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Science Technology

Digital Domesday Rescued By Emulation 395

Posted by timothy
from the good-thing-it-wasn't-palladium-protected dept.
eefsee writes "The BBC announced that the Digital Domesday project which had become unusable has now been revived thanks to the successful emulation of a 1980's era Acorn computer. Folks at Leeds University and University of Michigan did the emulation work. This is just one early indication of how difficult it will be to maintain our digital heritage. Note that the printed Domesday Book, on which the digital project was modeled, is still quite accessible after almost 1000 years."
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Digital Domesday Rescued By Emulation

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  • Re:Which computer? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ryants (310088) on Monday December 02, 2002 @03:41PM (#4795651)
    BBC Micro == Acorn == Acorn BBC Micro.

    See here [cybervillage.co.uk]

  • Re:Domesday? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bilestoad (60385) on Monday December 02, 2002 @03:43PM (#4795676)
    If you're too lazy or ignorant to use Google:

    "The first approach to a modern assessment roll or cataster is the well known Domesday Book."

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/domesday1. ht ml

    "The Domesday Book was ordered by William the Conqeror to assess the value of his conquered kingdom 20 years after defeating Harold at the Battle of Hastings."

    http://www.villagenet.co.uk/history/1086-domesda y. html
  • Re:Domesday? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pknoll (215959) <slashdot.pk@grape[ ]h.org ['fis' in gap]> on Monday December 02, 2002 @03:46PM (#4795696)
    From The Domesday Book Online [domesdaybook.co.uk]:

    The Domesday book was commissioned in December 1085 by William the Conqueror, who invaded England in 1066. The first draft was completed in August 1086 and contained records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees (the border with Scotland at the time).

    The book has nothing to do with the "doomsday" world-ending yadda, it was mainly set up to inform the king of how much tax monies he should have been receiving.

    Find out more [domesdaybook.co.uk].

  • Re:Which computer? (Score:2, Informative)

    by iggymanz (596061) on Monday December 02, 2002 @03:46PM (#4795697)
    The BBC wanted a computer for its "Computer Literacy Project", and the Acorn was chosen as exceeding specs. http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/bbc/history.php3
  • Re:Which computer? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jnik (1733) on Monday December 02, 2002 @03:54PM (#4795761)
    Good question. Original slash article says it was a Master system, but the BBC article has a picture of a model B.

    My model B is still in fine working condition, thank you very much, but I don't have a laserdisc player for it. Now, I certinaly wouldn't mind getting my hands on the emulator either...mmmm, Elite....
  • Re:Which computer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by gwernol (167574) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:00PM (#4795810)
    BBC Micro == Acorn == Acorn BBC Micro.

    Or more accurately:

    The British Broadcasting Company (the BBC) wanted to build a microcomputer in the early 1980s which they could use as part of their effort to promote national computer literacy. The idea was to have a standard machine that they could use in their TV shows - and viewers could buy one of their own and learn to use and program it by watching the shows.

    After approaching several UK computer manufacturers they settled on Acorn. At the time Acorn were a leading supplier of micros, notable the Acorn Atom. The BBC contracted Acorn to produce a new more advanced version of the Atom which was designed and manufactured by Acorn but sold as the BBC Micro.

    The BBC Micro was never sold as an Acorn machine, indeed Acorn produced their own rival (and much less successful) machine called the Electron.

    So your equation is not strictly true, but its close.
  • Re:Domesday? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zathrus (232140) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:00PM (#4795818) Homepage
    The book has nothing to do with the "doomsday" world-ending yadda

    Excepting that they're the same word, just the language has evolved in the intervening millenium.

    I could rape the previous /. thread for the info, but just click on the link in the main story and read it for yourself. Essentially "Domesday" translates to "Day of Judgements" in modern English.
  • by Jester99 (23135) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:04PM (#4795852) Homepage
    "What we really need is some universally acceptable method to store digital data that isn't likely to decay or fall out of favor in the next ten years."

    Project Gutenberg's done it for a while.

    It's called "ASCII."

    Readily convertable to dead-tree format by every printer. Ever. Backward and forward portable on every 7- and 8-bit machine in existance. Ever. Readable on any screen by well over 1/3 the world's population. Can convey an immense amount of information.

    (They didn't have images in their records for the last 2000 years; frankly, if something's really So Important That It Must Be Saved, it can be done in the good queen's English.)

    If you just take a disk and don't do any crazy filesysteming, just write one big honking text file sequentially to it, and mark down somewhere on the top that it functions in 8-bit units, well, it doesn't take too much effort to figure out how to write a driver for it to port it to the next media that comes along.

    (Or just print it out. After all, high quality acid-free paper, stored in a vault somewhere, has a shelf-life measureable in centuries. Not too shabby.)
  • Re:So why (Score:2, Informative)

    by madhippy (525384) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:10PM (#4795899)
    a recent visit to the Science Museum in London revealed many Acorn BBCs/Masters still running various demos - as per my last visit about 15 years ago ... (probably not the same machines mind...)

    interestingly a large number of NT based demos were not running due to DHCP errors - many of them displaying the errors prominently on huge projectors...

    The BBC Lives! [nvg.ntnu.no]
  • Re:So why (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:11PM (#4795901)
    There have been articles on the same subject before. In Acorn related magazines etc. The 16 years unreadable are exxagerated. The first Acorn Archimedes that replaced the BBC/Master systems was introduced 14 years ago and the Master was then still available new. The Archimedes + Risc PC systems that run Risc Os can emulate BBC models till this day. The new Iyonix, X-scale ARM, Risc Os system that is launched this weekend will probably emulate a BBC as well if necessary. It could be that the Philips video disk readers went kaputt too soon and can not be repaired. But that's another story. BBC's and Masters that are still running after 15 years of school abuse are nothing special.
  • Re:Which computer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SpinyNorman (33776) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:19PM (#4795956)
    The Beeb may have had the BBC owl logo on it, but they were sold by (and the profits went to) Acorn. The Electron was basically a lost cost version of the Beeb, another part of the product line - it wasn't a rival. I was Acorn employeee ~12.

  • Re:Domesday? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Zathrus (232140) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:20PM (#4795966) Homepage
    If it's a transcription, exactly, of the original Old English then there is probably no copyright.

    If it's a photograph then there's a copyright on the photo.

    If it's a translation from Old English to Modern English or another language then there's a copyright on the translation.

    But, all in all, yes, it's rather silly.
  • by Brian Blessed (258910) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:28PM (#4796038)
    I played with this kit for ages when my mother brought one home from the school she worked at. I was just a small kid at the time but was a budding programmer, so was fascinated when I saw the BBC micro (6502 based with 64 or 128Kb of RAM) do things that I hadn't imagined for it. This was because of the video disc player (which was enormous) must have overlayed its output onto the video signal of the computer.

    There were a few relevant video clips, e.g. of the Falklands war, but the most interesting content for me was where they had walked round Brecon (in Wales) and taken photos at various intervals and in about eight directions (and then with zooms of interesting features), so the effect was that the user could explore the place. Interaction was via a mouse as I remember and the display quality was far in advance of what the BBC micro was capable of.
    All the sections of the content were navigated around in some sort of virtual art gallery (a bit like someone might make with VRML).
    Another useful feature was the extensive maps of the whole of the UK that were easily manipulated/zoomed.

    Most of the posts here are assuming that the content was protected in some DRM style way, but I don't think that is true. It seems likely to me that the navigation system for the data was encapsulated in the program, and so emulation or rewriting are the only options.

    Brian.
  • Re:Phew (Score:2, Informative)

    by beebware (149208) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:35PM (#4796098) Homepage

    Well, Acorn made the Archimedes (which, despite Apple's claims, was the first home computer to use a RISC processor) and then the RISC PC (a old 202Mhz model is sitting next to me at the moment) - just as they were about to launch the RISC PC II (aka Phoebe), Morgan-Stanley Dean Whitter decided that Acorn's shares in ARM Plc (the designers of a whole range of RISC processors - originally the company was called Acorn Risc Machines, then Advanced Risc Machines) were worth more than the company itself and the split the company up.

    Most IP rights and staff went to Element 14 [e-14.com], but the rights to the RISC OS operating system were sold to Pace [pace.co.uk] who have sub-licenced the rights to RISC OS Ltd [riscos.com]. The "Acorn" name and logo itself were sold off to Acorn's largest distributor Castle Technology [castle.uk.co].

    More information [dmoz.org] is available.

  • still working (Score:2, Informative)

    by twem2 (598638) on Monday December 02, 2002 @04:44PM (#4796207) Journal
    There was an original Doomsday machine going on e-bay not long ago.
    IIRC it was a BBC Master 128 with 2nd processor, SCSI card, video disc player and track ball.
    Still worked, although some of the disks were damaged.
  • by Selanit (192811) on Monday December 02, 2002 @05:05PM (#4796350)
    Even then, I could barely make out the cryptic scribbles. Sure didn't look like English to me.

    There's a good reason for that: the Domesday Book wasn't written in English. It was written by Norman monks as the article mentions. They wrote it in Latin. That was the language of government, the arts, and bureaucracy in those days. Old French was a strong second. And Old English, as the language of a subjugated populace, came in a distant, distant third.

    æ And even if it had been written in English, you still wouldn't have been able to read it without special training. Here is an example of Old English (from memory, so if there are any mistakes, they're mine!):

    Sume dæge hit gelamp æt an nunnan of æm ilcan mynstre geforon in on hire wyrt-tun. Ond ær heo gesawon an leahtric, and hit gelyste æs.
    Translated roughly, that means:
    It so happened that a nun of that same monastery went into their garden. And there she saw a particular lettuce, and she wanted it.
    The language has changed substantially since those days, no? And as if that weren't bad enough, styles of handwriting have changed an awful lot too. Once you get into postgraduate-level medieval studies, you get special training in reading historical forms of handwriting, the study of which is called palaeography.

    Lastly, the project is not a copy of the original Domesday Book: it was an effort to create a resource of similar utility for future historians by gathering interesting stuff from around the country and storing it in digital form. Videos, maps, and so on, as the article said. There have been some electronic editions of medieval texts, notably the sole remaining manuscript of the poem Beowulf, which was written down in the early 1100s. Alas, it is proprietary, and you have to pay a rather large sum to the British Library if you want a copy. Some of it is web accessible [uky.edu].

    Next question!

  • Digital Domesday (Score:2, Informative)

    by pr0nbot (313417) on Monday December 02, 2002 @06:55PM (#4797146)
    Alecto Historical Editions [domesdaybook.com] has translated the books from Latin to English and is selling them in printed and electronic form (BTW the translation, not the Latin, is what is copyrighted).

    There are two Domesday Books books: Little Domesday (comprising Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk) and Great Domesday (the other English counties).

    They have also photographed each folio of the book and scanned them from transparencies at good res (888 folios altogether).

    There's also a transcription of the book. (A bloke called Farley typeset the Latin some time in the
    18th century. Unfortunately I keep visualising Chris Farley.) This too has now been photographed and scanned.

    It's pretty dry stuff, but historically important: basically, it's an 11th century inventory, conducted at the time of Kings Edward and William (the Conqueror). It says who owned what, who lived where, how much money was paid in tax, etc. as well as containing all sorts of social comment. For us plebs the amazing thing is that you can look up a town, read what was there, and still see what remains in real life.

    [Disclaimer: I know this stuff not because I'm a history buff but because for a while know we've [ssl.co.uk] been working on putting it all on CD-ROM for them. By coincidence the gold masters went out today. If I have to pnmrotate one more sodding 250MB image I'll kill someone.]

  • by Pont (33956) on Monday December 02, 2002 @07:32PM (#4797425)
    I work at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center [stanford.edu].

    Back in the day(TM) before RDBMS were a commodity, SLAC used the SPIRES database written at Stanford running on an IBM Mainframe. Well, as these things go, the IBM Mainframe was getting long in the tooth, but there was a ton of data in this SPIRES database. SPIRES wasn't going to get ported to anything modern. I forget who exactly, but one engineer just up and decided to write an emulator for the IBM mainframe in practicly no time at all.

    Now the SPIRES database is still running. However, it now runs on Solaris using a home-brewed IBM Mainframe emulator. Even though it's in emulation, it runs faster than it ever used to on the real deal (Moore's Law and all).

    As a side note, the first truly useful web site was here at SLAC when George Crane and Paul Kunz hooked up a web front end to the SPIRES database so the High Energy Physics community could easily get at other's papers.
  • by epeus (84683) on Monday December 02, 2002 @08:14PM (#4797717) Homepage Journal
    I worked at the Interactive Television Unit (the BBC department that was founded for the Domesday Project) for the last 3 months of its existence in 1989 before it was spun out into the MultiMedia Corporation in Jan 1990 (I then worked at MMC until 1997, when it bacame a shell company owned bythe stockbrokers, but that's another story).

    When we left the BBC, they had all the original Video data on Broadcast quality masters, and all the digital data preserved on VAX tapes. They must have thrown those out in the intervening 12 years (which wouldn't surprise me).

    I know of two former MMC directors who have CD-ROM backups of the digital data and working Domesday systems.

    Which is not to decry the work in emulating it - that si the real long-term answer. The Church-Turing thesis is the ultimate refutation of DRM too.
  • Re:Domesday? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dschl (57168) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @12:16AM (#4798979) Homepage

    Crown copyright may be infinite. I have seen [google.ca] discussion [debian.org] which indicates that the King James version of the Bible (commissioned by the crown, as was the Domesday Book) has an infinite copyright.

    I wonder whether that would change if Britain became a republic?

  • by zenyu (248067) on Tuesday December 03, 2002 @04:08AM (#4799754)
    Sume dæge hit gelamp æt an nunnan of æm ilcan mynstre geforon in on hire wyrt-tun. Ond ær heo gesawon an leahtric, and hit gelyste æs. It's funny, half those words sound Icelandic or German, how long does it usually take someone with those languages and English to pick start reading olde english? My native tounge is Icelandic but while not understanging say a Swedish speaker I can read the other Scandinavian languages without any formal training, which is usual I think. (Leaving out Finland, a Nordic not Scandinavian country in my opinion.) Same with old Norse you just forget some of the constinants ever existed and pretty quickly you start reading it. The trick with cross reading Scandinavian languages is almost the opposite, the vowels change but the constinants are similar... A gloss instead of a proper translation of the above excerpt might be more useful... Oh and why the inconsistency of Ond & and? og(IS), und(DL), and(EN) Just from a quick look I saw this [The] Same day, she X X a nun of that same monistery went into X valuable land. And there she saw a/an X and she X it/this/that. Although not exactly, the "æ.." words can actually carry different and greater meaning depending on the X words I couldn't understand but could guess at from your translation.. Also the word endings seem to be like Icelandic or Japanese in how they connect the sentence together, telling you what belongs to what else, how they are related, etc... I was totally amazed when I learned Japanese also had 17 word endings like Icelandic, but then I guess you have to express all the same things on the other side of the world using a similar mechanism. Not so surprising after all. They don't do all the same things though Icelandic doesn't have the "ga?" and I don't think Japan sexes as many words as most European languages, so some of those dual or triple connectors collapse to one (The it/he/she are covered with a single ending, though Icelandic reuses some for endings different purposes, so it gets complicated.) Ok this was a huge digression I really just wanted you to write a word for word translation... with the grammar explained instead of rewritten in modern english word order.

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