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By | Anna Leach 8th December 2011 12:39

Domesday Book put on touchscreen at Bletchley Park

If Minority Report had been about medieval peasants ...

The first Domesday book was published on vellum in the 11th century. 900 years later when the BBC wanted to mark the anniversary of Britain's oldest surviving dataset, they gathered a whole new clutch of information about Britain in photos, videos and text, and because it was 1986 saved it all on laser discs.

Unfortunately the laser discs of the BBC's Domesday project have kept less well than William the Conqueror's dried calfskins. Few machines can read the discs anymore, so BBC have just refreshed how they store the cache of maps, pictures, stories, videos and comments taken from over a million people. They've set up a giant 52" touch screen at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park and loaded all "Domesday Reloaded" information on it in an app.

Unveiled today, the Domesday Touchtable will let four users at a time browse through the 50GB of info including 25,000 photographs. There are two Domesday Touchtables in the country - the second is in the BBC's Manchester MediaCity campus.

The collection of pictures, videos, maps and text were etched on the discs in a LaserVision Read Only Memory (LV-ROM) format, which contained not only analogue video and still pictures, but also digital data.

Viewing the discs required an Acorn BBC Master expanded with a SCSI controller and an additional coprocessor controlled a Philips VP415 "Domesday Player", a specially produced laserdisc player, according to Wikipedia. It was fiddly, and meant few people actually got to see the completed archive. It has been available online since 2004. ®

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