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The Internet Archive, a leading digital depository, in its own words:
"...is working to prevent Internet — a new medium with major historical significance — and other "born-digital" materials from disappearing into past. Collaborating with institutions including Library of Congress and Smithsonian, we are working to permanently preserve a record of public material."
Data storage is first phase. It is not as simple as it sounds. The proliferation of formats of digital content has made it necessary to develop a standard for archiving Internet objects. The size of digitized collections must pose a serious challenge as far as timely retrieval is concerned. Interoperability issues (numerous formats and readers) probably requires software and hardware plug-ins to render a smooth and transparent user interface.
Moreover, as time passes, digital data, stored on magnetic media, tend to deteriorate. It must be copied to newer media every 10 years or so ("migration"). Advances in hardware and software applications render many of digital records indecipherable (try reading your word processing files from 1981, stored on 5.25" floppies!). Special emulators of older hardware and software must be used to decode ancient data files. And, to ameliorate impact of inevitable natural disasters, accidents, bankruptcies of publishers, and politically motivated destruction of data - multiple copies and redundant systems and archives must be maintained. As time passes, data formatting "dictionaries" will be needed. Data preservation is hardly useful if data cannot be searched, retrieved, extracted, and researched. And, as "The Economist" put it ("The Economist Technology Quarterly, September 22nd, 2001), without a "Rosetta Stone" of data formats, future deciphering of stored data might prove to be an insurmountable obstacle.
Last, but by no means least, Internet libraries are Internet based. They themselves are as ephemeral as historical record they aim to preserve. This tenuous cyber existence goes a long way towards explaining why our paperless offices consume much more paper than ever before.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com