Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Digitisation So Far

I came across some beautiful 10 x 8 transparencies of an early illuminated Gospels the other day. Truly, they were things of beauty in their own right. Shining, luminous, with a level of detail we'd be hard pressed to capture today, even with the latest digital cameras.

It struck me we've come a long way...

"In the beginning.... we scanned the lovely transparencies on heinously expensive scanners and archived to tape. JPEGs were put online and on CDROM. And, lo, it was dull and slow. And yet it was a start.

A little later we discovered digital cameras, even unto the 4th megapixel, and it was very good. So the JPEGs multiplied and became larger, begetting also JPEG2000s.

On the third day metadata was created. And it formed many tribes, and only the anointed really got to grips with it. Often we looked for it, and it was not to be found.

And it came to pass that man invented machines for scanning, and books could be turned into scans, text and metadata almost before tea-time. And librarians were courted by those from Mountain View. And there was much surprise and consternation amongst the peoples. For surely there is no such thing as a free lunch?

After many years in the wilderness, software was invented by those with few friends. And wherever you were, you might search a catalogue and find treasures therein.

And then the elders met together and decided that it would be a mighty thing to be able to search across many collections and discover treasures wherever they may be found. And federated search came to pass.

Yet in the later days there was still discontent. "Surely this is not enough" the people cried. "We yearn to collaborate, blog and annotate even unto the last digit. We ache to get social and pine for access on the Great iPad of Jobs. When will this come to pass?"

And the elders looked grave and downcast and replied 'This will only come to pass when the day of Provision comes, when dollars shall fall from the sky like spring rain. Until that day, be thankful the days of transparencies are past.'"

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