There’s a new exhibit at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, which the Ur-Guru and I enjoyed a visit to a few years ago. The exhibit is called “Revolution: the First 2000 Years of Computing.”
What? Two thousand years? Yeah, you thought the Babbage Engine was old, but the Antikythera Mechanism dates back to the 2nd century BCE.
The Computerworld article about the exhibit highlights the storage features, including some interesting statistics that show us how far we’ve come:
A 1TB hard drive that sells for as little as $60 today would have been worth $1 trillion in the 1950s, when computer storage cost $1 per byte, according to Dag Spicer, senior curator of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.
And a modern-day 4GB stick of RAM would have cost $32 billion.
But the Computer History Museum’s YouTube Channel includes some more sober material, notably this video about the obsolescence of digital storage media. Some analog data storage methods have lasted thousands of years, and because the data was stored in human languages, humans have been able to read it. It’s not easy these days to find a computer that will read an 8-inch floppy—or even a 3.25-inch floppy.
While many of us might happily dispose of our day-to-day business data when we shred our tax records every seven years, and we surely don’t need to save every single one of the thousands of photos we take for posterity, we do want to leave something behind.
We need an equivalent of the armies of scribes who labored all day in monasteries recopying ancient manuscripts to keep them from being lost. And we can hope that we might have better luck, too. Today we have seven plays by the great Greek tragedian Aeschylus, who is known to have written at least ten times that many, and none at all by many of his contemporaries.
E-books are an unstoppable phenomenon, and their authors surely want to be read generations, if not centuries, from now. How do we make that happen?
You can see a slide show of images from the exhibit on Computerworld.
Leave a Reply