Those of us who are new media
old farts veterans will remember something called the Domesday Project, created by the BBC in the mid-80s. Named after the early Norman era census of England, it combined browseable interactive maps of the UK with both official statistics and (then) current local information, much of it collected by students. It was released in 1986, nine hundred years after its calligraphed predecessor, and combined many then novel interface techniques such as surrogate travel and zoomable maps.
Ho, hum, eh? Should be able to knock that off with some digicams, a Wiki, and maybe a little Flash or Java. Except back then it was a dramatic tour de force that really pushed the edge of what was feasible with desktop scale computing. It combined a specially mod'ed Acorn microcomputer - a rockin' 8 bits wide - with a videodisc derived data storage called LV-ROM, and an interpreted version of BCPL - a C relative - for the code. Every piece of which was an oddball, failed to gain any sort of market traction, and likely ended up in the scrapheap within a few years. Though Domesday was much cherished by the new media wonks of the time, and was distributed to many UK schools, it seemed to have died long before the lifespan of its namesake.
Some time back Kevin Marks and I were reminiscing at a party about our respective experiences with the Beeb, when he mentioned there was a project afoot to resurrect the Domesday discs. Which I promptly forgot, until a conversation with another old friend yesterday recalled it to mind, and a quick Google found this record of the success of the project, using an emulation platform developed by the universities of Leeds and Michigan for preserving digital artifacts. A fascinating story of digital archeology, really showing how far we've come in computing power and storage in the intervening years. (And I'm only two years late on the story.)
They were lucky enough to have the original designer on tap for reference. I sure wouldn't want to have to reverse engineer some my own data structures from that same era, so hats off to Adrian Pearce's memory and perserverence! It's really weird to see these old interfaces reappearing with a Windows bar at the top. OK, you kids stop snickering, this stuff was really hot back in the day. Mumble, mumble, grmph....