Scanning question (Is destruction of old tech docs a moral crime?)

Guy Dunphy guykd at
Sun Jul 21 23:27:34 CDT 2019

At 07:58 PM 21/07/2019 -0700, you wrote:
>> Even if the digital version _did_ fully capture the information content, I
>> strongly dispute that the physical item/document has lost it's value.
>> That 'digital is all we need' viewpoint is a trap for the naive, because:
>. . . and does it FULLY capture the information content.  One might 
>think so, but much later, somebody asks, "in the number on page 576, is 
>that a '3' or an '8'?"
>There is always the possibility of a need to go back to prior, or even 
>original forms.

Even worse, are you aware of the JBIG2 image compression debacle? Ref at bottom of
Note this monster is one of the built-in 'features' of PDF. But not PNG.
Sounds like lawyers will be disputing whether anything encoded with JBIG2 can be
accepted as evidence in court.

>Many arguments are actually based on inadequaate definition of terms.  Two 
>people who might actually agree argue based on having different 
>For example, cutting the spine off of a book can definitely be considered 
>to be DAMAGING the artifact.  But do we want to consider that 

It's gray. Bear in mind that loose pages can be lost, or got out of order.
And the 'book-nature' is gone. But if you punched and ring-bound them?
It's not really important to argue this. Partly because in many cases of
spine-removal, the intentionally pages WILL be destroyed afterwards.

>Certainly landfilling once something is scanned is "DESTROYING" (although 
>what was the final result of the landfill salvage of those game 
>But putting the book back on a shelf, without its spine?

Ha, I have a few old books that have fallen apart on their own, and are on
shelves in ziplock plastic bags. They're urgent scans.
Maybe I might try repairing them. Years ago I had a treasured childhood book
rebound professionally after the spine disintegrated. The Jungle Book, by Kipling.
The original before Hollywood ruined it. With illustrations by M & E Detmold.
Published 1922.

>That may seriously damage cultural aspects, but not necessarily the 
>informational value.
>And, admittedly, there can be some corner cases, such as if slicing off 
>the binding lost notes scribbled in the margins by an important prior 

And ultimately a really old work might become fragments in plastic folders,
or palimpsets being x-rayed to recover earlier impressions.
But don't let extreme cases divert you from dealing sensibly with the usual

>Oh, and when you die, your executor may be quick to discard all of those 
>unbound books.   When I die, contact my sister, bring a skip, and offer to 
>do all of the hauling for her at a lower rate than any of the commercial 
>services charge.
>At some point, most collections end up in the hands of "administrators" 
>with no appreciation for the materials.  "And, it is certainly not worth 
>the cost to keep all of this crap!"

Yes, this is the biggest problem, in a society in which so few value history.
Hard to find trustworthy heirs for collections. Even hampered by the laws.
So often the widow just tosses everything, or at best sells it off in bits without
much care or understanding. I can think of several examples I've known.

Ah well. Hurry up with the immortality tech, I say. Those telomeres aren't going
to lengthen themselves.

>Another example to keep bringing up -
>BBC did not think that there would be any further need of the already 
>aired Dostor Who episodes, and could reuse the tape.  Besides, "some other 
>department has copies of all of them".  There's 100 episodes for which NO 
>copies have been found.   It's a big deal when a 16mm B&W print is found 
>in a shed in the outback, or even home 8mm movies of the living room TV 

In Sydney, a major national TV station (Channel 7, in Epping) had an enormous
archive of video master tapes. They held all the culturally iconic Australian
broadcasts since the beginning of Television here.
I had a friend who worked there. After the place shut down (they moved) and the
site sat abandoned for a while, I was among many who enjoyed exploring it.
There was a tennis court, in a sort of gulley near the buildings. It had a strange
subsidence crack across the middle of the court. My friend told me the story.
Beancounters in the company had decided the tapes archive was a waste of resources.
So they had the entire contents dumped into that gulley, then covered over with dirt
and a tennis court built on top.
The site was later sold and built over with hi-rise units.

There's also the story of the Apollo program video tapes. NASA threw out or taped over
all the orignals.
They also deliberately destroyed all the engineering drawings for the Saturn 5.
Only by remarkable luck did most of the video recordings survive, and have since been


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