Last week World Digital Preservation Day took place, which is held on the 1st Thursday of November each year, to ‘celebrate digital continuity’ which delivers resilient long-term access to digital content. The irony of it falling on the 5th of November this year, which coincides with bonfire night not only made me chuckle, but got me thinking, what does this mean to those not in the Record Management industry.

The first thing that popped into my head was the story of the parent that showed their child 3.5” floppy disk and received the responses, wow you’ve 3D printed the save icon! But of course, the PlayStation generation will be all too aware of the digital continuity issues, not because of Lotus Notes or Word 5.1, but because they still need to keep those old consoles to play the old games, as the new consoles won’t play the older disk as not all versions are ‘backwards compatible’.

Ohhh those disks, first the laser, then the CD, the minidisk, CDR/CDRW to name but a few, and recently (a decade ago) the HDDVD V’s Blue Ray battle. Sony won by included a Blue Ray player with the PS3 which rendered the  HDDVD format redundant, after you were able to pick up a HDDVD ready Toshiba Laptop half price for Christmas. Sony won the digital format overnight, only to lose it at equal speed once Netflix and the other streaming services came along.

These issues are now more relevant than ever, with the sheer number of apps, so many ways of working, in so many locations, organisations are relying on the goodwill of staff to use the approved software.  Indeed, in the last year or so, I’ve lost my list of music I didn’t know the artist of, and collected by running across to speaker to Find that Tune, only to lose the list as the company pulled the plug on the app; the use of a step counter, which I was happy to lose this year of all years; and the photos and events of my kids first 4 (and 1) trips around the sun, the company in this instance did allow me do download the images, but they lost all their relevant metadata and context. Going forward IT departments will try and keep up with the ever number of expanding apps that can be downloaded with a flash of a fingerprint, and staff will find ways of getting round any obstacles imposed on them.

But I’m not immune, even as a career Records Manager I’ve had to, with much resistance, upgrade my car from cassettes to Bluetooth, so I can hear one of the many things google maps is recording about me as she tells me I’ve reached home. And we at Records Transformation archive all our records to PDF/A being the current preferred archival standard for long term preservation and accessibility, but for how long I wonder…

Of course, all is not lost (Boom!), the Office for National Statistics digitised all our Census returns 2011 (5.5 page 141), but foreseeing these problems, they also copied them to Microfilm, ensuing they can be released to the public in 2111, 100 years after the Census. As long as we still have a lightbulb and box, we’ll be able to read them.