digitize

Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.

To digitize is to put into digital form, as for use in a computer. Digitized data is data that has been converted from one format or another to digital format. A paper document or photo, for example, might be scanned and saved on the computer as a digital file, in a document or image format such as PDF, JPEG, TIFF, etc. Audio and video data can also be converted to digital such as cassette tapes converted to WAV or MP3 format. Data that has been digitized can read, stored, and shared on the computer and online.

In today's "Digital Age" more and more documents, photos, books, etc. are being digitized and made available for research via the Internet. Digitized data is easy to store and easy to share. The progress in digitization and the number of organizations and individuals digitizing data, has dramatically reduced (although not eliminated) the need for researchers to travel to conduct research. Digitization has also surfaced a considerable amount of information that might otherwise not have been found; for example, documents that have been transcribed (manually or using OCR) or indexed can be searched on the computer and online, using various keywords, allowing researchers to find the proverbial "needle in a haystack." One caveat, however, to the marvels of digitization is that as technology progresses, digital equipment may change over time and become outdated, rendering some digital files unreadable -- this inability to read old data files is known as "data rot". Researchers are advised to be aware of such changes and to periodically, at least every 10 years, "migrate" (convert) their data to the newer formats.

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