It’s hit me recently that we are really up against it at the moment in the world of digital preservation.
At present i’ve spent on and off around 5 months in my spare time backing up a load of disks from an ex-C64 developer – probably about 300 disks to be precise. Normally in the past it would take a good few weeks to back everything up, but with this particular batch it has a been a painful process due to bit rot on the disks and the surface starting to degrade on most of the cheaper brands of floppy disk.
Luckily through the use of head cleaning fluid and cotton buds, i’ve managed to get most of the data off the disks – but some disks were just far too damaged to get anything useful off them.
It seems to be a growing trend as I get new batches over time – with bit rot becoming very common and time taken to recover data and preserve it taking far longer as a result. Unfortunately there is only so much that any few people can do in their limited free time, so we just have to persevere and hope that we save as much lost software as we can.
In a way it is a shame that there are not more full time preservation projects dedicated to this kind of thing. There are pockets of preservationists for all kinds of media, like political cartoons or even old TV shows (thinking of the recent documentary on Bob Monkhouse and his collection of shows being preserved) – but nothing really as high profile for gaming media. There could well be in time – but by then it could be too late.
It could mean that for GTW64, we lose many a title, not down to the disks being binned – but purely for the fact that the disks may not be readable soon. It’s a sobering thought if you are into this preservation and posterity lark like I am! 🙂