Vast 21st Century Information Archives Are Remarkable Resources

History of Libraries and Archives

The ancient Egyptians invented everything, including libraries and archives. Collections of textual resources similar to modern archives were kept in ancient Egypt from the Old Kingdom onwards, These archives included documents regarding cults, sacred texts, magical texts, and administrative records. Around 200-300 BCE, The Ptolemaic Dynasty spent a great deal of time and money building the famous library at Alexandria. Physical libraries and archives became the norm until the dawn of the digital age. Before the computer age, serious research involved shoe leather and traveling to various libraries and document repositories. Digital computing and storage revolutionized library storage from shelves of books to shelves of data servers. Concurrently, personal computers and hand-held devices expanded CPU processing power and memory. Individuals now have ever-growing processing power and data storage available at their finger-tips. The worldwide web (Internet) allows personal devices to connect to any mega-repository in the world. Any consumer with interest and rudimentary digital device can access virtually the entire corpus of human knowledge.

What will consumers do with this processing power and access to information archives? Very few consumers take advantage of this accumulated knowledge, choosing instead to view cat videos and post pictures of food. The availability of comprehensive human knowledge combined with human disinterest is one of the fundamental ironies of the 21st century.

Size comparison between a 1gb Jazz drive cartridge circa 1998 and a Micro-SD card. Micro-SD cards are now in the terabyte range. The Jazz drive was useful for generic backup. The Jazz drive and the Iomega company are both long gone.

Digital Processing Power and Digital Storage Capacity Explosion

Portion of typical server rack. Image via WikiCommons.

Examples of Primary Source Information Activities


Jeffrey Sward, September 2021. Statistics were collected in September 2021