Cautionary Tales – Laser Versus Parchment: Doomsday for the Disc

10th November, 2023

William the Conqueror undertook a remarkably modern project. In 1086, he began compiling and storing a detailed record of his realm: where everyone lived, what they did and where they came from.

900 years later, the BBC began its own Domesday project, sending school children out to conduct a community survey and collect facts about Britain. This was a people’s database, two decades before Wikipedia. But just a few years later, that interactive digital database was totally unreadable, the information lost.

We tend to take archives for granted — but preservation doesn’t happen by accident, and digitisation doesn’t mean that something will last forever. And the erasure of the historical record has disastrous consequences for humanity.

[Apple] [Spotify] [Stitcher]

Further Reading

On William the Conqueror

English Heritage; History of Information; the National Archives; Andrew Whitby, The Sum of the People.

On the BBC Domesday Project

Peter Armstrong remarks at the Centre for Computer History 16 Nov 2019
Tony Quinn “Domesday Plus 900” Acorn User December 1984
Jeffrey Darlington, Andy Finney and Adrian Pearce “Domesday Redux: The rescue of the BBC Domesday Project videodiscs” Ariadne Issue 36, 30-July-2003
Andy Finney’s website
Robin McKie and Vanessa Thorpe “Digital Domesday Book lasts 15 years not 1000” The Observer 3 March 2002

Mick Harker “Community stalwart dies” Sussex World 12 Feb 2008

The Centre for Computing History.

Daniel Earwicker Domesday Reloaded Reloaded

On the Windrush Scandal

Demetrios Matheou “Surviving the Windrush Scandal” Unison Magazine 6 June 2018
Amelia Gentleman “Man living in UK for 56 years loses job over immigration papers” The Guardian 9 April 2018
Amelia Gentleman “Home Office destroyed Windrush Landing cards, says ex-staffer” The Guardian 17 April 2018
Georgina Lee “FactCheck – who destroyed the Windrush Landing cards?” 24 April 2018
Amelia Gentleman The Windrush Betrayal 2019

Michael Braithwaite interview with ITV (embedded on the Daily Mail website).

Human Rights Watch – “UK Hostile Compensation Scheme Fails Windrush Victims” 17 April 2023

On archives
Zittrain, J., Albert, K., & Lessig, L. (2014). “Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations.” Legal Information Management, 14(2), 88-99.
Richard Ovenden “We must fight to preserve digital informationThe Economist
Richard Ovenden Burning The Books

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This