All can say here is that this business of establishing a ‘de facto’ or official standard
for that matter takes years, typically two or three generations of equipment. Given
the typical life of office equipment, that’s 14 to 20 years. But positive signs of a
standard becoming established occur at the end of the first generation. So in the
case of WORMs, the pointers are already there. Even during this process, the losers
have to capitalise on their investment, and the only way to do this if the hardware
sales are lagging is through the sale of media. Being large companies, they don’t
want to get a bad name in any area, so the manufacture of media continues
regardless of the popularity of the system. It’s not until the end of the second
generation that any large manufacturer will entertain discontinuing a product,
because a reputation for letting people down costs more in the long run than keeping
uneconomic production of a particular type of media going.
So, the bad news has happened, some 10 to 15 years in the future the optical disk
system chosen has been obsoleted, but of course the images can be transferred. It
might require some time, and it might require the old equipment to achieve it. But
as the information is digital and on disk, the process will be almost automatic. Any
vendor hoping to sell new equipment in place of old isn’t likely to attract your order
unless he can transfer the data. Mind you, don’t forget the very first premise in this
piece, “Why am I keeping this anyway ?”.
All in all, I’m not impressed by the need for standards for imaging systems.
Standards will eventually come, and many early users of imaging systems will end
up as ‘non-standard’. What I say is, “I can’t see why it should matter.”.
That completes the process of getting the image onto the disk. The job of getting it
back again is the reverse. Notice how I’ve skipped the business of finding the correct
image out of the thousands on the disk ? Just be patient. The last chapter is about
the retrieval software, I haven’t finished with the hardware yet.
As I said, the job of getting the image back is basically the reverse of putting it there
in the first place. The compressed image is read back from the disk and placed in
the computer memory. It’s then fed to the compressor which works in reverse and
expands the image back to it’s original shape and size. Note that it usually takes a
bit longer to expand an image than to compress it, but not much longer – a second
or so. The complete expanded image resides in the computer memory exactly as if
it had just been scanned in. Just to climb on to my soap-box again in my campaign
against the murder of the English language in technical subjects. The opposite of
compression in this sense is expansion and not de-compression. De-compression
is something which happens to aircraft cabins or cylinders of compressed gas.
De-compression is the wrong word to use in this context.
Anyway, that’s all for this issue. The final gripping installment is next time!
Copyright: D. R. Hunt. © 1988,