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>  From the Middle Ages of the Information Society
>  By Tilman Baumgärtel
>  published @: 

allo. du = th!nk > ov uat = haz b!n 
dzn = uat shl b. du = outdatd + d!zpozabl.
luvl! paradokx da +?

! != kan b bodzrd. make spasz. JETZT!!!!

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du = outdatd + d!zpozabl. make spasz + JETZT!!!!



Netochka Nezvanova    - simply SUPERIOR
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>  <Tilman Baumgärtel is a freelance author on Net culture
>  <and Net art. In this contribution to receiver, he describes
>  <why the exciting thing about the Internet - its constant
>  <change and further development - is also its biggest
>  <impediment. If something is not fixed, it is not present
>  <either. Contents generated on the Net are everywhere and
>  <nowhere, and at some point they disappear from their
>  <non-location into nothingness. Let Tilman Baumgärtel
>  <introduce you to the "Dead Browsers Society". 
>  The Roman commander Scipio Aemilianus is said to have
>  wept when he gave the order to destroy Carthage. His
>  troops set off, burnt down the city, razed the buildings that
>  were still standing, ploughed up the land and scattered salt
>  in the furrows so that nothing could be grown there
>  anymore. And yet however thorough the Roman
>  legionaries were in their devastation, today tourists in
>  Tunisia can stroll through excavated and partially restored
>  buildings, marvel at the small stone children's coffins at the
>  roadside and the mosaics in the Bardo Museum, or
>  wander through the ruins of the huge thermal baths of
>  Antonius. Although only fragments remain of Carthage,
>  the city that was more or less completely ravaged over
>  2000 years ago, the ruins we see today give us an idea of
>  the big, splendid and wealthy city that once stood there.
>  Perhaps historians that decide to research the history of
>  the computer and the Internet one day will weep even
>  more bitterly than the Roman commander Scipio
>  Aemilianus. After all, in the not-so-distant future the digital
>  worlds that have emerged in the last few decades on the
>  hard drives of computers and later on the Net will leave
>  behind considerably fewer remains than the ruins of
>  Carthage currently being excavated by archaeologists
>  under the auspices of UNESCO - or, in the worst-case
>  scenario, none at all. There is good reason to doubt
>  whether in 2000 years there will be any remnants at all of
>  the technology that will probably have such revolutionary
>  consequences as Gutenberg's printing press or James
>  Watt's steam engine in the past. Although computer
>  technology is changing at break-neck speed and seems to
>  re-invent itself with every passing year, so far few people
>  have thought about what will happen to computers and
>  their digital products when they are no longer used on a
>  day-to-day basis. The march of time is not kind to the
>  machines that have triggered what is undoubtedly the
>  greatest scientific and social revolution of the second half
>  of the twentieth century. While literature and art grow
>  more important and significant with time, old computers
>  become obsolete technology after a few years; all they do
>  is get in the way and take up space.
>  Of course, not all old computers are lost and forgotten.
>  Some of them are on display at the Heinz Nixdorf
>  Museum in Paderborn (, 
>  for example, or at the Berlin Museum of Technology 
>  (, 
>  which has even built a replica of
>  the very first German computer - the mechanical Z1,
>  which Konrad Zuse designed in the forties at his parents'
>  apartment in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin. The software
>  that was operated on these main-frame computers,
>  however, poses more of a problem: it was stored on
>  punch cards which often got lost, and programs that were
>  stored on other data carriers often cannot be
>  reconstructed today because there are no corresponding
>  scanners or because the magnetic tapes, diskettes or CD
>  ROMs have simply destroyed themselves. "Bitrot" is the
>  term used to describe this insidious decay of digital data
>  and their carriers - or even the data carriers themselves:
>  experts predict that most computer hard drives will no
>  longer be of any use within a few decades. Even CD
>  ROMs, often thought of as safe, only have a life span of
>  around 30 years. Diskettes and audio cassettes, which
>  were used to store a lot of programs for the VC 64
>  Volkscomputer, are reliable for no more than five to ten
>  years - provided, that is, that they are not demagnetised
>  earlier through an unfortunate coincidence or because they
>  were placed on top of the television. This is why backup copies of texts
>  or images on the hard drive are a substitute activity rather than a
>  permanent storage of the digital relics of one's own life. 
>  State-funded museums or institutes like the German
>  National Archives, whose job it is to preserve historically
>  significant documents, have so far exercised an elegant
>  restraint in this respect. Although the Federal Archive in
>  Karlsruhe accumulates piles of files from authorities and
>  law courts or the films of Leni Riefenstahl, you will not find
>  old computer games there, or even popular programs like
>  Windows 3.1, and yet millions of people have used them
>  or played with them. The manufacturers of this software
>  are now so preoccupied with earning money that they
>  have no time to take care of the long-term archiving of
>  their products. You may think that it will not harm future
>  generations if they do not know how people used to play
>  "Moorhuhnjagd", that hugely popular virtual grouse hunt.
>  But it is precisely this type of game that, for a brief period
>  in time, was much more important to a lot of people than
>  the current affairs recorded in newspapers, books and
>  archives and handed down from one generation to the
>  next. When it comes to classifying the importance of such
>  mass phenomena, we would rather leave it up to the
>  selective mechanisms of historical writing rather than the
>  arbitrariness of sheer negligence. 
>  If anyone comes to the rescue, it will not be public
>  institutions, but freaks and hackers that have found in the
>  Internet an ideal forum for their common obsessions.
>  Websites like 8bit Museum ( 
>  or 8bit Nirvana ( contain virtual
>  collections of historical home computers, which would be
>  the envy of any museum of technology in terms of their
>  completeness and presentation. Popular computers in
>  particular, such as Atari ( 
>  or Apple (, have inspired fan sites
>  that would satisfy the most ardent of admirers. There are
>  also some odd things such as a website of a book on the
>  T-shirts of Apple ( 
>  Yes, you read that correctly - the
>  collected T-shirts on the subject of Apple computers (and
>  there are more than 1,000 of them). Even the computers
>  of the now defunct GDR have their very own opulent
>  website based on a Master's thesis of the Humboldt
>  University of Berlin ( 
>  It is not only on the Net, but also in the physical universe
>  that do-it-yourselfers and computer nerds have set up
>  their own computer museums. The University of
>  Hildesheim hosts - but does not fund - the Computer
>  Culture Museum (,
>  which has amassed an impressive array
>  of hardware. Then there is the Computer Cabinet of
>  Göttingen (, 
>  which has built up a small collection of what
>  some people would think of as electronic scrap. While
>  these museums tend to be private collections, the
>  Computer Games Museum of Berlin ( 
>  really is open to  visitors; all the computers and games computers on
>  display there can actually be used. This museum,
>  however, is funded not by the Berlin Senate (thus
>  condemning one of the potentially most popular exhibition
>  venues of the city to a back-room existence) but by the
>  non-profit-making Association for the Promotion of Youth
>  and Social Work. 
>  Although these museums have worked wonders in terms
>  of preserving hardware and keeping some of it
>  operational, our only hope of preserving games and other
>  software in the long term is emulation, the re-programming
>  of old programs for new computers while remaining true
>  to the original. The Java programming language, which is
>  not restricted to computers of a certain type, plays a
>  particularly important role in this. Programmer Claus Giloi
>  used it back in 1996 to write simulations of the first two
>  programs for Personal Computer: Altair and IMSAI. Both
>  programs are still circulating on the Net today. For games
>  in particular, there is currently a confusing mass of
>  websites which - like Emulationworld (, 
>  for example - collect and distribute emulations. Another trend among
>  fans of so-called "retrocomputing" is "abandonware",
>  which can also be found in abundance on the Internet at
>  sites such as "Abandongames" ( or "Extreme
>  Abandonware" 
>  These are computer games which are no
>  longer sold by their manufacturers (in other words, they
>  have been discontinued or abandoned) but still operate on
>  commercially available computers. They include the many
>  games developed for the DOS operating system as well
>  as those designed for Atari or Amiga computers. And
>  these are the best ones anyway, according to a lot of
>  "gamers". 
>  Incidentally, the manufacturers of these games do not see this 
>  as the preservation of digital culture, but use a considerably 
>  less favourable term to describe it: piracy. Whether or not the 
>  distribution of old, forgotten games on the Internet contravenes 
>  the law has yet to be definitively clarified. The fans of abandonware, 
>  which in addition to games also includes old versions of programs like 
>  the McAffee Anti-Virus-Scan or the Norton Disk Doctor, argue 
>  that it is simply a way of providing people with software 
>  that would otherwise be unavailable. 
>  US software archivists in the abandonware scene also
>  point out that a lot of games used to come with a
>  guarantee of a free replacement when the games diskettes
>  no longer worked. If you ask a software production outfit
>  for a replacement today, you rarely find anyone who can
>  even remember the game in question. 
>  Yet although these games are still available on the
>  WorldWideWeb, the medium that promises to be a
>  storehouse of the complete knowledge of mankind is in
>  danger of losing its own entire history - it is already
>  virtually impossible to archive the Internet on account of
>  the proportions it has assumed. In the future, aspiring
>  publishers of correspondence between artists or authors
>  will find themselves looking into a gaping black hole: the
>  e-mails written by the luminaries of our time will be the
>  victim of some operating system upgrade or will simply be
>  deleted from the hard drive to make room for new data.
>  And the information available today in the form of HTML
>  documents on the WorldWideWeb can easily be
>  withdrawn from the server tomorrow without leaving a
>  trace. 
>  The grey pages of the WWW in its early days with their
>  black, unformatted text without pictures or animation have
>  now all but disappeared - like an endangered species.
>  Today, anyone that wants to see one of these grey pages
>  from the stone age of the Net has to search long and hard
>  - or consult Pär Lannerö's "Dejavu" ( 
>  website. The Swedish programmer has developed a browser emulator which
>  allows the nostalgic user to surf around in a colourless
>  web, just like in 1993. In his "Dead Browsers Society", a
>  click of the mouse is all it takes to open up long-forgotten
>  software like NSCA Mosaic - the very first web program
>  - or Hot Java. The old browsers can also display today's
>  pages, except that the highly colourful, flickering pages are
>  replaced by static grey expanses. If there were a Net
>  Museum, "Dejavu" would be the department of prehistory
>  and early history. Lannerö is also to be commended for
>  holding on to some of the earliest websites - such as an
>  inaugural Yahoo! homepage or the page on which Sun
>  Microsystems announced the Java programming language
>  - so that astounded future generations can look at them
>  through the "spectacles" of an ancient browser. Yes,
>  children, this is what it was like in those days.
>  In its infancy, the Internet was often compared to the
>  Library of Alexandria which, in ancient times, is supposed
>  to have stored the entire knowledge of the era. The
>  analogy is more fitting than was thought just a few years
>  ago: the Library of Alexandria is known to have burnt
>  down; today the WorldWideWeb is gently smouldering
>  away. Virtually no historic homepage from 1994 has
>  survived into the year 2000. Major Internet projects, such
>  as the Berlin "Kulturbox" or the "International City",
>  have vanished from the Net without a data trace. And
>  none of the Internet start-up companies soon to go
>  bankrupt will hurriedly bequeath its website to the nearest
>  national library just before it goes under - and even if it
>  did, nobody there would know what to do with it.
>  Once again, it is a hacker that has come up with the best
>  initiative to preserve historic websites and FTP sites: a US
>  Internet entrepreneur called Brewster Kahle, who has
>  grown rich on the WAIS technology he developed, now
>  wants to set up an archive of the Internet ( 
>  Automated robot programs collect websites and pass them on to his
>  Internet Archive, where they are currently being stored on
>  tape. Part of the collection can be viewed at the
>  Smithsonian National Museum of Washington. But here,
>  too, it is questionable whether the stored data will be
>  accessible at all in the near future - the hardware and Net
>  protocols change that quickly. And anyway, the program
>  can only collect HTML data at the moment. Websites
>  linked to data banks or dependent on other server
>  software are not picked up by the web robots. The
>  Internet Archive will not be able to show how the Amazon
>  website works or how e-mails are retrieved using
>  Hotmail. 
>  And should Kahle run out of money for his
>  mammoth project (his servers currently hold 35
>  terrabytes of data), we can only hope that a state
>  institution will jump into the breach and save his
>  virtual collection. 
>  Today, ruins bear witness to the fall of Carthage. But what
>  will remain of the digital information society? Just the notes
>  written by contemporaries? The information society has
>  left it up to the honorary commitment of hackers and
>  computer freaks to preserve its memories. But of course
>  they could find a girlfriend tomorrow and, because they
>  will then have better things to do with their time, they may
>  simply delete their websites with archives of old software
>  or historic web pages. These will then be gone, and
>  no-one may ever see them again. If you measure the value
>  of a culture according to how consciously it handles the
>  documents of its own development, then today we are
>  living in the most barbaric times since the early Middle
>  Ages!
>  We will still be able to stroll through the ruins of Carthage
>  when the much-cited "Internet revolution" is well and truly
>  over and forgotten. Anyone wanting to find out about its
>  history may have to rely on second-hand documents:
>  newspaper articles and books that have reported on the
>  phenomenon. Ironically, it looks as if the information
>  documented in a medium that has already been declared
>  dead - words printed on paper - will have a longer life
>  span than the immaterial bits and bytes processed by
>  digital computers. Thus an important part of our culture
>  will disappear, as if an enraged god had dragged it over to
>  the dustbin icon of the Big Computer of History ...

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