TIL: The inspiration for Harley Quinn

Watch the soap opera inspiration for Harley Quinn

In 1987, Arleen Sorkin played a bizarre dream jester on the classic soap opera Days of our Lives. Watch above. Several years later, that curious character became the inspiration for Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series. Naturally, Sorkin voiced Ms. Quinn.

Arleen Sorkin went to the same college as Paul Dini, who’d later go on to write Batman: The Animated Series, and they became friends. She passed him a VHS tape of her fave Days moments, including her jester performances. Years later, Dini rewatched that VHS while seeking inspiration for a female character for a BTAS episode featuring the Joker. Sorkin’s jester was the spark that gave rise to Harley Quinn, and the rest is comics (and TV, and film) history.

The tape obsolescence problem

The tape obsolescence problem

I’ve seen some of this myself, back when I was involved in tape duplication and conversion. Writing the software to read, write and manage the data was the easier part. (Most of the time—getting technical documents from hardware makers took a bit of hoop-jumping, while data specifications were sometimes closely guarded.) The hard part was keeping the tape hardware working, because they were being used a lot. The people who know how to repair and maintain that stuff are mostly retired now.

DAT (Digital Audio Tape) and LTO both had long lives, but DAT faltered and fell away in the 2000s, and the supply side of LTO has shrunk in recent years. All the other formats—reels, Exabyte, DC (Data Cartridge), various proprietary formats—shone briefly but fell by the wayside.

And all physical media degrades over time. Not just tapes, opticals disks can succumb to bit-rot too.

I’d imagine that, much like data recovery from hard disks, you’d have no guarantee that anyone could retrieve precious data, even if they had the tools to do so.