French novelist Emmanuel Carrère on the perils of digital preservation.

In his novel The Kingdom (link to WorldCat), which concerns the origin of the Biblical Gospels, French novelist Emmanuel Carrère makes a sudden detour into the difficulties of digital preservation:

In the more than twenty years that I’ve been using computers, everything I’ve written by hand is still in my possession, for example the notebooks I base this book on, while without exception everything I typed directly onto the screen has disappeared.

Of course, I made all kinds of backups, and backups of my backups, just like everyone said I should, but only the ones I printed out on paper have survived.

The others were saved on floppy disks, sticks, external drives—all supposedly much safer but ultimately obsolete one after the next—and are now as inaccessible as the tapes we listened to in our youth.

(page 56)

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