Thursday, November 29, 2018

BPN1743: UN World Digital Preservation Day

The UN has designed the last Thursday of November as World Digital Preservation Day. Special attention will be given to the digital preservation of heritage and vintage items. But what does digital heritage mean?

The word preservation reminds me of Preservation Hall in New Orleans, Louisiana. The City is famous for its Dixieland music, but that has not been always so. It is only after revival of Dixieland music in the fifties, that Dixieland became en vogue again with marches in the French Quarter and bands in the Mardi Gras carnival parades. It was in 1961 that in St.Peter’s Street an old building was designated to promote the tradition of Dixieland music. And that is what happens. In the sixties the veteran musicians like Sweet Emma and Kid Thomas started to play there famous blues. When the veterans died and had been buried with the last blue Oh, when the Saints, the music tradition continued. The rather sober music hall is the embodiment of preservation with three keywords: Protect, Preserve and Perpetuate.

Preservation Hall is an analogue preservation project, perhaps with the exception of digitally recorded music CDs. But its 3P slogan goes also for digital preservation. Of course many heritage and vintage items such as existing music recordings, existing movies, paper books  can be converted by the AC/DC route, from analogue to digital for preservation purposes in archives, museums or other memory institutes. But more interesting is the preservation of digital-born items, produced with computers. Of course the question is often: why should we preserve them. Of course computers and devices can be preserved for technical interest and sometimes for showing ergonomic aspects like the use of a mouse. But it is more interesting to preserve digital-born artefacts to show how digital technology has been used to create an artefact of beauty, be it digital art or games or items from other disciplines.

Let us preserve digital-born items of beauty, otherwise they will be lost or we will have to dig them up again, using digital-media archaeology


Friday, November 23, 2018

BPN 1742: 30 Years of open internet in The Netherlands

Last week on November 17, it was 30 years, since The Netherlands as the first European country linked up to the open internet through the US National Science Foundation. An update of a blog posting of 17 November 2013 with the original permission e-mail and a video (subtitled in English) by CWI, the internet pioneer in The Netherlands

Dutch internet pioneers Jaap Akkerhuis, Daniel Karrenberg, Teus Hagen en Piet Beertema (right) at the pensioning event of  Piet Beertema on 16 September 2004. Source: CWI.

In the Netherlands, the Mathematical Centre (MC) in Amsterdam in 1982 was in contact with Arpanet and played a role  an important role in the UUCP network of European universities. MC became the network gateway between the US and Europe. Domain names were released by Arpanet, but in 1986 a shortage of the domain names threatened for the 25,000 computers connected to the UUCP network of universities and the Arpanet. Piet Beertema, employee at MC (but from 1983 onwards CWI, Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica) came up with the solution of a country suffix in the domain name. John Postel from the Stanford Research Institute, responsible for the domain names, approved the country suffix dot country code as a proper instrument.

And on April 25, 1986 the suffix .nl was allocated to the Netherlands. The Netherlands was the first country with its own country code. On May 1, 1986 the first Dutch domain name was registered. The next domains were: (association of professional Open Systems and Open Standards users in the Netherlands); (The National Institute for Nuclear Physics and High Energy Physics); (university of Groningen) and  (Collaborating academic computing centers). Piet Beertema was the registrar and recorded the domain names. In the first two years he was not very busy, as he only registered 60 domains in his notebook. In 1989 there was only one registered domain name. Apart from academic computer centers companies could also register a domain name, but they had to show their Chamber of Commerce registration paper.

The slow growth was due to the transformation that internet underwent. Arpanet decided to continue as the military internet branch and the National Science Foundation became responsible in 1988 for academic and commercial NSFnet. On November 17, 1988, at 14:30 pm Piet Beertema linked The Netherlands as one of the first countries outside the US to the academic network NSFnet. The Netherlands brought the first, non-military, transatlantic connection to the Web.

This connection did give a boost to internet use in the academic world. But the registration of domain names only really took off from 1993, when the Dutch ISP XS4ALL on May 1 launched its Internet services to consumers on May 1, ending the first day with 500 subscriptions. And the Internet began in earnest, when the Digital City opened its gates and businesses did not know how fast they had to register a domain name in order to have an internet profile. Over the following years registration of domain names increased. In order to keep pace the Foundation for Internet Domain Registration in the Netherlands (SIDN) was founded. On January 31, 1996 the tasks of the CWI were transferred to SIDN.

End of March 2016, more than 5.8 million domain names were registered with SIDN (see  SIDN statistics).