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What do I do with extinct formats?

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We all have them. Extinct technology. It comes and goes. We often take it for granted. At first, we treat it like a shiny new thing and then it becomes disposable. Soon, it collects dust somewhere.

Some of this technology stores data which was acquired or created by you. Some of that data may be digital files of value or digital assets, possibly even with some metadata.  Those files may be extinct (or soon to be expired and unsupported) file formats. Some of these file format may be proprietary which may require no longer used proprietary software to run it or a much older version of software to work with it because it is simply no longer supported today.

Sometimes, this data is on extinct physical media such as:

  • Smart phones (average life span: 1-2 years)
  • Prior personal computers (we all have them…every 2-5 years)
  • Smaller external hard drives (do you copy the old data as these hard drives get bigger, cheaper and faster? Or even use cloud storage?)
  • Film (Print or Slide) bye-bye Kodachrome. Film is simply a waste of time and money today. It makes no business sense to use it. If you have film, scan it (hi-res) as needed and archive the rest. Move on.
  • Compact Disc (tic toc…how many devices have optical drives today? Less. The writing is on wall.)
  • Video tapes (pick any of 30+ flavors. Convert to digital as needed and archive the rest.)
  • Zip drives and other proprietary forms of media
  • Cassette tapes
  • Floppy discs (all)
  • 8-tracks (really old school)
  • LP (33, 45 or wax)

Most of these have two things in common: They store information in some form and they fade into history, often with this information. Technology is disposable (Our culture makes sure of it). Before the end of this decade we will be adding DVDs to the list above (and have a lot of scratched coasters) as we download or stream data.

These may still need to be migrated to a current digital form while they still can. This is not about nostalgia. It’s about retaining a historical record. Or have it forgotten and lost permanently. Everything has a life span. Even when it is digital. Not all “stuff” may need to be kept that is why it takes an evaluation or review to determine the value, the feasibility and options available.

The simple answer to the question “What do I do with extinct formats?” is evaluate and migrate what is needed/wanted at least every 5 years.

Don’t believe me? Listen to this podcast.

What do you do with extinct formats?

Author: Henrik de Gyor

Consultant. Podcaster. Writer.

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