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Issue No.02 - April-June (2011 vol.33)
pp: 60-74
Patricia Galloway , University of Texas at Austin
<p>Documenting the history of computers is complex because it requires not only documents but hardware, software, people, memories, and practice, together with an understanding of the information ecology that they constitute. An example from the author's own history with personal computers explores how these kinds of evidence are generated and how they might be gathered into archives for historical research.</p>
Personal computers, history of computing, hardware, people, software, microcomputers, Kaypro II, digital archiving
Patricia Galloway, "Personal Computers, Microhistory, and Shared Authority: Documenting the Inventor–Early Adopter Dialectic", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.33, no. 2, pp. 60-74, April-June 2011, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2011.45
1. P. Galloway, "Big Buckets or Big Ideas? Classification vs. Innovation on the Enterprise 2.0 Desktop," research report, ARMA Education and Research Foundation, 2008; .
2. The men were Tony Nicotra and Grant Newland, G. Newland email correspondence with P. Galloway, 13 and 16 Mar. 2009.
3. M. Mahoney, "The Histories of Computing(s)," Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol. 30, no. 2, 2005, pp. 119–135 (emphasis added).
4. J. Cortada, "Preserving Records of the Past, Today," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 31, no. 2, 2010, pp. 87–88, recently suggested that historians of computing should see that archival materials are gathered and deposited. This call to action fits well with the documentation strategy idea.
5. L.J. Hackman and J. Warnow-Blewett, "The Documentation Strategy Process: A Model and a Case Study," Am. Archivist, vol. 50, no. 1, 1987, pp. 12–47.
6. F.G. Ham, "The Archival Edge," Am. Archivist, vol. 38, no. 1, 1975, pp. 5–13.
7. H. Booms, "Society and the Formation of a Documentary Heritage: Issues in the Appraisal of Archival Sources," Archivaria, vol. 24, Summer 1987, pp. 69–107.
8. T. Cook, "Macroappraisal in Theory and Practice: Origins, Characteristics, and Implementation in Canada, 1950–2000," Archival Science, vol. 5, nos. 2–4, 2005, pp. 101–161.
9. H.W. Samuels, "Who Controls the Past," Am. Archivist, vol. 49, no. 2, 1986, pp. 109–124. Samuels' idea had emerged from her work on documenting science and technology: J.K. Haas, H.W. Samuels, and B. Trippell Simmons, Appraising the Records of Modern Science and Technology: A Guide, MIT Press, 1985.
10. D. Malkmus, "Documentation Strategy: Mastodon or Retro-Success," Am. Archivist, vol. 71, no. 2, 2008, pp. 384–409.
11. Hackman and Warnow-Blewett, "Documentation Strategy."
12. "Documenting Internet2: A Collaborative Model for Developing Electronic Records Capacities in the Small-Scale Repository Setting," final report, 10 Mar. 2006; documentsfinalreport.pdf.
13. M. Greene and T. Daniels-Howell, "Documentation with an Attitude: A Pragmatist's Guide to the Selection and Acquisition of Modern Business Records," The Records of American Business, J. O'Toole ed., Soc. of Am. Archivists, 1997, pp. 161–230.
14. Malkmus, "Documentation Strategy," pp. 406–409.
15. B. Nardi, and V. O'Day, Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart, MIT Press, 1998.
16. P. Ceruzzi, "The Personal Computer, 1972–1977," A History of Modern Computing, MIT Press, 1998, chap. 7, pp. 207–241. Ceruzzi's narrative is helpful, interesting, and well-documented, but most of the cited references are to published journalistic accounts or oral histories collected from leaders in the field, underlining the need for increased attention to collecting additional evidence from the smaller businesses and the user side of the phenomenon.
17. K. Thibodeau, "Overview of Technological Approaches to Digital Preservation and Challenges in the Coming Years," The State of Digital Preservation: An International Perspective, Council on Library and Information Resources, 2002.
18. J. Rothenberg, Avoiding Technological Quicksand: Finding a Viable Technical Foundation for Digital Preservation, Council on Library and Information Resources, 1998.
19. B. Sterling's novel Holy Fire, Bantam, 1997, pp. 25–33, offers a fictional example.
20. One source is D. Schön, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, Basic Books, 1984.
21. For cognitive science, see A. Clark, Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again, MIT Press, 1997, and P. Dourish, Where the Actions Is: The Foundations of Embodied Interaction, MIT Press, 2001. For social studies of technology, see A. Pickering, The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1995; B. Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society, Harvard Univ. Press, 1987; and K. Knorr Cetina, Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge, Harvard Univ. Press, 1999. For personal experience with technology, see S. Turkle ed., The Inner History of Devices, and Falling for Science, both MIT Press, 2008.
22. This work eventually (1988) became the Bonn Seriation and Archaeological Statistics Package, released as free software by the Unkelbach Valley Software Works, a small company formed by the laboratory's director, Irwin Scollar who had begun as an electrical engineer at MIT but had taken up archaeology and received a PhD in it from Edinburgh University. The researcher was I.D.G. Graham now an honorary adjunct professor of computer science at the University of Waikato.
23. , Now a part of Queen Mary and Westfield College. Documentation for the Westfield era includes project files from papers written during this time, conference programs, passports and contracts, and personal journals, but most of this I remember.
24. This project began with IBM magnetic cards, converted on a System 36 at Louisiana State University and preprocessed on an IBM mainframe at the University of South Carolina with the help of historian D. Chesnutt . The volumes were completed in 1984 by a typesetter in Texas who dropped in the layout codes. Documented in journals and project files archived at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), series 1281.
25. Documentation for the highlights of computing activities at MDAH exists in the form of monthly editing project reports from May 1979 to March 1981 and Special Projects Office monthly reports from April 1983 to January 1999 (MDAH series 2107), subsumed under the Information and Education Division monthly reports from April 1981 to March 1983 (MDAH series 1339).
26. Personal computer histories all point to amateur radio electronics skills as important to the early emergence of the personal computer, but none mention their secondhand influence.
27. CP/M was not fully dispatched until the advent of Windows 3.1.
28. These publications aimed at broad audiences, including material for beginners and advanced programmers and engineers. The MicroCornucopia example shows something of the spirit of the times. Its founder had himself designed and sold a single-board computer and threatened a lawsuit when the Kaypro appeared with a similar design, but the publication soon hosted a Kaypro column as it expanded to support a range of single-board computers, and it sold floppy-disk compendia of free software (several of which I still have) for the cost of reproduction and shipping.
29. This time still included one day per week at work that usually turned out to be more as the minicomputer acquisition proceeded. I also wrote a program on the VG system to do automatic indexing on a lengthy archival finding aid, this time making use of my mainframe acquaintance with overlays.
30. Most of these steps were at least theoretically familiar to me because of the multiple projects that were outlined in the magazines I read, while at work I had had some experience in opening up computer cases. I also had extensive telephone support from the drive vendor, which is probably why they remembered me.
31. Notebook was a text database popular with social science researchers, introduced in the early 1980s and still being praised in the late 1980s. Reviews can be found, for example, in Western J. Nursing Research, vol. 9, no. 4, 1987, and Online Information Rev., vol. 8, no. 5, 1984.
32. KAMAS stoood for Knowledge and Mind Amplification System, which died in the early 1990s. See http://www.jlarue.comoutlinersredux.html .
33. This one has morphed to WriteEZ. See WriteEZ.cfm.
34. The Wordstar archives was apparently lost in 2002 in an office move by the company that had owned the WordStar rights, The Learning Company. "In the process the unlabelled archives were mislaid in off-site storage and at the time of writing [2006] still hadn't been rediscovered." M. Petrie, "A Potted History of WordStar," history.htm.
35. Documented in a handwritten note from G. Newland appended to my cover letter sent with the returned drive on 17 April. I retained copies of my troubleshooting efforts.
36. These IT staff members are S. Williams and C. Ovalle .
37. See O'Toole, The Records of American Business, passim.
38. Fonds, is the archival term indicating a collection of materials from the same source, generated naturally in the course of activity and kept in the original order.
39. B. Bruemmer and S. Hochheiser, The High-Technology Company: A Historical Research and Archival Guide, Charles Babbage Inst., 1989, pp. 4–5. The functional activities they identified were planning, basic research, research and development, production, marketing, sales, and product support and enhancement. Interestingly, this project already recognized the documentary importance of the reception and use of the products of high-tech companies for documenting the companies themselves, but was not in a position to make such collections.
40. Bruemmer and Hochheiser, The High-Technology Company, p. 67.
41. P. Hoffman email correspondence with P. Galloway13 and 15 Mar. 2010.
42. E. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, O'Reilly & Associates, 2001.
43. D. Sudnow, Ways of the Hand: The Organization of Improvised Conduct, Harvard Univ. Press, 1978. Also Dourish's Where the Action Is.
44. D. Miller, The Comfort of Things, Polity Press, 2008, p. 287.
45. P. Galloway, "Oral Tradition in Living Cultures: The Role of Archives in the Preservation of Memory," Community Archives: The Shaping of Memory, J. Bastian, and B. Alexander eds., Facet, 2009, pp. 65–86. This is a major goal of the Goodwill Computer Museum.
46. See F.X. Blouin Jr., and W.G. Rosenberg eds., , Archives, Documentation and Institutions of Social Memory, Univ. of Michigan Press, 2006.
47. J. Randolph, "On the Biography of the Bakunin Family Archive," Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions and the Writing of History, A. Burton ed., Duke Univ. Press, 2005, pp. 209–231.
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