Domesday comes to National Museum of Computing

25th anniversary of BBC Doomsday project at Computing museum Bletchley Park
25th anniversary of BBC Doomsday project at Computing museum Bletchley Park

A NEW BBC Domesday multi-media Touchtable has been unveiled at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BBC Domesday project, and the completion of the 2011 Domesday Reloaded project.

The innovative Touchtable, currently only one of three such devices in the UK and one of only two hosting the Domesday application, enables up to four users simultaneously to explore in maps, pictures, stories, videos and comments a wealth of UK location-specific information from 1986 and 2011. It opened to the public on Saturday, December 10.

The BBC Domesday Project began in 1986 when the public were invited to contribute images and text about their areas for hosting on a leading edge technology of the day, the Advanced Interactive Video System. In 2011, the project was resurrected as the Domesday Reloaded Project with new contributions and as an online resource on the internet.

The two projects are now being conserved as a Domesday Touchtable application and in the UK Government Web Archive of The National Archives.

The new Domesday Touchtable at TNMOC sits alongside a hands-on exhibit of the original Domesday System that ran the 1986 BBC Domesday Project. Both are set in the context of a gallery about the ground-breaking BBC Computer Literacy Project and the origins of the BBC micro in the 1980s.

Kevin Murrell, a director and trustee at TNMOC, said “This new display is a marvellous addition to the Museum where we tell the story of our digital heritage from the world’s first modern computer, Colossus, to the present day. The 1980s was a remarkable period for British computing and the 1986 BBC Domesday Project was a real landmark in education and a clear demonstration of the way information storage and handling was being transformed.”

Peter Armstrong, who led the original project and has worked on the touchtable, said: “How exciting to be able to translate the vision of a people’s database of British life from the cutting-edge technology of the 1980s into an elegant 21st century equivalent.”

The Domesday Touchtable is a 52 inch, true multi-touch screen that operates as smoothly and seamlessly with pinch, zoom and rotate controls as today’s highest spec computer tablets. The interface has 12 simultaneous touch-points and four users can use the table individually or collaboratively swapping and comparing files as they explore over 50GB of maps, photos, articles and videos. It has on-board audio and its very high-spec graphics are similar to those used in games machines.

Chris Monk, learning co-ordinator at TNMOC, added: “TNMOC’s display of the 1986 Domesday Project on its original technology is already very popular with museum visitors. Accessing the 1986 and 2011 data on this exciting new Domesday Touchtable is certain to be a great success with our growing number of school and college visitors and the general public.”