Thursday, March 13, 2014

Microfiche & Long Term Archiving of Human Information

Microfilm was the bomb 40 years ago.

Almost extinct now, it represented the ultimate EMP proof storage medium. Burroughs corporation based their whole post-war recovery strategy on it. Central repositories would issue masters for printing books on civil defence and aftermath recovery and distribute them nationwide. A systemic effort was made to record as much critical knowledge as was possible on microfilm. When you see the tours of the old civil defence shelters in the U.S. you will always see the old microfilm devices sitting rusting in the shadows.

Believe it or not, they had microfiche readers for binary data where computer programs could be read from optical encoding to put back into devices. There are efforts to modernize this process. Many old cobol and fortran programs were archived this way by the RAND corporation and Burroughs.

It was a popular idea on both sides of the Cold War because it represented continuity of civilisation in more ways than one. The idea of freezing civilisation in miniature pictures on plastic film and then rewarming it after World War III like a TV dinner was a very powerful expression of the human desire to preserve the best things where the rude boots of war cannot trample them. It is my opinion that the loss of this desire presages the end of that civilisation. Where men cannot bother to maintain any longer, they won't have to worry about it much longer.

It is very revealing about our modern world than almost nothing that is public and common could survive a solar flare but our ancestors had designed their knowledge retrieval system such that this kind of event would be a mere inconvenience. They would have found it easier to wind up a roll of microfilm and recover vast amounts of technology than we would be able to rely on our USB sticks to even survive a mild electromagnetic pulse in the majority of cases.

Tex comes clean : This is why we think the old tech is the best platform for Vault-OS. The new tech is rapidly becoming a computer you end up sharing with the world whether you want to or not. Think these guys will waste any time writing megastealth hooks for Desqview-X or FreeDOS? Probably not. This is also why writing for HTML browsers that are 20 years old is a good idea. All the benefits of the new with none of the spooks in your machine.

1 comment:

Publius said...

Microfilm/microfiche is awesome! I used to read through old newspapers in my hometown growing up. It was like a time machine.
And yes, the technology will be far longer-lived than our current digital archives.