Digital doomsday: the end of knowledge, New Scientist
"The physical survival of stored data, however, is just the start of the problem of retrieving it, as space enthusiasts Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing have discovered. They have been leading a project, based at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, to retrieve high-resolution images from old magnetic tapes. The tapes contain raw data sent back from the five Lunar Orbiter missions in the 1960s. At the time, only low-resolution images could be retrieved. The tapes were wrapped in plastic, placed in magnetically impervious metal canisters and remain in pristine condition. "It is a miracle from my experience with similar commercial tapes of a similar age," says Wingo. But to get the raw data off the tapes, the team first had to restore old tape drives saved by a former NASA employee. That was the biggest challenge, says Cowing. "There was a lizard living inside one of them." Once they began to retrieve the raw data, converting it into a usable form was only possible after a three-month search uncovered a document with the "demodulation" equations."