Digital Humanities: What Can Be Achieved
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A Companion to Digital Humanities

An excerpt from A Companion to Digital Humanities
ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth

Technological “Miniaturization”

According to the perspective of technological miniaturization, the first perspective I will treat, the Index Thomisticus went through three phases. The first one lasted less than 10 years. I began, in 1949, with only electro-countable machines with punched cards. My goal was to have a file of 13 million of these cards, one for each word, with a context of 12 lines stamped on the back. The file would have been 90 meters long, 1.20 m in height, 1 m in depth, and would have weighed 500 tonnes.

In His mercy, around 1955, God led men to invent magnetic tapes. The first were the steel ones by Remington, closely followed by the plastic ones of IBM. Until 1980, I was working on 1,800 tapes, each one 2,400 feet long, and their combined length was 1,500 km, the distance from Paris to Lisbon, or from Milan to Palermo. I used all the generations of the dinosaur computers of IBM at that time. I finished in 1980 (before personal computers came in) with 20 final and conclusive tapes, and with these and the automatic photocompositor of IBM, I prepared for offset the 20 million lines which filled the 65,000 pages of the 56 volumes in encyclopedia format which make up the Index Thomisticus on paper.

The third phase began in 1987 with the preparations to transfer the data onto CD-ROM. The first edition came out in 1992, and now we are on the threshold of the third. The work now consists of 1.36 GB of data, compressed with the Huffman method, on one single disk.


Source: A Companion to Digital Humanities
A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.  http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companion/

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