October 20, 2014

Stanford and NIST are Collaborating to Catalog/Preserve Software From Early Days of Microcomputing

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From the IDG News Service:

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Stanford University have partnered to save for posterity over 15,000 software programs created in the early days of microcomputing.

The 18-month project aims to make these titles, most of which were created between 1975 and 1995, available to researchers, and, eventually, to the general public.

From the NIST Announcement:

The effort is aimed at expanding the National Software Reference Library (NSRL), a collection at NIST most commonly used by law enforcement organizations. The NSRL creates short data profiles called “hashes,” digital fingerprints that uniquely identify a file on a computer as an unaltered copy of a specific program or other piece of software in the library’s index. These hashes help determine which files are important as evidence on computers that have been seized as part of criminal investigations. But while law enforcement has been one of NSRL’s best customers, the library aims to make itself useful to a far broader swath of researchers by expanding its holdings and measuring aspects of them in new ways.

“These early software titles are part of our history—they are part of business culture, of pop culture, of our art,” says Barbara Guttman, computer scientist and director of the NSRL. “How people interacted with computers in the first days of microcomputing, and how that affected people, is something we know little about.”

The new infusion of software is from the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection in the History of Microcomputing at Stanford University, one of the world’s largest pristine software collections. SUL acquired the collection in 1998 as part of its larger effort to preserve digital materials for research purposes. NIST is working to render the materials into “images,” a word that encompasses both pictures of the original physical packaging and bit-for-bit copies of the original software code. The project could, for example, make it easier for scientists to conduct studies on violence in video games and its social impact, Guttman says.

NIST will return the originals to SUL but will retain the images in the NSRL, which plans to make the software’s hashes available in short order. Stanford will make their entire code available once SUL addresses the intellectual property issues involving these commercial products. Researchers will then be able to explore the collection.

share save 171 16 Stanford and NIST are Collaborating to Catalog/Preserve Software From Early Days of Microcomputing
Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.