Impermanence: The Digital Information Curse

We love our music (and movies, tv, videogames, comic books, etc…) and we hoard our digital information, trading it out and showing it off; Collections of hundreds of gigabytes of music and other media, protected in a shiny metal or plastic case. Yet…so fragile.

A friend of mine recently had a Hard Drive crash, this irreversible collapse of coherence within the machine cost him his musical collection: 5 years ago, I suffered two losses of my collection of music within a single years time.

These days, I am the proud owner of a music collection stretching into the 400 gb range, with over 7000 albums availablefor me to choose from. This information is all digital, stored on an external hard-drive, and is the result of many long hours downloading, tagging, filtering and organizing music. This collection, with album art, proper ID tags and such, is one of my pride and joys; This collection is fragile though, and it could go at any time.

This is not just a problem limited to external storage or use, iPods and media-players of all sorts routinely die within 4 years, and your computers hard-drive will crash eventually. Sometimes the information will be salvagable, but…well, not always. Thusly, those of us who have learned our lesson about the impermanence of digital information (and can afford to be this paranoid), often have multiple back-ups, and even then, the very nature of digital storage is prone to losing integrity over-time.

Then there’s the issue of quality, space and such. Stereophile has a really good article on mp3 vs lossless and I highly recommend you take the time to read it here:Here What it comes down to, is that those of us who want the absolute best quality product, in terms of sound, tags and longevity, are going to be needing more electronics to store our bigger collections.

In many ways owning and using a large collection of digital information, is very similar to juggling: as various storage devices are in a state of health and organization, others will be lower on the chain, dying or unorganized and fragmented. As you clean up one, and strip another in preparation for it’s finale, your good ones are slowly degrading on you, and the cycle continues. It’s a complicated process, and with changes to the way Internet is charged to us here in Canada, well, let’s just say it’s not going to get any cheaper. Pay by the gb, charging us by the amount of information we transfer, is a sure fire way to kill off the free trade of music (combined with slowly growing censorship on Google against download and torrent sites).

This leads back to the way we store, transfer and encode our information.

In fact, this goes back to the days of tape-trading, before you were able to download with ease; when a few select guys bought all the cassettes and made all the mix-tapes for their friends. That’s us now, the people who will set out to get a collection of lossless albums that are accurately tagged, with album art and so on. More importantly, is the idea of the roving HD. A high quality hard-drive, packed and shipped around to various Stereophiles to fill it with the finest music they have, and loot it for what they don’t.

The way we share music is going to be changed eventually, and it will become harder for the average person to download as prices go up, and more and more websites become involved in the cost. Dedicated traders of music, and promoters of mixes will always be around though, and the new generation will be moving volumes of information undreamed of by the most dedicated tape-traders of the 80’s.

I am proud to be a part of this movement, and look forward to years of more music than I can deal with.

I also want to hear how the collapse of a hard-drive, or media-player affected you, and any effects it had on your purchases of electronics in the future.


NaniNani #3: Everything You Do Is To Be Mean