At least since the start of the Internet, various people and groups have organized and saved chess information to digital files. The University of Pittsburgh had an excellent site. I don’t know if it did, but it may have fed part of Bill Wall’s fantastic and PGNMentor sites. There are other numerous sites including Mark Crowther’s TWIC.
Some day, these people will no longer be able to maintain these sites. And make no mistake - these are about more than databases. Often, it’s pgn collections of the games in books (sans notes.)
Google has many chess books available for free, not easily available elsewhere - dating back to Philidor and earlier.
When I moved and downsized, I digitized a portion of my library to save space and provided US Chess a copy of all of the past rulebooks in PDF including the Bluebook and the Handbook by Harkness. Due to copyrights, these are maintained but not made available.
I hope that in addition to the archive of Chess Life, US Chess will consider creating its own archives of the tremendous work people have put in over the years. Perhaps some of this ends up hosted by US Chess through an online database. Perhaps it can partner with places like SCRIBD or Google or others to see that these resources are cost-effectively maintained.
I would just hate to see these efforts eventually lost.
This is a large and growing issue.
The Library of Congress has hosted several seminars in conjunction with the US Archivist on records preservation in the digital age.
For example, census record from 1950 (the first census I appear in) were done on paper and were recently posted to the Internet, but more recent census records are digital and might not be readable in any form by the time they’re scheduled to be released. (The ones from 1960 were stored on magnetic tape and estimates are that only 20% of those tapes are still readable.)
I read recently where experts believe there are 1 trillion (!) digital photographs in existence. At a guess, 99.9% of those won’t exist in 20 years, but the pictures my grandfather took 100 years ago are still in great shape. Many of them were turned over to the county archives by my mother before she died.
Libraries are moving away from being repositories of paper records, and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal suggested people should start throwing their books away–because nobody will want them when they die.
1 trillion digital photographs seems low. that would be only about 3 thousand per US citizen (ignoring the rest of the world) and I know my wife had a LOT more than that (with a lot of her friends having tons of photos even if they were not into scrapbooking). If I didn’t periodically clean up my phone I would have more than 1 thousand and I am not into photography (a LOT of them are of clocks/positions before making a ruling or of pairings/standings). Is that 1 trillion just those posted on the web?
It may have been how many were posted on the web, or possibly even how many were on just one web service like Instagram.
Google search says 1.81 trillion digital photos are taken every year, and by 2030 that’ll be 2.3 trillion a year.
But the important point is that most of those photos won’t survive 20 years.
Another key issue is who has access to your online archives after you die.