AMERICAN SCIENTIST

Avoiding a Digital Dark Age

"When I was a boy, I discovered a magnetic reel-to-reel audio tape recorder that my father had used to create “audio letters” to my mother while he was serving in the Vietnam War. To my delight (and his horror), I could listen to many of the old tapes he had made a decade before. Even better, I could make recordings myself and listen to them. However, all of my father’s tapes were decaying to some degree—flaking, stretching and breaking when played. It was clear that these tapes would not last forever, so I copied a few of them to new cassette tapes.

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