3 thoughts on “notes on cataloging computer hardware and software

  1. mkirschenbaum

    Hi Lori,

    Finally had a moment to look at this. It’s a fascinating (and important) set of issues which I would love to push forward with you in conjunction with the collections materials here at Maryland. We may have some resources to do that in the coming year. In the meantime, though, I would endorse the KISS principle. Indeed, it may be best to think of this as an iterative process and to do an initial first pass capturing only what you can at the most basic level and taking notes (like these) all the while about where the gaps and problems appear. Then do a second pass. But I think by this point you’ll also have expended the utility of Dublin Core and will be prepared to move on to EAD or some other more robust form of archival description–which is where a lot of the more granular detail you impart above would probably belong. But one reason I stress the iterative approach is that even a baseline inventory will be orders of magnitude more valuable to you and the Lab’s users than an incomplete one, however, granular and detailed the latter might be; so keep cataloging, keep learning what you didn’t know about your collections, and keep iterating!

  2. mkirschenbaum

    One other thought: it may be that a free-form “dependencies” field could capture, at least provisionally and discursively, some of the constraints and limitations you note in these examples.

  3. Lori Emerson

    thanks so much for the comments Matt and the encouragement. I agree with what you say and right now I think the most important thing for us to do is exactly to catalog everything in the MAL, as best we can right now, to get the information out to the world. Hopefully we will have this done by the end of summer and hopefully too we can come up with a way to add in something like a crowd-source function to the descriptive categories under “user” so that people can share their knowledge about what computers were known as/by, commonly known hacks, and especially in the e-lit community, details on versions, updates etc.

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