I have learned about preservation efforts of the information technology yesterday during a conference "Nu voor Later!" (Now for Later!) in the Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam, organized by Erfgoed Nederland.

I have listened to a presentation about the Swedish IT-history: a Cooperation between Museum, University and Society by Peter Du Rietz, National Museum of Science and Technology (Tekniska museet) from Sweden. The project is in many ways unique and to a large extent focusing on the use of computers in different sectors of society in the last 60 years.

And the second presentation was delivered by Doron D Swade, an engineer, historian, a museum professional, and a leading authority on the life and work of computer pioneer Charles Babbage. Swade masterminded the construction of the first Babbage calculating engine built to original 19th-centurydesigns and, in 1989, founded the Computer Conservation Society, a Specialist Group of the British Computer Society. The Society is devoted to the preservation and restoration to working order of historic computing machines, and pioneered the techniques and protocols of computer restoration that stimulated the major reconstructions in the modern era. I enjoyed his presentation very much since he could translated his complicated work into an understable stories for his audience. One of his interesting statement for me is that all efforts to preserve the IT history is part of social capital of the community. These efforts give sense of pride of achievements, perseverence and loyality of the reseachers in technology. Here is the picture of Doron Swade operating Babbage's Difference Engine No 2.

This conference was not only enlighting but also entertaining. The master ceremony was a radio presentator so he knew how to speak to public. Between the speakers there was an intermezzo which was funny and smart, like a video clip about different kind of tea jar collections. It was unbelievable to see how absurd a tea jar design could be. Lunch pause was done on boats along canals of Amsterdam while getting to know other participants and then we stopped at Nemo, a scientific museum. Here we attended an opening of an exhibition about history of computer in the Netherlands.

For me organization of a conference is as important as the content of the conference itself. And I always appreciated if a conference can be started on time, entartaining and at the same time maintaining the quality of the conference. Only then a conference is refreshing for soul and mind.

(Picture credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)


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