BBC Domesday Touchtable unveiled at TNMOC

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Two technologies meet as the 1986 BBC Domesday Project and 2011 BBC Domesday Reloaded Project are celebrated

A new BBC Domesday multi-media touchtable has been unveiled at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BBC Domesday project, and the completion of the 2011 Domesday Reloaded project.

See the Domesday table in action on video here.

The innovative Touchtable, currently only one of three such devices in the UK and one of only two hosting the Domesday application, enables up to four users simultaneously to explore in maps, pictures, stories, videos and comments a wealth of UK location-specific information from 1986 and 2011. It will be open to the public during TNMOC's usual opening times from Thursday afternoon, 8 December 2011.

The BBC Domesday Project began in 1986 when the public were invited to contribute images and text about their local areas for hosting on a leading edge technology of the day, the Advanced Interactive Video System. In 2011, the project was very successfully resurrected as the Domesday Reloaded Project with new contributions and as an online resource on the internet.

The two projects are now being conserved as a Domesday Touchtable application and in the UK Government Web Archive of The National Archives.

The new Domesday Touchtable at TNMOC sits alongside a hands-on exhibit of the original Domesday System that ran the 1986 BBC Domesday Project. Both are set in the context of a gallery about the ground-breaking BBC Computer Literacy Project and the origins of the BBC micro in the 1980s.

Kevin Murrell, a director and trustee at TNMOC, said “This new display is a marvellous addition to the Museum where we tell the story of our digital heritage from the world’s first modern computer, Colossus, to the present day. The 1980s was a remarkable period for British computing and the 1986 BBC Domesday Project was a real landmark in education and a clear demonstration of the way information storage and handling was being transformed.”

Peter Armstrong, who led the original project and has worked on the touchtable, said: "How exciting to be able to translate the vision of a people's database of British life from the cutting-edge technology of the 1980s into an elegant 21st century equivalent."

The Domesday Touchtable is a 52 inch, true multi-touch screen that operates as smoothly and seamlessly with pinch, zoom and rotate controls as today’s highest spec computer tablets. The interface has 12 simultaneous touch-points and four users can use the table individually or collaboratively swapping and comparing files as they explore over 50GB of maps, photos, articles and videos. It has on-board audio and its very high-spec graphics are similar to those used in games machines.

Chris Monk, learning co-ordinator at TNMOC, added: “TNMOC’s display of the 1986 Domesday Project on its original technology is already very popular with museum visitors. Accessing the 1986 and 2011 data on this exciting new Domesday Touchtable is certain to be a great success with our growing number of school and college visitors and the general public.”

Notes To Editors

1 About the 1986 Domesday Project and 2011 Domesday Reloaded

Launched in 1986 to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the original Domesday Book, the first BBC Domesday Project was one of the most pioneering interactive campaigns of its time. The BBC asked the public to submit photos and text about their local area. These were then digitally etched onto one of two laserdiscs that made up the project. The relatively high costs and the rapid development of technology saw the system fall into obscurity and very few people saw the finished product.

Then, in April 2011, BBC Learning resurrected the project. The community archive from 1986 was made accessible online for the first time via a BBC website and visitors were asked to bring the data into the present day by sending in their current stories, comments and photographs to compare how life in Britain has changed and how some things have stayed the same. Over 100,000 people accessed the database on the launch of Domesday Reloaded and around two million pages were viewed. On average one quarter of a million pages were viewed each week.

The Domesday Project is now – a quarter of a century after its conception – finally being conserved as a public resource. BBC Learning has worked closely with The National Archives and, with their help and expertise in web archiving and digital preservation, this valuable resource is now being made available to the public for generations to come.

Two Domesday Touchtables now exist – one on public display at TNMOC and the other at MediaCityUK. The Domesday Touchtable application can be made available to other museums that have the appropriate technology to host it.

2 About The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, an independent charity, houses the largest collection of functional historic computers in Europe, including a rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer.

The Museum complements the Bletchley Park Trust’s story of code breaking up to the Colossus and allows visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the mainframes of the 1960s and 1970s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s. New working exhibits are regularly unveiled and the public can already view a rebuilt and fully operational Colossus, the restoration of the Harwell / WITCH computer, and an ICL 2966, one of the workhorse mainframes computers of the 1980s, many of the earliest desktops of the 1980s and 1990s, plus the NPL Technology of the Internet Gallery. In June 2010 TNMOC hosted Britain’s first-ever Vintage Computer Festival.

Funders of the Museum include Bletchley Park Capital Partners, CreateOnline, Ceravision, InsightSoftware.com, PGP Corporation, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, BCS, Black Marble, and the School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire.

The Museum is currently open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1pm, and on Bank Holidays in spring and summer. Guided tours are also available at 2pm on Tuesdays, Sundays and some other days. Groups may visit at other times by arrangement and special organisation Away-Days can be booked.

For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook.

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