BBC Domesday relies on a complex combination of hardware and software which was
designed and manufactured in 1986. Many elements of this original setup are not
compatible with todays computers. A small number of individuals and educational
institutions still have working BBC Domesday systems, but these are becoming
very scarce. Although the BBC Master is a remarkably hardy computer, after over
15 years of use many of the crucial LVROM players have reached the ends of
their lifetimes. Put simply, the BBC Domesday system is rapidly approaching
The problem of digital obsolescence can be broken down into 3 distinct problems:
The media player
The vidediscs on which the Domesday software and data is stored are relatively
hardy but still have a finite lifetime. Philips estimated a shelf life of
around a hundred years, but discs that have seen practical use for over 15
years will often be scratched and will inevitably contain read errors.
Even if we have a pristine pair of videodiscs, we still need an LVROM player
with which to read the discs. The Domesday LVROM player is not a standard
videodisc player. As a consequence it is difficult to repair or replace.
Videodisc players effectively became obsolete many years ago.
The third and most difficult issue to contend with is the BBC Domesday
software. The Domesday application itself is a unique part of the Domesday
system. The software provides a way of navigating, viewing and cross refrencing
the vast array of data stored on the video discs in digital form. Without the
original software or a BBC Master to run it on, the data itself is meaningless.
Why preserve BBC Domesday?
The CAMiLEON project is researching technical strategies for the preservation
of digital materials. The BBC Domesday project has been chosen as a proof of
concept test case for the emulation strategies developed by CAMiLEON. Domesday
is ideal for this purpose for a number of reasons:
It is a complex interactive object that would be difficult to
preserve in its entirety using tradional preservation strategies (eg.
It relies on a number of peripheral devices. Issues surrounding
the emulation of peripherals require further exploration
Several other resources were produced after BBC Domesday using
the same technology. CAMiLEON hopes to show that preservation work of
this kind can be cost effective when applied to a number of similar
It represents a valuable historical and intellectual resource in
grave danger of loss without urgent preservation work.
BBC Domesday is frequently used as an example
of the digital preservation problem and hence its preservation could
act as an examplar for further work in this field
The resource represents a considerable preservation
challenge due to its: