Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Old and not so old peripherals needed

The DCC has started to get a number of help-desk queries from people who want to know how to read information from obsolete media, and therefore want to find someone with a working example of the appropriate peripheral. These days, this can be as simple as finding a working 3.5 inch diskette drive (I'm not sure there is one on this entire floor!). We have also been asked to report the whereabouts of 5.25 inch diskettes, 80-column punched card readers, open reel magnetic tape drives and Jaz and other "high capacity" portable media drives. I have a bunch of Jaz media myself, although I think (!) that everything important is now on my hard drive AND backed up. It can be surprisingly hard to find the answer to such questions.

In 1999 the eLib Programme commissioned a study that resulted in a useful report: ROSS, S. & GOW, A. (1999) Digital Archaeology: Rescuing Neglected and Damaged Data Resources. Appendix 3 of that report lists then current data recovery companies, some of which are still in operation (perhaps it would be useful for JISC to commission someone to update this report?). These companies would certainly be one place to start, albeit an expensive one (as they are aimed at the corporate disaster recovery market).

Perhaps institutions should have a considered strategy for continued access to the more common examples. As staff retire and remember possible valuable content amongst their pile of obsolete media, it would be valuable to have a simple means at least to check them...

Does anyone know of any register of the less common such peripherals available within the public sector, preferably available for external use at a reasonable fee?

As a starter for 10, I believe there is a 80-column punched card reader at the UK Data Archive...


  1. Chris

    The UK Data Archive does indeed have a Cardmation CF300 punched card reader for reading 80-column punched cards, which is in frequent use. We generally make a modest charge per card, and will transfer data into something which is usable. If we're bringing the data into the UKDA collection, we probably won't charge at all. The better the accompanying documentation the better the outputs.

    We also have some other equipment which can be used for dealing with obsolete media, but no register of these items. Some details can be found in the Appendix to the
    Report of the East of England Digital Preservation Regional Pilot Project

    For this project we used a well-known commercial data recovery service for material which we couldn't deal with, and in most cases they suffered the same problems as we did.

    If anyone does has any specific queries, it's best to email the
    preservation team
    at UKDA giving as specific details as possible, i.e., original operating system, media type and condition.

  2. This is my first comment and old and not so peripherals.


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