Domesday project revisited

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Relive the 1980’s Domesday project on the original laser disc technology at The National Museum of Computing

Visitors to The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park can use the original 1980's laser disc technology to see the complete 1980's BBC Domesday archive, now the focus of 25th anniversary celebrations. TNMOC has two of the very few fully working systems still in existence and accessible to the public.

Leading the celebrations, the BBC has reloaded the Domesday Community Disc online and is inviting the public to explore and update the 1980’s community-sourced photographs on its website.

Domesday was an ambitious 1986 initiative, run by the BBC, Acorn Computers, Philips and Logica aiming to create a record of life in Britain in the 1980s. More than one million people participated in recording what they thought might be of interest in 1000 years’ time. The focus was on everyday life, the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. Schools and community groups were particularly active and contributed almost 150,000 pages of text and more than 23,000 photographs to the Community Disc.

At TNMOC, Education Officer Chris Monk has seen growing interest in Domesday since he made the original functioning 1980’s system available to visitors last September. He remembers the project beginnings: “When Domesday was originally launched, its key technology – the LV-ROM (LaserVision ROM) – was state of the art multimedia. With the ability to store up to 324MB of digital data on each side as well as 54000 analogue video frames and offering interactivity, the technology seemed to have enormous potential. LV-ROM players were expensive and the format never really caught on, soon being overtaken by the cheaper Compact Disc ROM (CD-ROM). As a result, not many contributors saw the fruits of their labours.

“Visitors to the Museum often tell me that they contributed to the project over twenty-five years ago, but never had the opportunity to see their work. Now they can – on the original laser disc and Acorn BBC Master micro technology, as well as on the BBC website. They can experience the project exactly the way it was originally envisaged.”

“Today, many TNMOC visitors like to search their 1980’s location on Domesday to see how things have changed. They spot that new road, a missing factory or some new houses. High streets show how some shops survive the years and how some fade away. Others spot the changing fashions and the rather dated cars, but there is not a mobile phone to be seen. One visitor even saw a much younger version of himself and another found the words he had written as a primary school child -- he was delighted when we printed out his text on a 1980’s dot matrix printer!”

TNMOC is offering the public access to both the Community and the National discs of the authentic original BBC Domesday Project.

The Community Disc includes UK Ordnance Survey maps, community photographs and text contributions and is the one which BBC Reloaded has made available online with a new user interface. Visitors can therefore compare the original and the contemporary interfaces.

TNMOC is also offering access the National Disc (which is not available on BBC online). It includes thousands of images of the eighties, statistics, articles and video extracts from the BBC News of the time

For TNMOC opening times, see www.tnmoc.org

For the BBC Online version of the Community disc, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday

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