11.0431 a plaint

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 2 Dec 1997 08:06:34 +0000 (GMT)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 11, No. 431.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 97 11:04:19 CST
From: Jim Marchand <marchand@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu>
Subject: plaint

I have been spending my Thanksgiving vacation performing a familiar task,
namely, converting media (?). I remember that I began with punched cards,
edge punched cards, then paper tape, then mag tape, then hard disks
(remember those old 10 Mb monster?), then floppies (16", 8", 5 1/4 ", then 3
1/2 "), zip disks, CD-ROM writable, then rewritable. As the crazy woman in
All Creatures Great and Small says: "when is it going to stop?" I still
have some old Control Data tapes (7 whatever they called those things) which
need to be converted, since they contain a parsing of the entire Gothic
corpus, for one thing.
Alas, technology is not always a blessing. First we had wood and stone
we could carve to make characters, then fonts into which we could pour them,
then those nice little half-moons, then the flexowriter, then the bouncing
ball, then the chain link printer, the dot-matrix, the laser printer. We
had programs which would allow us to write any font in the world if we
worked at it. Now we have Unicode, with which we CAN write and send any
writing system. In spite of all this, we still have fights over and over
again on all the lists I am on as to how to encode "foreign" characters, I
mean FIGHTS! Technology is not an unmixed blessing.
As for me, I must confess that I am still using WP 5.1 and am writing
this on an old 386 clunker; when I print, I use a HP Series II. Part of
this is because I have to buy my own equipment, part because "if it ain't
broke, don't fix it'. I don't see anything in any of the new equipment that
I can't already do, such as type-setting, generating fonts, doing
concordances, though I must admit that looking at pictures can be slow and
at times impossible. As we move more and more towards Netscape and its
cogeners, I see that I am going to have to give in there and get a new
machine. As it is, for example, I cannot access the MLA bibliography
online, though my Library has a Silver Platter license, since it cannot be
done with lynx. I liked lynx, since as a humanist I am more word oriented
than picture oriented, though I do some work in iconography. Mostly I am
interested in information. I can also see (always could) that I am going to
have to buy a terabyte notebook when they become available (soon -- you saw
it here first). I am down to putting my CD-ROMs on my hard disk, in spite
of the speed of the new CD-ROM drives. I never did like (nor have the money
for) those juke-boxes and towers.

The point of this jeremiad is that technology is not always a blessing, and
we DO need to keep up and keep the fundamentals in sight at the same time.
Jim Marchand.

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