1683: "Digital Data"

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1683: "Digital Data"

Postby sardia » Fri May 20, 2016 4:07 am UTC

Image
Alt Text: " “If you can read this, congratulations—the archive you’re you're using still knows about the mouseover text”!"
It's gonna be a huge issue that threatens a digital dark age. Nobody will be able to know about our recent past.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby WK1 » Fri May 20, 2016 4:09 am UTC

Hopefully historians of the future won't confuse copying files with re-encoding images.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby commodorejohn » Fri May 20, 2016 4:14 am UTC

WK1 wrote:Hopefully historians of the future won't confuse copying files with re-encoding images.

It won't help. By the time they actually get to it, it'll already have been re-posted back and forth between Imgur, Flickr, and Photobucket six or eight times over.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Eternal Density » Fri May 20, 2016 4:29 am UTC

This is good, and early!
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby LockeZ » Fri May 20, 2016 4:44 am UTC

Here's some amazing irony for you. Even though the alt text is supposed to look like gibberish characters that your browser can't render correctly, sardia's browser apparently legitimately can't render the last fake unrenderable gibberish character.

Image

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby rhomboidal » Fri May 20, 2016 4:50 am UTC

I wonder if there's an undiscovered cave somewhere with a similar stickman cartoon about rock painting and carving.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby CatCube » Fri May 20, 2016 4:55 am UTC

This speaks to me, because there's a drive on to go all-digital in our office.

Leaving aside that trying to read construction drawings on a screen makes me want to stab somebody in the eye with a pencil, we're giving up a lot of robustness. Will we be able to read the PDF copies in 100 years? Or the original Microstation files? Well, there's files that NASA has from the Apollo program that nobody has either the equipment or the file format to read, and that's with living people who worked on them.

But paper? As long as it's kept cool and printed on acid-free stock, it'll probably be good. Microfiche? Even if WWIII starts and society falls, they'll still be able to figure out a magnifying glass.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri May 20, 2016 5:13 am UTC

(Yes, very early. No link to the subject matter, that I can think of, unless it is also going to degrade (beyond the already obvious visual 'punning' on the issue) during the day...)

Reminds me of the archive and backup 'rebacking-up' from floppies and DAT tapes onto CDRs, a couple of decades ago, and the research that persuaded us to not leave those CDRs for more than four years before re-copying them again, for a cost-effective cross-media grandfather-father-sonning of critical data that was already duplicated across all the original media, but not always trivially recoverable if ever any medium, media-reader or even site was lost.


Also reminds me, though not perfectly matching the comic scenario about the moderm Doomsday Project, and its laserdisc storage that was left largely unreadable even a decade after its collation, wheras the extant Doomsday Book copies were largely readable, by eye, 900 years later.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby addams » Fri May 20, 2016 5:19 am UTC

I was recently placing digital information on a bookcase next to some very old books.
I thought about how fast I can lose the ability to read the digital information.

No matter How good the software.
Np matter how dense the information.

Without the proper playback hardware...
well...That information is lost, forever...
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby keithl » Fri May 20, 2016 5:39 am UTC

We are very inaccurate digital copies of bacteria, and sooner or later, the raw material for making more.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby AlfaLyr » Fri May 20, 2016 5:45 am UTC

The 9GAG detail killed me xD
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri May 20, 2016 6:15 am UTC

LockeZ wrote:Here's some amazing irony for you. Even though the alt text is supposed to look like gibberish characters that your browser can't render correctly, sardia's browser apparently legitimately can't render the last fake unrenderable gibberish character.

Image

It's a C1 control code character called 'Device Control String', DCS, or U+0090. Its intended use was to introduce a string of 8-bit characters that would be passed as an instruction to the device. It's basically obsolete, so it's not surprising to see it rendered differently in different environments.

By the way, here it is again, between the single-quotes: ''

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri May 20, 2016 6:20 am UTC

I do graphic design for a living, often working off of logos or other official corporate art, and if I had a dollar for every time I got a Word document containing just an iPhone screenshot of a website displaying a photo of a computer screen with the original fucking vector art open in Illustrator on it instead of the original vector art file itself, I be so rich I wouldn't have to put up with that shit anymore.

Well except not, because I make a lot more than a dollar for every time I have to put up with that shit and I'm still not that rich, but you get the point.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Flumble » Fri May 20, 2016 6:49 am UTC

CatCube wrote:Will we be able to read the PDF copies in 100 years? Or the original Microstation files?

Yes. Maybe not.
PDF is not only "portable" from device to device, but also from time to time. I believe it has the same eternal life as email.
Microstation sound too niche of a platform to have emulators available, so you're pretty much doomed once the last physical microstation has left the building.

Pfhorrest wrote:Well except not, because I make a lot more than a dollar for every time I have to put up with that shit and I'm still not that rich, but you get the point.

Heheheheh. :lol:

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby eidako » Fri May 20, 2016 6:54 am UTC

Metal Gear Solid 2 made a pretty good case for why data loss is a good thing.
The mapping of the human genome was completed early this century. As a result, the evolutionary log of the human race lay open to us. We started with genetic engineering, and in the end, we succeeded in digitizing life itself. But there are things not covered by genetic information. Human memories, ideas. Culture. History. Genes don't contain any record of human history. Is it something that should not be passed on? Should that information be left at the mercy of nature?

We've always kept records of our lives. Through words, pictures, symbols... from tablets to books... But not all the information was inherited by later generations. A small percentage of the whole was selected and processed, then passed on. Not unlike genes, really. That's what history is, Jack. But in the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible. Rumors about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander...

All this junk data preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate. It will only slow down social progress.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby JBridge » Fri May 20, 2016 7:18 am UTC

eidako wrote:Metal Gear Solid 2 made a pretty good case for why data loss is a good thing.
The mapping of the human genome was completed early this century. As a result, the evolutionary log of the human race lay open to us. We started with genetic engineering, and in the end, we succeeded in digitizing life itself. But there are things not covered by genetic information. Human memories, ideas. Culture. History. Genes don't contain any record of human history. Is it something that should not be passed on? Should that information be left at the mercy of nature?

We've always kept records of our lives. Through words, pictures, symbols... from tablets to books... But not all the information was inherited by later generations. A small percentage of the whole was selected and processed, then passed on. Not unlike genes, really. That's what history is, Jack. But in the current, digitized world, trivial information is accumulating every second, preserved in all its triteness. Never fading, always accessible. Rumors about petty issues, misinterpretations, slander...

All this junk data preserved in an unfiltered state, growing at an alarming rate. It will only slow down social progress.

The problem with that is that what's important is usually only obvious in hindsight. (That, and I think GW may have been a mite insane.)

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Fri May 20, 2016 8:03 am UTC

The 9gag watermark just makes this. I can relate, because I started contributing to a 'booru-style archive of Undertale fanart, and got a painful lesson in just how thoroughly and expertly sites like that (modern-day eBaums, is what they are!) dominate the search results. It doesn't help that DeviantArt — the source for maybe half of them — is really, really terrible at getting master copies to be indexed at all. Not sure yet what Tumblr's excuse is; you'd think if anything it would be easy to find a reblog or two and trace it to the source from there. Either way, it taught me that I'm doing a lot of artists a favor by reposting their work on a site that at least preserves the original image and links back to the source. Not looking forward to having to explain that to any who complain, though.

Pfhorrest wrote:I do graphic design for a living, often working off of logos or other official corporate art, and if I had a dollar for every time I got a Word document containing just an iPhone screenshot of a website displaying a photo of a computer screen with the original fucking vector art open in Illustrator on it instead of the original vector art file itself, I be so rich I wouldn't have to put up with that shit anymore.

Well except not, because I make a lot more than a dollar for every time I have to put up with that shit and I'm still not that rich, but you get the point.

One of my proudest moments as a Web developer was porting over a site that had implemented a slide show by creating a video of a slide show and using a Flash widget to display it. I politely asked if they still had the original images that were used in it, and they did. A quick drop-in jQuery script later and it was all sorted.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby HES » Fri May 20, 2016 8:25 am UTC

CatCube wrote:This speaks to me, because there's a drive on to go all-digital in our office.

Leaving aside that trying to read construction drawings on a screen makes me want to stab somebody in the eye with a pencil

Same industry, same problem. We also have to deal with the opposite issue of having to down-save files to older formats, to suit whatever arcane version our clients are using. Much simpler to deliver a stack of paper.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Story Weaver » Fri May 20, 2016 8:27 am UTC

Even paper and microfiche aren't always enough.

The UK government has been recording laws on parchment (animal skin-based medium, as opposed to paper, which is tree-based) for the last 1,000 years, because parchment really lasts that long. It does have to be stored carefully - parchment buckles in humid conditions, which is why ancient tomes of secret lore have the big metal clasp on them to keep them flat.

So at first it seems like Parliament is being really outdated. Then you look into it more and realise that it's a really sensible way of recording things for the long term, so long as it's not huge volumes of information.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby HES » Fri May 20, 2016 9:07 am UTC

I thought they'd stopped doing that, as a cost cutting measure?
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby CharlieP » Fri May 20, 2016 9:12 am UTC

I thought there was opposition to it from those who don't like animals being used for that kind of thing.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby CharlieP » Fri May 20, 2016 9:14 am UTC

Back to the comic, I'm reminded of that brief time when lots of people had email (even if only at work), but the Web was new (to most) and slow - you'd be sent something whose content was vaguely entertaining, but hidden under pages upon pages of email headers, top quoting, bottom quoting, pink text etc. etc.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Echo244 » Fri May 20, 2016 9:20 am UTC

HES wrote:I thought they'd stopped doing that, as a cost cutting measure?
MPs seem to keep clinging to tradition...
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Fri May 20, 2016 11:58 am UTC

I am just sad that old online porn videos will probably never be backed up and forever be loss.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Flumble » Fri May 20, 2016 12:15 pm UTC

Echo244 wrote:
HES wrote:I thought they'd stopped doing that, as a cost cutting measure?
MPs seem to [url=http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/20/mps-have-voted-to-safe-the-thousand-year-old-practice-of-recordi/]keep clinging to tradition[/url]...

It may have been corrected in the article, but the url remembers.

Why would you store any kind of physical document still? PDFs are here to stay and you can perform OCR on them to make full-text search possible. Backup tapes are pretty good nowadays in retaining all information for decades, if not centuries, and they're a lot smaller than all those bookshelves.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby wst » Fri May 20, 2016 12:31 pm UTC

SolkaTruesilver wrote:I am just sad that old online porn videos will probably never be backed up and forever be loss.
Porn will become an oral tradition.
Anything I said pre-2014 that you want to quote me on, just run it past me to check I still agree with myself.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby cellocgw » Fri May 20, 2016 12:37 pm UTC

wst wrote:
SolkaTruesilver wrote:I am just sad that old online porn videos will probably never be backed up and forever be loss.
Porn will become an oral tradition.


Yeah, we all saw what you did there.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby cellocgw » Fri May 20, 2016 12:53 pm UTC

Well, of course digital data degrades :( , as we all know. The World Is Analog (tm) . But, just as with a printed page, where the ink slowly fades into invisibility over time, digital bits slowly lose the zero vs. one contrast over time.

The solution is obvious: make the contrast much bigger. If we make a digital disk out of a big chunk of granite (think gristmill plates) and make the data pits maybe 2 mm diameter by 10 mm deep, the data will be readable a zillion time-units from now.

Of course, you still have the problem of knowing how to decode, so better write a bunch of emojis^H^H^H^H^H^H hieroglyphics around the edge to explain the whole thing.

And match the symbols to two other sets of symbols from other languages. We could call it something like "Circular Reasoning"
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri May 20, 2016 1:16 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
wst wrote:
SolkaTruesilver wrote:I am just sad that old online porn videos will probably never be backed up and forever be loss.
Porn will become an oral tradition.


Yeah, we all saw what you did there.


I didn't.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby richP » Fri May 20, 2016 1:35 pm UTC

CatCube wrote:This speaks to me, because there's a drive on to go all-digital in our office.

Leaving aside that trying to read construction drawings on a screen makes me want to stab somebody in the eye with a pencil...


Before considering your (quite valid) data retention argument, has your office considered the workflow? All-digital needs to be more than just buying a big-ass scanner to slurp in old documents. You also need:

* big enough monitors to work with the necessary data.
* Big monitors and heavy-duty workstations where the drawings need to be used. Key example is on the prototype area of a small airplane manufacturer: they have a huge screen so they can pull up engineering drawings out where they're needed, not just upstairs at the engineer's desk.
* Electronic document approval systems (no, printing the title block, having the chief engineer and QA lead initial and date, then re-scan does not count).
* Software that makes a computer and a screen more useful than paper copies (domain-dependent, in the electronics world this means things like embedding real part numbers in the CAD so you're not cross referencing 12 out of date paper docs). a/k/a avoid the stab someone in the eye with a pencil scenario.
* A way to usefully bring in all those paper docs for archival (even if that means re-creating in electronic versions)
* A way to corral the old source documents (just this week I found a scan of a scan of a scan of a printout of a Generic CADD document from 1998, I also found a version of the GCAD doc with just the title block... no data, WTF?)
* People to do the above
* Training for the above

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby commodorejohn » Fri May 20, 2016 2:05 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:Why would you store any kind of physical document still? PDFs are here to stay and you can perform OCR on them to make full-text search possible. Backup tapes are pretty good nowadays in retaining all information for decades, if not centuries, and they're a lot smaller than all those bookshelves.

Well, for starters, you can read them when the power's out.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby jc » Fri May 20, 2016 2:19 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
LockeZ wrote:Here's some amazing irony for you. Even though the alt text is supposed to look like gibberish characters that your browser can't render correctly, sardia's browser apparently legitimately can't render the last fake unrenderable gibberish character.

Image

It's a C1 control code character called 'Device Control String', DCS, or U+0090. Its intended use was to introduce a string of 8-bit characters that would be passed as an instruction to the device. It's basically obsolete, so it's not surprising to see it rendered differently in different environments.

By the way, here it is again, between the single-quotes: ''


Here, a copy-paste to another window on this Macbook shows me that its hex code is C29D, which is Unicode for the Hangul (슝 "syung") character, though it's not a valid UTF-8 encoding. It displays in my FF windows as the little box with the hex digits 0090 inside, which is an nonprinting UTF-8 character. Pasted into a Terminal window it shows once as the Korean character, though I don't seem to be able to do it again. I'll try copying it here: '', where it's showing in this FF input widget as the boxed 009D char.

We have a way to go before our binary encoding of characters is stable and sane ...

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby suso » Fri May 20, 2016 2:25 pm UTC

Best alt text ever.

Its getting harder and harder to read alt text in newer browsers.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby dennisw » Fri May 20, 2016 4:21 pm UTC

Lol, my printifier.com (link in my signature) contributes additional degradation in the title text.

Also, this reminds me of ancient times when comics and such were xeroxed and faxed multiple times and picked up increasing amounts of visual detritus along the way.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby HES » Fri May 20, 2016 4:38 pm UTC

dennisw wrote:xeroxed

Another example for the brand/generic discussion in the Contrails thread. I had to look this up to know it meant "photocopy", since as far as I'm concerned "Xerox" is a just a brand name. Though it turns out the photocopier I'm currently sharing a room with is, in fact, a Xerox.
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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby cellocgw » Fri May 20, 2016 4:50 pm UTC

dennisw wrote:Lol, my printifier.com (link in my signature) contributes additional degradation in the title text.

Also, this reminds me of ancient times when comics and such were xeroxed and faxed multiple times and picked up increasing amounts of visual detritus along the way.


You call that "ancient times" ? Boy am I getting old.

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri May 20, 2016 5:11 pm UTC

SolkaTruesilver wrote:I am just sad that old online porn videos will probably never be backed up and forever be loss.

That sounds like something I need to personally address...

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri May 20, 2016 5:29 pm UTC

commodorejohn wrote:
Flumble wrote:Why would you store any kind of physical document still? PDFs are here to stay and you can perform OCR on them to make full-text search possible. Backup tapes are pretty good nowadays in retaining all information for decades, if not centuries, and they're a lot smaller than all those bookshelves.

Well, for starters, you can read them when the power's out.


Depends what the circumstances are, but roughly half the time I can't read physical documents when the power's out because it's too dark... Meanwhile, my Kindle can function independently of external power sources for weeks at a time.

For most organisations, power outages sufficient to prevent the records from being read are also going to prevent you from needing to read them...

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Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby jc » Fri May 20, 2016 5:36 pm UTC

CatCube wrote:... Will we be able to read the PDF copies in 100 years? Or the original Microstation files? Well, there's files that NASA has from the Apollo program that nobody has either the equipment or the file format to read, and that's with living people who worked on them.

But paper? As long as it's kept cool and printed on acid-free stock, it'll probably be good. Microfiche? Even if WWIII starts and society falls, they'll still be able to figure out a magnifying glass.


I wouldn't be too trusting of PDF. I've gotten PDFs that get fatal errors from my readers and/or printers on the day they were created. Even when using software from Adobe, they're sometimes unreadable. PDF has gone through a number of major versions, and it's a proprietary format, so its owner (Adobe, or whoever buys them out, or whoever buys them out, or ...) can make undocumented, incompatible changes at any time. They can also withdraw legal permissions to use the format. Granted, the cat's probably out of the bag on this one, and there will be people with good information about the format for at least a few decades. But for archival storage, it's not in any sense an acceptable, reliable format.

Actually, one of the funny things about PDF is that it turns out there are very few PDF printers. Except for a few big, fast, expensive ones, they're mostly PostScript printers. And most formatting software still produces PS, not PDF, in part because PS is better documented. So we have the weird situation where, to print something, you usually run a program to convert your document to PS, which is then fed to a ps-to-pdf converter to give PDF, which is then sent to a printer. The printing software runs it through a pdf-to-ps converter and sends it to the printer. If the PDF is sent to someone else, there's the added fact that PDF is usually larger than PS, thus wasting more bandwidth. But this bit of absurdity does have one good feature: The multiple conversions restrict the usable encodings quite a lot, since they must work no matter what versions of PS and PDF are in use at both ends. (Or they must work most of the time; they are somewhat notorious for failing due to incompatible versions. ;-) But for storage purposes this might be considered an advantage of PDF.

Anyway, the very fact that people here start off by suggesting PDF is a good illustration of why we have a problem. Building archives on incompletely-documented, proprietary formats is not a good foundation.

Paper is an interesting fallback, but people are missing the fact that in practice, paper is a very low-quality storage medium, and is much of the reason that we are so ignorant of so much of our history. Information that people actually decide they want to keep might be better kept in binary form (in as many archives as will accept them), with paper as an another-path sort of backup.

Justin Lardinois
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:47 pm UTC

Re: 1683: "Digital Data"

Postby Justin Lardinois » Fri May 20, 2016 5:51 pm UTC

suso wrote:Best alt text ever.

Its getting harder and harder to read alt text in newer browsers.


I'm going to be that pedantic asshole.

xkcd's popup postscripts are title text, not alt text, and those are two different things. Alt text is alternative text to be used if the image itself can't be shown; title text is additional information that's historically rendered as a tooltip when you hover over an element.

The name confusion comes from older versions of Internet Explorer (and maybe newer ones as well, I don't know) rendering the alt text as a tooltip if no title element was present. This is and was always wrong, but it definitely confused several generations of web developers about what alt text really was.


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