UK’s “Domesday Reloaded” Archives On Touch-Table At Bletchley Park

Among the forward-thinking digital projects of the computing silver age was the Domesday Project, which aimed to preserve mid-eighties life in the UK by means of digitizing slide photos and text describing day-to-day life. The text was on floppies mailed in to the project’s headquarters. The final product took up two laserdiscs. Forward thinking in concept, I should say, not necessarily in execution.

But this invaluable cultural document has been in the process of revivification for several months, and the final product is about to be opened to the public at the UK’s famous National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. The original desktop version (on a BBC Micro PC) will be usable, but they’ve also put together a touch-enabled version for a Surface-like touchscreen table.

It’s not actually a Surface; the 52-inch screen is larger than the latest Samsung-based Surface 2.0, and probably uses a traditional capacitive detection layer. But it’s a great match for the data: maps and pictures and captions are natural companions for hands and fingers, and of course the collaborative, in-person sharing that’s so fun on large displays like this is also very appropriate with this content.

The “modernization” of this data set (which, at under two gigabytes, would fit easily on nearly any new handset or tablet) makes one think: what will people be doing 25 years from now to modernize our data? Will our public contributions, say all of YouTube, fit in our future selves’ palms? Will we have interaction methods more powerful and elegant than anything available now? I certainly hope so.

The exhibition at Bletchley Park will open Thursday.