Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I pity the archaeologists of the future...

An interesting category of collectibles is "ephemera": Postcards and brochures and those printed family newsletters you get every Christmas from your second cousin in Dubuque*.

Will future archaeologists mine e-cards from some dusty, bit-rotted corner of the internet?


*Firefox's spellchecker does not know "Dubuque". Perhaps I meant "Albuquerque"? it suggests, helpfully.

23 comments:

New Iconoclast said...

Perhaps Firefox has been to Dubuque and, like most of us who have had that experience, found it eminently forgettable?

Anonymous said...

I remember years ago seeing History Channel spend a whole episode on and old erotic papyrus from Egypt. During their opening they talked about it maybe containing sex-magic and great secrets about Egyptian religion and talked about how the episode would take a journey through temples and tombs and "thousands of years of history"...

Tuned back in at the end of the hour to hear their final summation--basically all their assumptions were wrong--it was the equivalent of a 5000 year old playboy.

God only knows what future historians will be looking at or how much time they'll waste on it.

Robert Fowler said...

The spell check in chrome does the same thing. Poor Dubuque, so maligned. Or, as we call it here in Iowa, That big town in the northeast corner, you know the one I mean.

RandyGC said...

Dubuque or Albuquerque, depends on rather you took a left or right turn at Pismo Beach

K said...

For future archaeologists it gets even worse. The one article which will last for the next 100,000 years unchanged is the porcelain toilet.

tailwind said...

"A Canticle For Leibowitz" is a good read on the subject.

Kristophr said...

Pick your media well.

We have gigabytes of data from Babylonia, going all the way back to the Ur city-state, all preserved on small bakes clay tablets. Their cities were made of mud, and are gone, but their data lives on.

The Egyptians are the opposite: Their homes and monuments are still there, but their data was almost all on paper.

Critter said...

All that gassing on the History Channel about "ancient Egyptian religious practices" is just the excuse to show some old time hot booty on the teewee. Archaeologists are such perves.

RevolverRob said...

"Will future archeologists...." And I posit that the place for them to share their findings already exists...

http://binaryfossils.blogspot.com/

-Rob

mikee said...

Ephemera, as I have learned watching Pawn Stars, can be rare and valuable or it can be rare and worthless.

The serial numbered, porcelain coffee cup Obama sipped from just before his inauguration, with perfect video showing the busboy clearing it off the table with the President sitting there, then stashing it in his knapsack? Likely valuable.

The styrofoam cup someone handed Obama to sip from during a stump speech in Dubuque (as if he ever went there!)? Likely not so much.

Robin said...

I worry that future archeologists will write a paper on the cache of LOLcat and Doge memes on my computer.

Anonymous said...

Uhh... I think you pronounce it "Duh-boo-kie".

Steve C said...

Most books, letters, cards and such are printed on acid paper and will only last about a hundred years before they turn to sawdust. An exception is Playboys, they are printed on good paper and will last a very long time if sheltered.

Windy Wilson said...

I recall reading about an archaeologist some 25 years ago B.I. (Before Internet). He said he did not believe in recycling, because he wanted to leave something for future generations.
With that in mind, as I go through my Mother's estate I deliver everything and anything about the city she called home for 60 years to the local historical society, to the extent, (so far) of about 4-6 Bekins boxes. They know me on sight and by name. That woman saved everything, old school cafeteria menus, clippings, bowling league newsletters . . . Fortunately I am of an historian's bent, and the stuff has been useful already reminding some (to me) anonymous researcher that Polio used to be a real scourge on the earth in America.

As for electronic ephemera, there is a business somewhere in the Greater LA Area that specializes in retrieving data from obsolete media. I've misplaced the contact info, but it is odd to realize that someday the thumbdrives and CD's and whatnot that are the super-new extended storage devices will be as unreadable as Egyptian Hieroglyphics before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.

Mike_C said...

'member when Quarter Pounders came in those styrofoam clamshell thingies? A friend's dad used to say that archeologists of the future would conclude that they were of religious significance due to their ubiquity. Or of course that catch-all of "Ceremonial Objects."

As to that link after the link,
1. paper maps: still have quite a collection of those. I don't have a separate GPS but use the iPhone maps function. When out of coverage range paper maps are still useful. Plus they are fun to pore over.
6. Analog media (photographic film): is shooting film the hobby equivalent of being a black-powder aficionado?
19. NTSC television: "Never twice same color" or "no television system cheaper." Contrast that with the French SECAM ("System essentially contrary to American methods").

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I doubt that my friend in London would be interested in electronic ephemera; he's got enough paper ephemera to keep him busy for years. Intercol London

CMonster said...

On a table in a mall in California, I once found a photo postcard taken by my grandfather in North Dakota, of the town in which my mother was born. Ca. 1920s. Didn't know it at the time, bought it and sent it to my mother.

Windy Wilson said...

Mike_C,
Someone thousands of years in the future will see the various sports arenas and think they had religious significance. And they'd be right.

And Wow. Just WOW. You spelled the word "Pore" correctly for the usage there. Are you old enough to retire? I doubt my own brother can do that.

And film is now the tool of artists. There ia a website that discusses art photos made with the Diana Camera, a cheap (really cheap) camera with a plastic lens from the 60's that takes atmospherically fuzzy pictures.

Rob said...

Firefox's spellchecker is...interestingly limited, let's say.

If what you are trying to spell is off as much as two letters, it will often suggest something that has absolutely nothing to do with what you're trying to spell, and its vocabulary is patchy, at best.

David Whitewolf said...

Macaulay's "Motel of the Mysteries" comes to mind....

Mike_C said...

@Windy Wilson: Not old (or rich) enough to retire. Though I had dinner with my grad-school office mate last night. Office mate founded a tech company, sold it and supposedly pocketed high 8 figures a few years ago. He picked up the tab last night :P He's certainly rich enough, but not retired either -- now a tenured professor at an Iv'ry (Tower) League school. He seems to enjoy rattling the cages of the armchair "experts" who've never been in the non-academic world. So good for him.

Re "pore" I learned the distinction in high school from a fellow student and good friend. We were pretty Objectivist at the time (but grew out of it). The science and math teachers liked us, the social studies types, ermh, not as much. I think his artfully innocent refrain of "Animal, vegetable or liberal?" ruffled a few feathers. Heh.

Mike_C said...

Firefox's spellchecker is...interestingly limited, let's say.

If what you are trying to spell is off as much as two letters, it will often suggest something that has absolutely nothing to do with what you're trying to spell


Missed this the first time around (and what I'm about to say is probably NOT the explanation for Firefox, but here goes) I once read in one of the more obscure (to me) IEEE Transactions journals about designing spell checkers for non-native English speakers (we will consider Murkins, Brits, etc to all be native for this purpose) and the sorts of errors that could happen.

As an example, suppose some poor soul is having trouble with the word "vibration." Now a spelling-challenged native speaker might come up with "vybration" or "vibrayshun" or something like that. A Japanese speaker however, might easily come up with "bibration" because of his trouble distinguishing a leading "v" from a leading "b." How "lion" might become "Ryan" in this same scenario is left as an exercise for the reader.

I guess these days of trying to type on iPhone screens and the like spell-check designers also have to account for fat-finger mistakes due to hitting adjacent (soft)keys. It seems that the built-in awfulcorrect function isn't really as bad as I like to complain it is.

Maxwell said...

Just wondering what spellcheck does to "Hollywood", of which my favorite definition is,"double Dubuque".