Letter: Caxton outlives the computer

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The Independent Online
Sir: Not another obituary for the book ("Have we reached the end of the book?", 27 April). John Walsh's article and Sven Birkerts's book The Gutenberg Elergies, to which he refers, must have consumed acres of paper and gallons of ink. We have been here before. The "paperless" office is now groaning under a mountain of computer print-out.

In the late 1980s I studied computing. The disks were five and a half inches in diameter, and I used them to store my work. Lately, I have returned to these computer classes, and of course technology has moved on, with the now standard three-and-a-half-inch disk. I have lost access to my work in the larger format disks. With formats continually changing we would need a science museum of computer antiques to preserve our knowledge.

A couple of years ago I visited the British Library and saw William Tyndale's Bible, which changed the direction of Christianity and the English language. As I peered into the glass case, I could read those beautiful words with little difficulty. There will be no end to technological change, but when our descendants are salvaging scrambled disks or whatever has replaced them, the works of Gutenberg, Caxton and Birkerts will still be available for instant consultation.

Peter Stockill

Middlesbrough

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