fwd: Electronics vs Paper
sokal at HOLYROOD.ED.AC.UK
Thu Sep 18 22:25:08 CDT 1997
The most permanent of all 'electronic' media is the punched card. No
trouble with light (as with plastic CDs), stray magnetism and
radioactivity (as with magnetic tapes and disks), changes of address (as
with WWW). In fact, all the advantages of a book, except one: punched
cards can no longer be read.
No-one seems to have mentioned this, so perhaps I am out of date here: I
am worried that the biocode people are thinking of allowing publication on
electronic media for new names. CDs and WWW seem both wonderful and
standard, which they are. Just like the punched card 30 years ago.
Computers have not been around long enough in taxonomy for most of us to
have experienced enormous change. But even so, remember the days when UK
e-mail addresses were the wrong way around? Remember the EBDIC character
set? I do, just going back FIVE years.
Permanent free WWW sites will not solve the problem. In 50 years, the
Internet as we know it will not even exist. It will vanish with 7-bit
ASCII, Fortran-IV and C89 compatibility, BSD, DOS, X11, MacOS, the Win32
API, POSIX 4 and every computer we have ever known.
Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology,
University of Edinburgh,
Daniel Rutherford Building,
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