Hard drives were never intended for long-term storage, so they have not been subjected to the kind of tests used to estimate the lifetimes of formats like CDs. No one can be sure how long they will last. Kevin Murrell, a trustee of the UK's national museum of computing, recently switched on a 456 megabyte hard drive that had been powered down since the early 1980s. "We had no problems getting the data off at all," he says.Actually, though, we don't even need to consider the apocalypse. The fragile state of digital storage is already causing trouble. NASA has a few people racing to recover old images from its Lunar Orbiter missions in the 1960s, which are currently stored on magnetic tapes and may not be long for this world. And the National Archives is struggling to preserve its digital records, which tend to rot faster than paper records.
Modern drives might not fare so well, though. The storage density on hard drives is now over 200 gigabits per square inch and still climbing fast. While today's drives have sophisticated systems for compensating for the failure of small sectors, in general the more bits of data you cram into a material, the more you lose if part of it becomes degraded or damaged. What's more, a decay process that would leave a large-scale bit of data readable could destroy some smaller-scale bits. "The jury is still out on modern discs. We won't know for another 20 years," says Murrell.
Most important data is backed up on formats such as magnetic tape or optical discs. Unfortunately, many of those formats cannot be trusted to last even five years, says Joe Iraci, who studies the reliability of digital media at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, Ontario.
In the editing room, Annie Hall was an incoherent mess. [Co-writer] Marshall Brickman was appalled. “To tell you the truth, when I saw the rough cut of Annie Hall, I thought it was terrible, completely unsalvageable. It was two and a half hours long and rambled and was tangential and just endless.”That's not overly surprising. A lot of Woody Hall's earlier films are, well, funny, but not exactly coherent—usually the plots are thin and heavily improvised, existing only so that there's something to hang an endless series of jokes and gags on. (They were basically live-action versions of his New Yorker pieces from the time.) And the movies work because the jokes and gags are hilarious. But with Annie Hall, it seems he finally pushed that habit to excess, at least in his first go-round. But hey, it's a good thing he did! Otherwise his editors might never have decided that enough was enough.
The original version was essentially Alvy free-associating about his life and his worries. Annie (Diane Keaton) was seen briefly and then disappeared from the movie for fifteen minutes. … Even the scenes with Annie—they were already there, of course—led to fantasies and flashbacks galore. The sequence where Alvy, Annie, and Rob (Tony Roberts) head to Brooklyn originally ran ten to fifteen minutes and had many more scenes than the one to two we see in the final film. Alvy and his date from Rolling Stone (Shelly Duvall) spun off to a scene where they wound up in the Garden of Eden talking to God. When Alvy is arrested in Los Angeles (after playing bumper cars in the parking lot), there was a long scene of him interacting with the other prisoners in his cell.
Like the sculptor who chips away at the block so that the statue hidden inside can emerge, Allen and [editor Ralph] Rosenblum began hacking away at the movie to see if there was something in the material worth saving. “It was clear to Woody and me that the film started moving whenever the present-tense material with him and Keaton dominated the screen, and we began cutting in the direction of that relationship,” Rosenblum later wrote. They tossed out entire sequences, tightened things up, and always kept the focus on Alvy and Annie. Even the scenes of flashbacks to Alvy’s earlier marriages were greatly shortened. Some characters were eliminated altogether. Said Allen, “There was a lot of material taken out of that picture that I thought was wonderfully funny. … It wasn’t what I intended to do. I didn’t sit down with Marshall Brickman and say, ‘We’re going to write a picture about a relationship.”
There has been a hegemony for years of English-language books being translated into many other languages, a cultural phenomenon comparable (though much smaller in scale) to US dominance of the worldwide film market. Bestselling American authors like Michael Crichton and John Grisham and Danielle Steele and Stephen King have, in translation, reliably topped bestseller lists around the world. As the market for matching these authors to publishers abroad matured, it opened the door to less commercial writers and other genres (in nonfiction, for example, American business books continue to be in high demand).As a result, many countries abroad have editors and scouts who are focused on selecting U.S. books for translation. They can develop a deep expertise in the U.S. market. But on the flip side, foreign books come to the U.S. market from a whole slew of different countries and languages, so it's harder for a single editor to really know any one country or region really well and have a sense for which books will do well here. As a result, says Williams, the foreign-language books that do get translated into English often get picked via haphazard connections—an agent here has a close tie with a particular agent in Spain (say).
A certain savvy in picking the right American books to translate developed into a valuable editorial skill in markets abroad. Imprints and publishing strategies were then established to capitalize on books in translation. Foreign rights turned into a profit center for US publishers, and scouting agencies sprang up to help navigate the increasingly complex marketplace.
The rising fortunes of US books abroad coincides with the rise of American pop culture in general, but also has to be partly attributed to a strong culture of commercial fiction… that, until quite recently, simply didn’t exist in many other countries. A foreign editor I worked with once compared US commercial fiction to Hollywood blockbusters: any one book might be better or worse overall, but there’s a certain level of craftsmanship you can depend on.