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Lost in Cyberspace:
The BBC Domesday Project and the Challenge of Digital Preservation

(Released June 2003)

  by Douglas Brown  


Key Citations

Web Sites




Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: A chronological record of events in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England was originally compiled on the orders of King Alfred the Great, approximately A.D. 890, and subsequently maintained and added to by generations of anonymous scribes until the middle of the 12th Century. The original language is Anglo-Saxon (Old English), but later entries are essentially Middle English in tone.

backward compatibility: Ability of a higher grade hardware or software system to work with earlier or lower grade versions.

BBC: The public service British broadcasting organization was founded in 1922 and is formally known as the British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC services are used by over 90% of the UK population every week, and include a wide range of distinctive program and services, free of commercial interests and political bias. They include television, radio, national, local, childrens, educational, language and other services for key interest groups.

BBC Domesday Project: A 1986 project to celebrate the 1086 Domesday Book by repeating the exercise using modern data and technology.

BBC microcomputers: A series of 6502-based personal computers launched by Acorn Computers Ltd. in January 1982, for use in the British Broadcasting Corporation's educational programmes on computing. The computers were noted for their reliability (many were still in active service in 1994) and both hardware and software were designed for easy expansion. The 6502-based computers were succeeded in 1987 by the Acorn Archimedes family.

BCPL: A simple typeless language that was designed in 1966 by Martin Richards and implemented for the first time at MIT in the Spring of 1967.

Bytestream: An ordered stream of bytes or bits.

CAMiLEON: Acronym for Creative Archiving at Michigan and Leeds Emulating the Old on the New.

Dialogue Concerning the Exchequer: A learned essay of the Middle Ages concerning all that went on at the bi-yearly meetings of the Exchequer (the treasury of England) officials, and branches out into a description of all the sources of revenue of the English crown, and of the methods of collecting them.

digital preservation: The purpose of preservation is to ensure protection of information of enduring value for access by present and future generations. Digital preservation is concerned with the preservation of electronic media.

digital preservation coalition: This was established in 2001 to foster joint action to address the urgent need of securing the preservation of digital resources in the UK and to work with others internationally to secure our global digital memory and knowledge base.

Domesday Book: The first approach to a modern assessment roll, The Domesday Book was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who had ruled England since 1066.

emulation: A computer procedure to initiate 2 systems so that the imitating system accepts the same data, runs the same programs and achieves the same results as the imitated system.

Freedom of Information Act (UK): This Bill received Royal Assent on 30 November 2000. However, the right of access will not come into force until January 2005.

look and feel: Overall visual appearance and user interface of a computer program.

metadata: Data about data. In a functional sense, structured data about data. More specifically, a description of a set of data (how and when it was collected, who collected and organized it, the format in which it is presented, etc.)

migration: Moving information from one form of storage to another, usually more up-to-data, or updating preserved files and documents to be compatible with current versions.

multimedia: Information combining different content types, such as motion video, audio, still images, graphics, animation, text etc.

National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) (US): A US Congress backed scheme to save America's cultural and intellectual heritage in digital formats.

Philips LaserVision LV-ROM VP415: The VP415 was better known the Domesday player and was originally developed by the Dutch electronics company Philips in the 1970s. It was a replay only video disc system based upon the same laser-read optical disc technology used by the Compact Disc digital audio format. LaserVision was one early form of LaserDisc, which is the sole survivor of the video disc format wars of the early 1980s.

Project Gutenberg: This project aims to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms that a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search.

Public Record Office (UK): The national archive of England, Wales and the United Kingdom. On April 2 2003, the Public Record Office (PRO) and the Historical Manuscripts Commission (HMC) joined together to form a new organisation: The National Archives.

Taskforce on Digital Archiving (US): In 1996, a specially commissioned US Taskforce on Digital Archiving published the final report of its work. The impact of the work of the Taskforce has been felt world-wide.

technological quicksand: This phrase appears in the title of the 1999 report Avoiding Technological Quicksand by Jeff Rothenberg to the Council on Library and Information Resources, which proposes emulating obsolete software/hardware systems on future, unknown systems, as a means of preserving digital information far into the future.