications pertaining to the life
expectancy and retrieval of information recorded on
optical and magnetic systems (including media) and to
promote communication and coordinate the exchange of
information among those involved in this field."

To accomplish these goals, five task groups were
organized. Task Group I will prepare definitions dealing
with the life expectancy of photographic film, magnetic
materials and optical disks which can apply to all three
media. Task Group II will prepare two storage and
handling recommended procedures, one on magnetic material
and the second on optical disks. Task Group III will
prepare a document on transfer technology which will
address the need to transfer from an obsolete media
and/or format to a current one. Task Group IV will
prepare specifications on optical systems and Task Group
V on magnetic systems. In keeping with the scope of the
commission, Task Groups IV and V will be involved not
only with the permanence of the media itself but also the
associated hardware and software.

Organizations wishing to participate n the activities of
these task groups should contact the co-chairmen of the
commission, William Storm, Syracuse University, Belfer
Audio Lab, 222 Waverly Ave., Syracuse, NY, 13244, or
Peter Adelstein, Rochester Institute of Technology, Image
Permanence Institute, RIT City Center, 50 W. Main St.,
Rochester, NY 14614.

P. Adelstein
W. Storm