Preserve Our Technological History: A Proposal

Preserve Our Technological History: A Proposal 

I propose a broad movement to collect and preserve the books and other physical materials that document the creation and development of 20th century technology.

By David Hill

As IT professionals, we naturally think of information as being digital. But vast quantities of technological data exist in books, papers, notes and other physical formats. These data, created by researchers, scientists and inventors, are the primary sources that document the creation and evolution of technology in the 20th century. If we lose these sources of information, we lose a piece of our technological heritage. I propose a broad effort to preserve these materials.

At a recent dinner, I sat next to a retired physicist from Raytheon whose work focused on the development and application of microwave technology. Microwave use goes far beyond household ovens, including radar and the creation of industrial diamonds. The scientist had taken it upon himself to preserve an entire room’s worth of books and written documents that describe the history of microwave technology. He was concerned about what would happen to this material after his death. While his daughter kindly offered to preserve the material, it’s not a long-term solution.

That shocked me into thinking about all the technology developed in the 20th century. What’s happening to the documentation that describes the evolution of scientific and technological developments across innumerable fields? Pockets of materials are probably being preserved in various industries and university research facilities, but as far as I know, there is no concerted effort to store a broad base of technology documentation.

Source: Network Computing

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