Digital Incunabula or, Br. Jeff loves Alliteration

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What to do with a floppy disk full of important archival materials.

By Br. Jeff Durham, OFM

Many of the patrons at the Santa Barbara Mission-Archive Library assume that all of the things we do involve old documents, manuscripts and photos. However, there is a slow trickle of items which I refer to as digital incunabula. What I mean by this term are those artifacts from the dawn of the information age.

Two items that came across my desk in the past few weeks were floppy disks (with a minuscule 1.44 MB of memory) and an ancient (at least in the sense of Moore’s Law*) laptop. From the standpoint of an information scientist, this provided a great opportunity to work with computer technology that was still working on mechanical principles (listen to those hard drives and floppy drives spinning)! This was also a good way to prepare the archive-library for what is sure to go from a technological trickle to a digital deluge as more of the material that arrives at the facility will be “born digital”*. With the success of this project, we are well on our way to bridging the digital divide.

*Moore’s Law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.

*The term born-digital refers to materials that originate in a digital form.

 

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