Friday, September 18, 2009

Obsolesence Frustration

Finally find some time this week to start working on a major rewrite of an old composition of mine. It is scheduled to be performed by a big orchestra, and I have promised to get the score an parts out as soon as possible.
I wrote the piece in the 90s, and carefully stored the files on the most modern devices: the floppy disc, and the Orb disc.
The Orb Disk? OK, so the Orb disappeared in months. But I had the floppies.I had been assured that the floppy disk would be around for centuries.
How was I to know that these disks would be overtaken by CDs? Remember that in those days, the largest hard drives had a capacity of 2 megabytes!!! I knew every system file on my drive by its first name.
OK, I have a keen appreciation for progress, and did not protest when the CD arrived on the scene. I even copied many, many floppy disks onto the new medium, and patiently put my disks into storage when the floppy drive became extinct.
And I noticed (because this is the kind of thing that I notice) that the program I had used to write my piece was no longer being updated. I promptly purchased a copy of the music program that was its successor. There was a promise on the box that the new program was perfectly compatible with the files generated with such love by the old program.
What I neglected to do was to print out clean copies of all my pieces onto hopelessly oldfashioned sheets of paper.
This has proven to be a disastrous oversight.
I had copied some-- but, as it turns out, not all-- of my music files onto CDs. The composition in question had made it onto a CD, but only in a very early and incomplete version. The original floppy disks were put into storage about 10 years ago, and I have no idea, where.
At least, I thought optimistically, I can rescue at least some of the work from the early version. No such luck-- the original music notation program had been aimed at the serious classical composer, but its successor only understood pop music and philosophies collided, seriously. My painstakingly notated rhythms were heedlessly smoothed into values which could be easily understood by Miss Brittany Spears. .. the detailed performance instructions were mercilessly deleted as superfluous.
I do have some copies of some of the original instrumental parts, but the full score printout is missing. It is horribly frustrating.

What is the moral of this story?

Try to take an inventory of what you know your kids will want to have. Believe me, it doesn't include your tax returns from 2001 or your emails from the co-workers about the scheduling.
If you are thinking of passing on some pictures or videos, think about how they could be stored. We are using DVDs at the moment, but there is no question but that after 15 years or so they will begin to degrade. The external hard drives are very convienient, but who is willing to bet that those motors will still be reliable in a dozen years?
So maybe you are uploading to a server? How many of those will still be online in 5 years?

What are you doing about this problem? Any suggestions?
The solution is redundancy. Files stored on the hard drive of your computer, a backup of these on an external hard disk, and, though I wouldn't go so far, an upload to an online storage service. Microsoft (I know you hate Microsoft, but...) SkyDrive, for example:
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