Example: [Collected via e-mail, March 2009]
Origins: One of the major issues confronting modern librarians, archivists, and other preservers of information is how best to preserve that information. The advent of digital media and formats such as hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and MP3s allows for much more efficient storage and retrieval of information, and in forms that are generally much less susceptible to damage from environmental factors (e.g., moisture, smoke, heat). But those new media present some vexing issues of their own, chiefly the requirement of anticipating which of them will still be comfortably usable years from now. Using CDs to store files encoded in FLAC format may be a good choice for archiving a music collection today, but how easy will it be to find and use a device that can both read CDs and run the software to decode and play FLAC-encoded music files ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now? By comparison, a plain old book might be a comparatively inefficient and fragile means of storing written information, but even books printed hundreds of years ago are still readily usable by anyone who can read.
That issue is the conceit represented in the example quoted above, which maintains that the Library of Congress resolved the thorny issue of which medium to use for long-term storage of its extensive audio collection by opting for
However, no matter how logically this putative Library of Congress storage plan might be presented, it still raises some red flags. For starters,
Such skepticism would be well placed, as this item originated as an April Fool's Day treat perpetrated in an All Things Considered segment ("Shellac, the Sound of the Future") aired by National Public Radio (NPR) on
That NPR's 2003 April Fool's prank is still generating "Is this true?" queries to us several years later is a testament to its creator's ability to tread a fine line between absurdity and believability.
Last updated: 19 May 2009
Karr, Rick. "Shellac, the Sound of the Future." NPR.org. 1 April 2003.