Software as Heritage and Strategies for its Preservation — and what Computer Sounds have to do with it

Speaker: Gerard Alberts
Date: Thursday 21th September 2017
Time: 14:30

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? Not necessarily. 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.

Recent Publications

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