Re: Digital Validation

From: Stevan Harnad (
Date: Fri Jun 30 1995 - 12:35:00 BST

As another item of modern technology that is relevant for electronic
publishing, let me mention an announcement I saw a few minutes ago
(in an electronic newsletter, HPCwire). It comes from Los Alamos,
Paul Ginsparg's lab, and it concerns HD-ROM, a method that "uses a
unique ion beam to inscribe information on pins of stainless steel,
iridium or other materials that are built to last. An HD-ROM holds
about 180 times more information than a comparably sized Compact
Disc Read-Only Memory, or CD-ROM, today's cheapest data storage medium.
Storage costs of HD-ROM are roughly one-half percent of CD-ROM costs."
HD-ROM can be made to last for 5000 years, according to the announcement.
This kind of news might be helpful in silencing all those doubters
of electronic publishing who claim it is unreliable because there
is no way to reliably store digital data. For example, there was
an alarmist article in the Jan. '95 issue of Scientific American
that pointed out the great dangers to our intellectual heritage
that comes from relying on storage media such as the optical disk,
which might not even last 30 years. The Los Alamos announcement
might put an end to such carping.

On a practical level, HD-ROM is of little practical significance.
As I have been arguing for a while, we are in a period of rapidly
increasing storage capacity. Why would you want to invest in
a storage medium guaranteed to last 5000 years, if 10 years from
now you will be able to buy, for the same price, another medium
that stores 100 as much? The reason nobody has been marketing
durable media is that they will be obsolete very soon. The trick
is to concentrate on the preserving bits (by copying them to new
media as those come along), and not on the physical objects.

It might even be helpful in posting to include the URL of Surety
Technologies, the Haber-Stornetta company that provides digital
time stamps. It is

The one drawback to the use of this technique in scholarly
publishing is that it is patented, so one has to pay, but the
fees are low.

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