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‘The cultural loss is staggering’: Illinois man’s YouTube channel aims to preserve Chicago TV shows and commercials before they vanish

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Published in Science & Technology News

“I respect his efforts and what he’s done, absolutely,” Pappas said. “Most of that stuff would be unseen without Rick’s involvement.”

Enduring threats

While Klein and his colleagues have saved a huge amount of television, much of it now stored on a 50TB hard drive, some worry the long-term preservation of such content might still be in jeopardy.

Walter Podrazik, who teaches the history of television at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said media companies that hold the rights to long-dormant programs might become more proactive about exploiting them commercially, prompting them to crack down on people posting them online.

“I think there will be more aggressive protection of material seen as having value, and more and more material will be seen as having value,” he said.

Booth, meanwhile, said even today’s digital productions could vanish without a concerted effort to archive them.

 

“Unless someone is keeping a copy of something online and paying for the web storage space, there’s no reason to think any of this stuff will be around in 20 years,” he said. “I don’t think any sort of media like this sticks around unless someone deliberately does it.”

Klein’s concern, though, isn’t so much the future as the present. He feels as though he’s in a race to preserve old programs and commercials before the videocassettes that hold them are thrown into the trash or deteriorate so much they’re not viewable (if you have something you’d like to donate, you can reach him at tapes@fuzzy.tv).

He said the unexpected finds keep him motivated, not knowing exactly what might be there when the tape scrolls and the TV flickers to life.

“It’s unlimited potential when you know it’s old,” he said. “It could have anything.”

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