Future of CDROM, DVD, etc.

Doug Yanega dyanega at POP.UCR.EDU
Thu Apr 27 10:07:48 CDT 2000

Richard Jensen wrote:

>Brian Jones makes an important point.  I know of a dissertation that was
>archived in a "permanent" file on punch cards, I archived all the data for
>my dissertation on punch cards, and the Greene Herbarium database
>(NDG; the first in North America to be computerized) was archived on both
>punch cards and magnetic tape.  Today, all of these are effectively
>unusable.  Over the past five years we have searched for a functional card
>reader - no one has one (I guess we could hire someone to transcribe the
>cards to a current database - but that's a monumental task). Many of us
>have lots of 5.25' diskettes that are on the verge (I have purposely
>maintained two working 5.25" drives) of being unusable (fortunately, I can
>still move the data to a better storage medium).  I read an article
>a couple of years ago predicting that the current CDROM technology would
>be functionally obsolete within about 12-15 years.

I can't keep quiet on this point any longer. Please, gentlemen, PLEASE
think about the things you re comparing here. How many people, among the
regular population, had heaps of punch cards in their houses that they had
paid good money for, and that they used to educate and entertain themselves
and their families??? If every person's prized collection of Beatles albums
was on punch cards, would they have sat quietly and let punch cards go
obsolete? Everything is dependent on DEMAND.

CD-ROMs will NEVER fall into the "obsolete technology with no simple
upgrade" category because the *demand* to see to it that they are readable
or upgradable is going to come from virtually every household that owns any
CDs. That's absolutely NOTHING like the situation faced by scientists 20
years ago, making decisions about their highly specialized archives and
storage media. Apples and oranges, folks - apples and oranges.

Punch cards may be gone, but turntables, cassette players, and VCRs *are*
still around, because there is now - and will always be - a *massive*
public demand. Too many people own LPs and cassettes, even though we now
have technology that renders them obsolete. Same goes for CD-ROM. The
argument "CDs are going to be unreadable in the future and therefore we
can't trust anything not on paper" is fundamentally flawed, and only serves
as a distraction from the real issues. I could just as easily argue that
libraries and the books in them will be obsolete within the next 50 years,
replaced - at best - by on-demand printing, and maybe even have better odds
of being correct, based on how little the average person uses books these
days. How are companies that print journals and taxonomic books supposed to
stay profitable in the future? Would you rather pay $400 for a book on the
Cicadas of Southeast Asia, or $40 for a CD that has all the same
information PLUS video and audio recordings of each species, plus 3D images
of the holotypes? This is what the Free Market is all about, and it has
nothing to do with what is logical or desirable for us, as scientists.

Doug Yanega        Dept. of Entomology         Entomology Research Museum
Univ. of California - Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521
phone: (909) 787-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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