Digital Dark Age

July 4, 2007

The growing problem of accessing old digital file formats is a “ticking time bomb”, the chief executive of the UK National Archives has warned.

The problem is that modern computers may not be able to open legacy file formats. Even something on a floppy may be nearly impossible to retrieve, and the fact that in the original article Natalie Ceeney the Chief Executive states

The media it is stored in is not relevant.

Shows quite a shocking amount of myopia. I can remember dashing around trying to find a Mac old enough to have a zip drive in it. The data is not the only important thing but what it’s stored on as well. The problem the National Archive is looking at though, is that they have piles of data stored in proprietary file formats that they can longer open. This is a problem. Even newer versions of the same software might not be able to open a previous versions file because the format has changed.

Sadly to get out of the situation they have chosen to team up with Microsoft!

A company responsible for more proprietary file formats than just about any other. Apparently all this stuff is going to be stored in OpenXML. That’s a proprietary Microsoft file format.

What’s wrong with ODF? That’s an open file format endorsed by the International Standards Organisation. OpenXML is owned entirely by Microsoft, is not open and uses it’s own version of XML. It’s Microsoft ‘lock in’ no more no less.

The full ‘story’ is available from the BBC here.


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