Prepare for the inevitable, for the end may be near!

By Steve Weissman posted 03-05-2013 12:07


Question: What do 3½ -inch floppy disks and microfilm scanners have in common?

Answer: Both are technologies that have been overtaken by events.

It happens all the time: a new technology is invented to better support a particular need, it generates much buzz and often considerable revenue for its leading suppliers, and it eventually is superseded by something even newer.

But what do you do when a technology you rely on becomes passé? Ideally, you don't wait until it's too late to take steps to future-proof yourself.

In the world of physical storage, many of us moved from floppies to CD-ROMs to USB sticks by simply copying the files on the older media onto the newer ones. But if you somehow missed that memo and didn't do that copying at the time, then you may now find yourself with trays full of disks and no machines to run them on.

If you are engaged in microfilm scanning, then you may be at that decision point right about now. Unlike what happened with the floppy, the microfilm scanner does not seem to be in any danger of being replaced by something better. But the number of equipment and service providers in this arena is shrinking dramatically, and research we’ve been conducting indicates it’s reasonable to expect only one or two notable holdouts to survive much longer.

The broader point here is that however good your current solutions are, it's likely that they eventually will become outmoded, and possibly sooner than you think. So it's critical to think about what you will do when that happens well before it actually comes to pass.

If the nature of your need is such that you must maintain the old even as it is marginalized by the new – a statement that applies to many who need to retain their film-based records – then it behooves you to pay attention to what's happening to the manufacturers and service providers in your space lest you be cast adrift when they eventually disappear.

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