Software as Heritage and Strategies for its Preservation
— and what Computer Sounds have to do with it
||Thursday 21th September 2017
BCS, 5 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HA
About the seminar
Recent experience with preserving and reviving the Amsterdam Digital City,
evoked a rather harsh confrontation with the practical reality of what
had been a point of theoretical interest for me all along: software as heritage.
Software will hardly show itself to the interested historian without being
run on some working system.
One does not get very far without an emulation or a replica,
both of the software and of the system to run it on.
Either way, efforts to revive the 1994 webserver of the Digital City
did not come without compromise.
Why does software cause such a mess when found as heritage?
Museums and archives do have their ways of dealing with abstracts phenomena
of culture and with ephemera.
Yet, whether websites, operating systems, games, packages or in general
“born digital material”", software, when taken as technical heritage,
typically seems to evade the common archival and museological approaches.
What strategies are available to avoid getting lost?
An historical characterisation of the notion and the practice of software
may offer a deeper understanding.
For an historical notion of software I will turn to the autocoding systems
of the 1950s and to the sounds of computing.
About the speaker
Gerard Alberts is an associate professor of history of computing and history
of mathematics at the Korteweg &– de Vries institute for mathematics
at the University of Amsterdam.
He served the ESF project Software for Europe as its project leader.
Gerard is a member of the editorial board of the Annals of the History of Computing;
of the journal Internet Histories;
of the Springer series History and Philosophy of Science.
He succeeded Martin Campbell-Kelly as the editor of the Springer Series History of Computing.
Gerard Alberts, Marc Went and Robert Jansma ,
‘Archaeology of the Amsterdam digital city; why digital data are dynamic
and should be treated accordingly’, Internet Histories, 1-1-2, May 2017, 146-159.
Gerard Alberts en Bas van Vlijmen,
Computerpioniers; het begin van het computertijdperk in Nederland.
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017.
Gerard Alberts and Ruth Oldenziel (eds.)
Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes, London: Springer, 2014
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