Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ode to the Microfilm Reader

A few days ago, The Atlantic published a lovely article entitled Microfilm Lasts Half a Millennium.

Ugly and unloved, the microfilm machine still remains very useful:
"Unlike a computer—even an old one—it was heavy and ungainly. It would not fit into a car, and it could not be carried by two people for more than a few feet. Even moving the thing was an embarrassment. No one wanted it, but no one wanted me to have it around either."

"And yet the microfilm machine is still widely used. It has centuries of lasting power ahead of it, and new models are still being manufactured. It’s a shame that no intrigue will greet their arrival, because these machines continue to prove essential for preserving and accessing archival materials (...)"

"The xkcd comic gets a laugh because it seems absurd to suggest microfilm as the most reliable way to store archives, even though it will remain reliable for 500 years. Its lasting power keeps it a mainstay in research libraries and archives. But as recent cutting-edge technologies approach ever more rapid obsolescence, past (and passed-over) technologies such as the microfilm machine won’t go away. They’ll remain, steadily doing the same work they have done for the past century for another five more at least—provided the libraries they are stored in stay open, and the humans that would read and interpret their contents survive."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 9:19 pm

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