Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My new baby

As recent posts (like this one and this other one) at New Kid's and elsewhere have made clear, medievalists are not simply a bunch of stuffy, bookish types who live for dust and historical recreations. No, as it turns out, we're also technology geeks who can experience signficant "squeeage" (New Kid's word, not mine) when we get a new techno-toy. Such was the case at my house last night, after I came home with a new scanner/copier/printer. The scanner part is what I'm excited about. The last (and first) scanner I had was a handheld model (ca. 1994) that was roughly as useful as having my five-year-old daughter simply draw me a picture of the page I was interested in preserving. And OCR at the time had a lot in common with the "infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters" model; I suppose it was possible for the recognized text to be the same as the original text, but I think it would have had more to do with coincidence than efficacy.

The new model is, by comparison, pretty spiffy. I can scan hardcopy articles and save them as PDF files (to be used in Scrivener, naturally). And I can also scan some of my MS facsimiles for better and more convenient viewing. The example above is a scan of a printout of a microfiche of a 10th-century MS. Not the same as spending the afternoon in the Reading Room of the British Library, I know (and I certainly would never suggest that viewing the MS fourth-hand is the best way to work). But I can see the words. I can zoom in on individual letter forms. I can bring up the image whenever I want it. And I can do all of these things without carting two small kids across the ocean (or even walking to the library, for that matter). I love the digital world.

Sure, it's not like having my very own microfilm reader sitting on my desk, but I can't help but feel proud.

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