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T
HREE
P
HASES OF
E
MBLEM
D
IGITIZATION
:
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F
IRST
T
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, T
HE
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EXT
F
IVE
David Graham
Professor of French, Dean, Faculty of Arts,
Memorial University of Newfoundland, dgraham@mun.ca
Abstract:
The paper situates current trends in emblem digitization in the historical context that has
made them possible.Taking as its starting point the 1983 release of the Apple Lisa, the first
commercially released personal computer with a GUI, the paper describes the first two
decades of work that have led to current collaborative efforts supported by major research
libraries and scholarly consortia. It attempts to pose the questions that will govern the next
five years and to describe some key goals that should be realisable in that time.
Keywords:
digitization, emblems, hypertext, SGML.
I
t is convenient to divide the history of emblem digitization into three phases, which span a
period somewhat longer than that covered by the fifteen years since the first initiatives took
place in the mid 1980s.
1
In a first phase, lasting from 1983 to about 1993, a plethora of com-
peting standards combined with costly and primitive technology made the very process of
emblem digitization difficult, cumbersome, and expensive, and essentially precluded most forms
of effective collaboration.The second phase, between 1993 and 2003, has been characterized by
a wave of convergence as cross-platform software standards came to be adopted, a development
that enabled the first discussions about implementation of collaborative solutions to take place.
We now stand at the beginning of a third phase, characterized by emergent solutions in which
common standards should enable the accomplishment of goals shared by the community of
emblem scholars.
2
Though no emblems were in fact completely digitized before the late 1980s, the first phase of
emblem digitization can plausibly be dated from January 1983, which was the release date of the
Apple Lisa, the first successfully marketed personal computer to use a Graphical User Interface
(GUI).
3
While the Xerox Star workstation antedated the Lisa by some four years and provided
the inspiration for it in many ways, it used a distributed architecture rather than a stand-alone
operating system and was never successfully marketed by Xerox, though members of the Star
development team, like Alan Kay, went on to play significant roles in the development of the Lisa
and Macintosh computers at Apple.
4
While the Lisa's market price of $9,995 was high enough to
preclude its use by all but independently wealthy academics, the publicity its operating system
received was such as to help ensure the success of the Macintosh, which was released in 1984.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of GUI operating systems in the history of emblem
digitization, as their development made it possible for the first time for scholars to imagine the
creation of computerized databases that would contain not only textual, but visual information
derived from emblem books.The development of the first readily available scanners on the mar-
ket accompanied the progress of GUI operating systems, and the availability of early graphics soft-
1
The first uses of computers to treat
emblematic material were in all
probability the "Macintosh Emblem
Project" described in David Graham,
"Personal Computers and Iconogra-
phy: Issues and Lessons Arising from
the Macintosh Emblem Project," In
Iconography in Cultural Studies: Papers
from the International Conference Euro-
pean Iconography East and West, ed.
Attila Kiss, vol.VII, Papers in English
and American Studies (Szeged, Hun-
gary: Attila József University, 1996)
203-212; David Graham,"Putting
Old Wine in New Bottles: Emblem
Books and Computer Technology,"
Emblematica 5.2 (1992): 271-85;
David Graham,"The Emblematic
Hyperbook: Using Hypercard on
Emblem Books," Hypermedia and
Literary Studies, eds. Paul Delany and
George Landow,Technical Commu-
nications (Cambridge, Mass.:The
MIT Press, 1991) 273-86, and Stan
Beeler's implementation of the union
catalogue of emblem books prompt-
ed by Peter Daly's Index Emblematicus
project.
2
Peter M. Daly, Digitizing the Euro-
pean Emblem: Issues and Prospects
(New York: AMS Press, 2002) has
some useful material, but is more a
compilation of accounts of existing
efforts than a forward-looking analysis.
3
See http://www.apple-history.
com/frames/?&page=gallery&model
=lisa.
4
On the ill-fated Star, which fea-
tured extraordinarily good multilin-
gual capabilities and was the subject
of an article in Scientific American, see
http://xeroxstar.tripod.com/ among
other pages.
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