[OS X TeX] Re: Macintouch report on TeX versus Word

Adam M. Goldstein a.m.goldstein at mac.com
Sun Jan 25 11:42:16 EST 2009

On Jan 25, 2009, at 10:35 AM, Alain Schremmer wrote:

> On Jan 25, 2009, at 10:01 AM, Jason Davies wrote:
>> Alain Schremmer wrote on 24/1/09 at 21:45
>>>> If 100 years is asking too much then we are all in BIG trouble.
>>>> Print everything!  [?!]
>>> Well, there is a lot of writing from a long time ago that has  
>>> survived.
>> only because they were copied out. Even inscriptions on stone have  
>> a haphazard fate...

The Gilgamesh epic is being pieced together from inscriptions on  
stone. If we rule out abuse (destruction by invaders), the  
inscriptions are still as clear as on the day they were hammered into  
the wet clay of the stone tablet. Think about gravestones---some are  
still clearly legible after 100 or 150 years.

> What I was thinking of is how short-lasting electronic media are and  
> of  the major problem already being faced with electronic archiving.  
> A lot of data that was input, say, twenty years ago has already been  
> lost while books would probably have survived. Also, think of the  
> year 2000 scare: there was a lot of code still being used that, by  
> that time, only machines could read.
>> it's a doomed venture, people...we can but fight the tide....

Nothing lasts forever . . . even the constellations in the sky will  
become destroyed, given a long enough period of time.

> I am not sure I follow your drift ;-))

A book printed on acid-free paper with almost any ink of the sort used  
for books generally and protected from accident (fire, flood, abuse,  
etc) can be expected to last 100 years, easily, still even in pristine  
condition. 150 years is a cutoff point for many libraries---when a  
book reaches that age, it is checked to see if it needs special  
preservation or is of special value. Many will not, and few that are  
well-taken-care of will. Even paperbacks will last 20 or 30, although  
they will be yellowing and probably falling apart. Most digital media  
become obsolete within a few years, just as a normal development of  
technology; CD's are physically fragile, for instance, their center  
holes cracking from having been loaded too many times, or from having  
been taken in and out of their containers too many times. These  
problems can be surmounted, of course. They scratch easily as well.

The plain text format of LaTeX input is indeed far superior to Word  
and other proprietary formats. I think that anything in some form of  
SGML would be pretty good too, although much less good on the human- 
readable front. Still, with intuitive enough tags, a printout might  
still be understandable, even if there no machines to interpret the  
code and display it as it was meant to be.

Way off topic now but I am not the first one here . . .

Adam M. Goldstein PhD, MSLIS
agoldstein at iona.edu
a.m.goldstein at mac.com
(914) 637-2717
Dept of Philosophy
Iona College
715 North Avenue
New Rochelle NY 10801

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