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DigiCULT
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V-ROMs have now been superseded
by CD-ROM and DVD technology
and almost all existing LV-ROM players
are no longer functional. Less than 20
years later, the information contained in
this innovative 2.5 million survey had
become virtually inaccessible.
RESCUING THE DATA
F
inding ways to understand the obso-
lete `digital language' of the data and
BBC Micro software stored on the disc
can be likened to having to learn Latin to
read the original Domesday Book.There
are different approaches to rendering data
in an understandable way, each with
advantages and disadvantages. `Emulation'
preserves not only the data but also the
software and the original interface, and
simply makes it readable by modern com-
puters. Presenting the information in its
original context helps to preserve the
authenticity of the original data and fur-
thermore allows study of the original
interface itself the ways in which infor-
mation is presented may also have histori-
cal significance. Another approach is to
`interpret' the original data, that is, to rep-
resent the underlying information within
a new interface.This has the advantage of
using the benefits of the most up-to-date
user interfaces, which can provide easier
and more efficient access to information.
F
or the BBC Domesday project,
Creative Archiving at Michigan and
Leeds Emulating the Old on the New
(CAMiLEON, http://www.si.umich.edu/
CAMILEON/) developed an emulation of
the original Domesday system hardware,
which included the co-processor, SCSI
which was there left out: and all these records
were brought to [the King] afterwards."
T
his vast survey, completed in less
than two years, became known as
the Domesday Book.
ABOUT BBC DOMESDAY
T
he BBC Domesday project was car-
ried out between 1984 and 1986 to
celebrate the 900th anniversary of the
Domesday Book, and was organised on a
massive scale reflecting that of the original
survey. Around 60 BBC staff, 14,000
schools, 2000 other groups and 1 million
children and other volunteers were
involved in collecting, analysing, recording
and disseminating geographical and social
data about small areas of the UK. Over
24,000 maps and 200,000 photographs
were processed, along with moving images,
articles and over 8000 data sets (traffic con-
gestion, radiation levels etc.) to provide a
`snapshot' of life in Britain in the mid-
1980s. It has been estimated that, at a rate
of 40 hours per week, it would take over
7 years to view all of the information of
the BBC Domesday project.
1
T
he information was recorded onto
two 12" videodiscs that could be
played using a BBC Master computer (fit-
ted with a second processor and an SCSI
card) connected to a special new type of
videodisc player called an LV-ROM player.
Much of the technology was developed
specifically for this project by a collabora-
tion of BBC, Acorn, Philips and Logica.
In 1986, a full BBC Domesday system was
presented to the Keeper of Records at the
Public Record Office, to be kept alongside
the original Domesday Book.
T
he ill-fated BBC Domesday project
of 198486 is often cited by
archivists as an example of the dangers of
technological impermanence.The format
on which BBC Domesday was stored, LV-
ROM videodisc, was quickly superseded
and manufacturers soon stopped support-
ing the technology, rendering this 2.5
million project practically worthless. For
the project directors this was bitterly iron-
ic, given the fact that their intended aim
was to create a modern-day equivalent of
the Domesday Book, a record that has sur-
vived for more than 900 years. However,
access to this previously `lost' information
is now possible once more due to systems
that allow the data to be understood by
today's computers. A working version of
BBC Domesday is now available for public
use at the British National Archives at Kew.
THE DOMESDAY BOOK
I
n December 1085,William the
Conqueror commissioned a huge sur-
vey of the lands and people under his con-
trol. It is thought that a primary reason
for William ordering that this record be
produced was to ascertain how much tax
he was collecting from the country, mo-
ney which was often used to buy off
Scandinavian armies, the greatest threat to
his power.
T
he survey is a detailed statement
of the land, its regions, people and
resources, the first draft containing records
for nearly 13,500 separate English settle-
ments.The scale of the research is
apparent from a quote of the time:
"there was no single hide nor a yard of land,
nor indeed one ox nor one cow nor one pig
O
VERCOMING THE DANGERS OF TECHNOLOGICAL OBSOLESCENCE
:
R
ESCUING THE
BBC D
OMESDAY PROJECT
B
Y
D
AISY
A
BBOTT
1 http://www.iconbar.com/news/features/camileon.html