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Flaw in T. Phillips "Digital is not photography" argument



 
 
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  #1  
Old October 16th 04, 09:25 PM
David Nebenzahl
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Posts: n/a
Default Flaw in T. Phillips "Digital is not photography" argument

Leaving aside any of the philosophical and semantic aspects of his argument,
there's one glaring error in it. He asserts that because digital formats
change (which is true) that digital images made now will become unreadable in
the future.

Now, if one is discussing images made on physical media (film), there *is* the
distinct possibility that the image will be rendered unusable through time
because of physical degradation of the image. (Witness movies on nitrate stock
and color negatives or slides with unstable dyes.)

And in the case of digital media, there is always the possibility that the
image will become unreadable because of *physical* degradation of the media
(tape, magnetic disc, optical disc, etc.)

However, assuming that the *physical media* remains intact, it is very, very
unlikely that any digitally-recorded image will ever become unreadable in the
future.

I do know something about this, having worked for a computer media conversion
and duplication company for 13 years. In that one small company alone, there
exists the ability to read many obsolete digital formats (meaning both the
equuipment and the software to decipher the data and deliver it in a usable
form): specifically, 9-track tape (remember the old movies with the computers
with the spinning tape drives?) and floppy disks, including the old 8" monsters.

I'm confident that even data on paper tape could be read; someone, somewhere,
has a paper-tape reader connected to his S-100 system (running CP/M), or some
other moldy oldie. And if not, a reader could pretty easily be cobbled together.

The point is that humanity doesn't collectively forget its own obsolete
recording formats, just because something new comes along. Sure, the old
formats fall into disuse and become difficult to use, but not impossible. The
knowledge of how to read and decipher all these old devices and formats still
exists, somewhere.

Why, in this very house, I can right now play 78 rpm records if I like, or 45s
even. I can also read all of my old 5-1/4" floppies on my computer.

I'd like someone to try to name a data storage format (either physical medium
or data format) that they think cannot be read today.


--
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a
really easy way: stop participating in it.

- Noam Chomsky

  #2  
Old October 16th 04, 09:40 PM
Claudio Bonavolta
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

"David Nebenzahl" wrote in message
...
Leaving aside any of the philosophical and semantic aspects of his

argument,
there's one glaring error in it. He asserts that because digital formats
change (which is true) that digital images made now will become unreadable

in
the future.

Now, if one is discussing images made on physical media (film), there *is*

the
distinct possibility that the image will be rendered unusable through time
because of physical degradation of the image. (Witness movies on nitrate

stock
and color negatives or slides with unstable dyes.)

And in the case of digital media, there is always the possibility that the
image will become unreadable because of *physical* degradation of the

media
(tape, magnetic disc, optical disc, etc.)

However, assuming that the *physical media* remains intact, it is very,

very
unlikely that any digitally-recorded image will ever become unreadable in

the
future.

I do know something about this, having worked for a computer media

conversion
and duplication company for 13 years. In that one small company alone,

there
exists the ability to read many obsolete digital formats (meaning both the
equuipment and the software to decipher the data and deliver it in a

usable
form): specifically, 9-track tape (remember the old movies with the

computers
with the spinning tape drives?) and floppy disks, including the old 8"

monsters.

I'm confident that even data on paper tape could be read; someone,

somewhere,
has a paper-tape reader connected to his S-100 system (running CP/M), or

some
other moldy oldie. And if not, a reader could pretty easily be cobbled

together.

The point is that humanity doesn't collectively forget its own obsolete
recording formats, just because something new comes along. Sure, the old
formats fall into disuse and become difficult to use, but not impossible.

The
knowledge of how to read and decipher all these old devices and formats

still
exists, somewhere.

Why, in this very house, I can right now play 78 rpm records if I like, or

45s
even. I can also read all of my old 5-1/4" floppies on my computer.

I'd like someone to try to name a data storage format (either physical

medium
or data format) that they think cannot be read today.


--
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a
really easy way: stop participating in it.

- Noam Chomsky


The problem is not will we be able to read a digital format but will we be
interested enough to spend so much energy in trying to read such an obsolete
thing ? When you find a computer in trash, do you take it to discover all
these marvelous pictures it certainly contains ?
I don't think so, you just consider it as rubbish.
When you encounter the equivalent in film, you easily can ccheck if it's
rubbish or not just using a pretty funny interface called "eyes".

Digital is a theorically perfect storage media provided you never forget
where your pictures are and you convert them at every major storage
technology change.
Practically, digital will cause a loss of an amount of images we may have
kept if they were stored on film or paper.

Regards,
--
Claudio Bonavolta
http://www.bonavolta.ch



  #3  
Old October 16th 04, 09:40 PM
Claudio Bonavolta
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

"David Nebenzahl" wrote in message
...
Leaving aside any of the philosophical and semantic aspects of his

argument,
there's one glaring error in it. He asserts that because digital formats
change (which is true) that digital images made now will become unreadable

in
the future.

Now, if one is discussing images made on physical media (film), there *is*

the
distinct possibility that the image will be rendered unusable through time
because of physical degradation of the image. (Witness movies on nitrate

stock
and color negatives or slides with unstable dyes.)

And in the case of digital media, there is always the possibility that the
image will become unreadable because of *physical* degradation of the

media
(tape, magnetic disc, optical disc, etc.)

However, assuming that the *physical media* remains intact, it is very,

very
unlikely that any digitally-recorded image will ever become unreadable in

the
future.

I do know something about this, having worked for a computer media

conversion
and duplication company for 13 years. In that one small company alone,

there
exists the ability to read many obsolete digital formats (meaning both the
equuipment and the software to decipher the data and deliver it in a

usable
form): specifically, 9-track tape (remember the old movies with the

computers
with the spinning tape drives?) and floppy disks, including the old 8"

monsters.

I'm confident that even data on paper tape could be read; someone,

somewhere,
has a paper-tape reader connected to his S-100 system (running CP/M), or

some
other moldy oldie. And if not, a reader could pretty easily be cobbled

together.

The point is that humanity doesn't collectively forget its own obsolete
recording formats, just because something new comes along. Sure, the old
formats fall into disuse and become difficult to use, but not impossible.

The
knowledge of how to read and decipher all these old devices and formats

still
exists, somewhere.

Why, in this very house, I can right now play 78 rpm records if I like, or

45s
even. I can also read all of my old 5-1/4" floppies on my computer.

I'd like someone to try to name a data storage format (either physical

medium
or data format) that they think cannot be read today.


--
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a
really easy way: stop participating in it.

- Noam Chomsky


The problem is not will we be able to read a digital format but will we be
interested enough to spend so much energy in trying to read such an obsolete
thing ? When you find a computer in trash, do you take it to discover all
these marvelous pictures it certainly contains ?
I don't think so, you just consider it as rubbish.
When you encounter the equivalent in film, you easily can ccheck if it's
rubbish or not just using a pretty funny interface called "eyes".

Digital is a theorically perfect storage media provided you never forget
where your pictures are and you convert them at every major storage
technology change.
Practically, digital will cause a loss of an amount of images we may have
kept if they were stored on film or paper.

Regards,
--
Claudio Bonavolta
http://www.bonavolta.ch



  #4  
Old October 17th 04, 12:13 AM
David Nebenzahl
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On 10/16/2004 1:40 PM Claudio Bonavolta spake thus:

"David Nebenzahl" wrote in message
...


[my own comments snipped, since the respondent's newsreader made a terrible
hash out of them and I'm not about to take the time to reformat them]

The problem is not will we be able to read a digital format but will we be
interested enough to spend so much energy in trying to read such an obsolete
thing ? When you find a computer in trash, do you take it to discover all
these marvelous pictures it certainly contains ?


I don't, but in the (near) future, people called "archaeologists" and
"anthropologists" will do just that, to see how folks lived long ago.

I don't think so, you just consider it as rubbish.
When you encounter the equivalent in film, you easily can ccheck if it's
rubbish or not just using a pretty funny interface called "eyes".

Digital is a theorically perfect storage media provided you never forget
where your pictures are and you convert them at every major storage
technology change.


I would say that digital is "perfect" in one aspect: the ability to make
identical copies from an original or master, with absolutely no generational
loss, something not possible with optical media.[1] As to other aspects of
reproduction (like fidelity, tonality, etc.), I remain agnostic on the subject
(in other words, I don't know enough about it to really have an informed
opinion one way or the other).

Practically, digital will cause a loss of an amount of images we may have
kept if they were stored on film or paper.


Well, no, it won't: that's what I'm saying. Digital images may become
difficult to retrieve as time goes on and formats change, but not impossible.

By the way, please don't mistake any of this as an argument on my part in
favor of digital image-making. However, whether I'm fur or agin' it is
extremely irrelevant, as are most of our opinions on the matter. Like it or
not, digital is here to stay. Get used to it.


[1] Although if one considers making a number of prints from a negative, each
print can be identical with only the minimal loss due to printing, so
generational loss would be negligible in this case.


--
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a
really easy way: stop participating in it.

- Noam Chomsky

  #5  
Old October 17th 04, 12:13 AM
David Nebenzahl
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On 10/16/2004 1:40 PM Claudio Bonavolta spake thus:

"David Nebenzahl" wrote in message
...


[my own comments snipped, since the respondent's newsreader made a terrible
hash out of them and I'm not about to take the time to reformat them]

The problem is not will we be able to read a digital format but will we be
interested enough to spend so much energy in trying to read such an obsolete
thing ? When you find a computer in trash, do you take it to discover all
these marvelous pictures it certainly contains ?


I don't, but in the (near) future, people called "archaeologists" and
"anthropologists" will do just that, to see how folks lived long ago.

I don't think so, you just consider it as rubbish.
When you encounter the equivalent in film, you easily can ccheck if it's
rubbish or not just using a pretty funny interface called "eyes".

Digital is a theorically perfect storage media provided you never forget
where your pictures are and you convert them at every major storage
technology change.


I would say that digital is "perfect" in one aspect: the ability to make
identical copies from an original or master, with absolutely no generational
loss, something not possible with optical media.[1] As to other aspects of
reproduction (like fidelity, tonality, etc.), I remain agnostic on the subject
(in other words, I don't know enough about it to really have an informed
opinion one way or the other).

Practically, digital will cause a loss of an amount of images we may have
kept if they were stored on film or paper.


Well, no, it won't: that's what I'm saying. Digital images may become
difficult to retrieve as time goes on and formats change, but not impossible.

By the way, please don't mistake any of this as an argument on my part in
favor of digital image-making. However, whether I'm fur or agin' it is
extremely irrelevant, as are most of our opinions on the matter. Like it or
not, digital is here to stay. Get used to it.


[1] Although if one considers making a number of prints from a negative, each
print can be identical with only the minimal loss due to printing, so
generational loss would be negligible in this case.


--
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a
really easy way: stop participating in it.

- Noam Chomsky

  #6  
Old October 17th 04, 12:46 AM
Donald Qualls
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

David Nebenzahl wrote:

I'd like someone to try to name a data storage format (either physical
medium
or data format) that they think cannot be read today.


The point of digital media data loss isn't that the format can or can't
be read -- it's whether anyone, finding (for the sake of argument)
undeteriorated media that doesn't fit their current equipment will both
to spend the time, effort, and money to try to read it to see what's on
it. Sure, in a business setting, a spool of paper tape labeled
"Foundation charter" is something that's a likely candidate to be read,
transcribed onto modern media, and preserved. Grandma's attic, on the
other hand, isn't someplace you'd necessarily expect to find computer
data you'd pay (a lot) to have converted -- especially since most people
who don't work with computers and data storage probably aren't even
aware that conversion services exist.

If you find prints and negatives, you can see with your eyes what images
are stored. If you find a bunch of unlabeled CDs fifty years from now
(and you're 32 years old, and born the same year the last CD-R media
were made), are you likely to be curious enough about them to spend
significant money to find out what's on them? It's hard to imagine a
similar situation -- if I found letters in my Grandmother's estate
written in Sanskrit, I'd be able to at least recognize them as letters,
if not the language (I'm not certain I'd recognize written Sanskrit, at
least). It's more like finding a bunch of blank paper in envelopes --
would I take the time and trouble to figure out which of half a dozen
different invisible ink systems might have been used to write letters on
that paper, or just figure it was unused stationery that had never been
thrown away? And even if the latter, the medium isn't so completely
obsolete that I wouldn't be able to develop the ink myself if I had some
reason to suspect invisible writing; it doesn't depend on a technology
that hasn't been manufactured or supported in decades.

None of which has anything to do with Tom's arguments about digital not
being photography; he's saying that because there's a silicon sensor and
digital encoding involved instead of a medium that we view directly with
the image on it, it's something other than photography (I think -- I
haven't really found the argument completely coherent). I disagree, but
the issues of "digital is or isn't photography", "digital media can or
cannot be archival and remain readable over periods longer than a single
lifetime" and "photography is or is not art" don't seem even very
closely related, certainly not enough to cross over from one to the
other. I do agree with him in believing that digital media, even those
that aren't degraded, will become unreadable due to changes in
technology over time spans much shorter than a human lifetime.

Let's try this one: can your former employers, specializing in data
format conversion, read a Coleco Adam data tape? Hint: if you find one,
it'll look exactly like an obsolete audio cassette -- because it is.
But if you play it in an audio player, you'll get only a very loud, very
raucous blaring noise; most computer users today wouldn't even recognize
it as a data encoding signal (it doesn't sound at all like modem or fax
tones). Or how about the same storage media written by a Commodore Pet?
Both were fairly popular hobbyist computers in their day (around 25+
years ago), and both had at least a small business presence.

If you want a *really* obscure one, how about a Tandy Pocket Computer
data tape? I actually owned one of those, with the cassette interface;
it was already obsolete when I had it, in 1982...

--
I may be a scwewy wabbit, but I'm not going to Alcatwaz!
-- E. J. Fudd, 1954

Donald Qualls, aka The Silent Observer
Lathe Building Pages http://silent1.home.netcom.com/HomebuiltLathe.htm
Speedway 7x12 Lathe Pages http://silent1.home.netcom.com/my7x12.htm

Opinions expressed are my own -- take them for what they're worth
and don't expect them to be perfect.
  #7  
Old October 17th 04, 02:25 AM
David Nebenzahl
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

On 10/16/2004 4:46 PM Donald Qualls spake thus:

Let's try this one: can your former employers, specializing in data
format conversion, read a Coleco Adam data tape? Hint: if you find one,
it'll look exactly like an obsolete audio cassette -- because it is.
But if you play it in an audio player, you'll get only a very loud, very
raucous blaring noise; most computer users today wouldn't even recognize
it as a data encoding signal (it doesn't sound at all like modem or fax
tones). Or how about the same storage media written by a Commodore Pet?
Both were fairly popular hobbyist computers in their day (around 25+
years ago), and both had at least a small business presence.


Well, for that matter, how about the original cassette BASIC storage system
for the first IBM PC? (I remember using those on school.) But anyhow, the
answer is "yes": someone could be found out there who has the hardware &
software to read these.


--
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a
really easy way: stop participating in it.

- Noam Chomsky

  #8  
Old October 17th 04, 03:37 AM
The Wogster
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Donald Qualls wrote:
David Nebenzahl wrote:


I'd like someone to try to name a data storage format (either physical
medium
or data format) that they think cannot be read today.



The point of digital media data loss isn't that the format can or can't
be read -- it's whether anyone, finding (for the sake of argument)
undeteriorated media that doesn't fit their current equipment will both
to spend the time, effort, and money to try to read it to see what's on
it. Sure, in a business setting, a spool of paper tape labeled
"Foundation charter" is something that's a likely candidate to be read,
transcribed onto modern media, and preserved. Grandma's attic, on the
other hand, isn't someplace you'd necessarily expect to find computer
data you'd pay (a lot) to have converted -- especially since most people
who don't work with computers and data storage probably aren't even
aware that conversion services exist.

If you find prints and negatives, you can see with your eyes what images
are stored. If you find a bunch of unlabeled CDs fifty years from now
(and you're 32 years old, and born the same year the last CD-R media
were made), are you likely to be curious enough about them to spend
significant money to find out what's on them? It's hard to imagine a
similar situation -- if I found letters in my Grandmother's estate
written in Sanskrit, I'd be able to at least recognize them as letters,
if not the language (I'm not certain I'd recognize written Sanskrit, at
least). It's more like finding a bunch of blank paper in envelopes --
would I take the time and trouble to figure out which of half a dozen
different invisible ink systems might have been used to write letters on
that paper, or just figure it was unused stationery that had never been
thrown away? And even if the latter, the medium isn't so completely
obsolete that I wouldn't be able to develop the ink myself if I had some
reason to suspect invisible writing; it doesn't depend on a technology
that hasn't been manufactured or supported in decades.


Now, honestly how many people keep around unlabeled CD-Rs? I don't I
want to know what is on a CD, so I will write on it, what is on it, like
"Photo Collection 2004 disc 1" Hey I put on an index file as well, in
text format, because in 10 years time, I might forget what's on it.
Some future relative, might keep those CD's alive by duplicating them
onto new media......

BTW a CD-R that is stored in a cool, dry, dark place, could last, and
retain readability for quite a while. Funny thing is, the best storage
conditions for film, are also good for CD media.....

W
  #9  
Old October 17th 04, 03:37 AM
The Wogster
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

Donald Qualls wrote:
David Nebenzahl wrote:


I'd like someone to try to name a data storage format (either physical
medium
or data format) that they think cannot be read today.



The point of digital media data loss isn't that the format can or can't
be read -- it's whether anyone, finding (for the sake of argument)
undeteriorated media that doesn't fit their current equipment will both
to spend the time, effort, and money to try to read it to see what's on
it. Sure, in a business setting, a spool of paper tape labeled
"Foundation charter" is something that's a likely candidate to be read,
transcribed onto modern media, and preserved. Grandma's attic, on the
other hand, isn't someplace you'd necessarily expect to find computer
data you'd pay (a lot) to have converted -- especially since most people
who don't work with computers and data storage probably aren't even
aware that conversion services exist.

If you find prints and negatives, you can see with your eyes what images
are stored. If you find a bunch of unlabeled CDs fifty years from now
(and you're 32 years old, and born the same year the last CD-R media
were made), are you likely to be curious enough about them to spend
significant money to find out what's on them? It's hard to imagine a
similar situation -- if I found letters in my Grandmother's estate
written in Sanskrit, I'd be able to at least recognize them as letters,
if not the language (I'm not certain I'd recognize written Sanskrit, at
least). It's more like finding a bunch of blank paper in envelopes --
would I take the time and trouble to figure out which of half a dozen
different invisible ink systems might have been used to write letters on
that paper, or just figure it was unused stationery that had never been
thrown away? And even if the latter, the medium isn't so completely
obsolete that I wouldn't be able to develop the ink myself if I had some
reason to suspect invisible writing; it doesn't depend on a technology
that hasn't been manufactured or supported in decades.


Now, honestly how many people keep around unlabeled CD-Rs? I don't I
want to know what is on a CD, so I will write on it, what is on it, like
"Photo Collection 2004 disc 1" Hey I put on an index file as well, in
text format, because in 10 years time, I might forget what's on it.
Some future relative, might keep those CD's alive by duplicating them
onto new media......

BTW a CD-R that is stored in a cool, dry, dark place, could last, and
retain readability for quite a while. Funny thing is, the best storage
conditions for film, are also good for CD media.....

W
  #10  
Old October 17th 04, 04:36 AM
Donald Qualls
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default

David Nebenzahl wrote:

On 10/16/2004 4:46 PM Donald Qualls spake thus:

Let's try this one: can your former employers, specializing in data
format conversion, read a Coleco Adam data tape? Hint: if you find
one, it'll look exactly like an obsolete audio cassette -- because it
is. But if you play it in an audio player, you'll get only a very
loud, very raucous blaring noise; most computer users today wouldn't
even recognize it as a data encoding signal (it doesn't sound at all
like modem or fax tones). Or how about the same storage media written
by a Commodore Pet? Both were fairly popular hobbyist computers in
their day (around 25+ years ago), and both had at least a small
business presence.



Well, for that matter, how about the original cassette BASIC storage
system for the first IBM PC? (I remember using those on school.) But
anyhow, the answer is "yes": someone could be found out there who has
the hardware & software to read these.



"Out there" -- as in where "the truth" is?? Yes, there probably is
someone, somewhere, with a working Adam, or Pet, or original 64k PC, or
even Tandy Pocket Computer. OTOH, my experience was that those tapes
didn't always read back even ten minutes after they were written -- yep,
I know, that's media deterioration, not format obsolescence. I didn't,
however, ask about "someone" "out there" -- I asked about a specific
format conversion service. Or do you think, when someone's grandkids
find a CD-R in the attic, they'll be able to find "someone" "out there"
who still has an antique system with drivers and compatible hardware to
read media that hasn't been made in 30 years? Hell, I remember handling
8" floppies and seeing the drives for them on sale (as salvage, but
still working) after I owned my first DOS machine, but I'd have to place
an ad to find a place that can read one now. And I might not find one
close enough to drive to, now that I'm in small-town North Carolina
instead of Tech City, aka Seattle.

If I have that much trouble with a medium that's less than 20 years
obsolete, what'll it be like when those disks are 50 or 100 years old?
Even if the magnetic domains in the coating haven't randomized -- analog
video recordings from 50 years ago are still playable, if you can find a
machine that can play them, so I suppose it's possible -- will anyone,
anywhere, have a working 8" drive, with the hardware interface and
software drivers to read it? And will that drive handle the dozen or so
incompatible formats that were in use as of 1982 or so? Heck, how did
your data conversion service handle 8" disks? Hard sector or soft, how
many sectors, single or double side, single or double density -- unlike
the later, smaller disk standards, there was never one drive that could
read all of them. Did they somehow keep at least one drive working for
each of those formats? And a computer that could talk to all those
drives? Even if they did, how many years can that continue?
Electronics eventually fail -- they have to, it's a quantum effect of
current flow in semiconductors -- and when they do, where will you find
replacements for the chips?

And still, even if it's technically feasible to read those formats,
who'll really bother?

--
I may be a scwewy wabbit, but I'm not going to Alcatwaz!
-- E. J. Fudd, 1954

Donald Qualls, aka The Silent Observer
Lathe Building Pages http://silent1.home.netcom.com/HomebuiltLathe.htm
Speedway 7x12 Lathe Pages http://silent1.home.netcom.com/my7x12.htm

Opinions expressed are my own -- take them for what they're worth
and don't expect them to be perfect.
 




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