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Anti-anthrax kit fries flash cards, chips

So email your precious snaps...

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Anthrax scares may have stimulated the use of email, but snail mail is inadvertently hitting back at IT by frying chips. According to John Schwartz in today's New York Times (registration required), the irradiation machinery being used by the US mail to zap anthrax spores can destroy chips, and in one case has allegedly set the mail on fire.

The equipment is intended to destroy anthrax spores by heating them up, but the juice is turned up rather higher than is the case when irradiation is used on food to prolong shelf life. The Compact Flash Association has conducted its own tests, and warned that flash memory cards can be destroyed by the machinery. It can also damage food, drugs, clothes, contact lenses... but the upside is the anthrax is definitely going to be dead.

The company supplying the machinery says it made it clear to the Postal Service that it could cause damage, while the Postal Service itself has set up a working group of affected industries to work out ways to avoid their products getting cooked. This however doesn't seem likely to provide a solution by private individuals - so don't send your digital snaps through the US mail, apparently. Printing them out and sending them may not work either, as the machines can degrade paper and even destroy photos. Email them. ®

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