Professor Fessenden's Photographic Dictionary
Daily Herald, December 29, 1896, p3
Viewed on Our Future Our Past
With the New Year approaching, I was at loose ends as to what my first blog entry of 2013 was going to be. In effect, I rung out the old year in the last post and I wanted to find something, well…weird…to start off a year that seems to portend some bad karma (not that I’m suspicious, or anything, but there are two Friday the 13ths in 2013 and I feel maybe we just jumped the shark with that Mayan calendar thing).
So, I reverted to form and started reading the newspapers to see what I could find that was weird and wonderful. The first article that caught my eye was an article written in December of 1896 that referred to a ‘bookless library’. Publishing houses were churning out huge amounts of literature and libraries were bursting at the seams (some things don’t change). An inventor was offering a solution – a device that would record information on photographic plates and then project them on a wall. Reginald A. Fessenden, a Canadian-born scientist, had developed form of microphotography which would allow large volumes of material to be stored in a small space. With the invention of such technology, what would become of the libraries? Books as we know them would cease to exist and libraries would be stocked with microform. Sound familiar?
Interestingly, I read about this on Our Future Our Past, in a digitized version of the microfilm copy of the Daily Herald. It is interesting that with the arrival of e-books and digital formats we are facing the same questions in the 21st century as did in the 19th. It is also, perhaps ironic, that we are still talking about preserving collections of microfilm, which, for many, remains the most durable of the storage formats. Anyone who has attended my genealogy presentations knows my old joke – if 2013 proves to be the end of the world as we know it, the cockroaches will read about us on microfilm.
I couldn’t end this post on such a glum note, so I included this invention, the Bicycle Buggy, said to be sure to scare any self-respecting horse which encounters it. (Calgary Daily Herald January 5, 1891 p 2 viewed on Our Future Our Past)