[vcf-midatlantic] Culpability and Provenance

jsalzman at gmail.com jsalzman at gmail.com
Fri Jan 15 16:24:10 UTC 2021

Dean and Dave bring up good points...

We each have our own ideas about computer history. Some of us are hardware
only folks, having more of a fondness for the existence and capabilities of
a particular machine, as opposed to how the public used them. Others have
more of a fondness for the history of its use. I would venture that a
majority of collectors fall in with a little from both categories. That
being said. files on a computer are a history of its use. Outside of
national security and other legally protected statuses of a computer's file
content, I doubt a recipient of such a computer can be held legally
responsible for the contents' existence, much less its creation. Again...
Schrodinger's Cat. So while we have the OPTION of simply deleting files
based solely on our interpretation of the filenames, we aren't necessarily
prevented by statute from viewing the content of files we receive in a
legal transfer of the property containing the files.. The latter action is
really our only means of determining IF the file content can be classified
on a basis of legality. What we discover along that path builds the
complete history of the computer, and discoveries like in my example, where
I believe it was once owned/used by the founder of a major technology
company, well that means something to me, even if it means nothing to
someone else. To me, finding ephemera like that is the icing on the cake of
this hobby, and I still like getting the cake, too. "Life is like a box of
chocolates... err, computers,", right?

So is the mere discovery that a computer was somewhere at some particular
moment in time based on what is contained within it always an illegal
action? Unless you stole the computer, I seriously doubt it. Did the Univac
in the museum come with any programs or data on paper tape? If so, by some
opinions here, that should all have been destroyed before we started
working with the unit... and on the same note, if people visiting the
museum ask where we got it from, should we just tell them that it's not
important? It's just a tool, right, with no other significance regarding
its history.

Jeff Salzman

On Thu, Jan 14, 2021 at 11:37 PM Dean Notarnicola via vcf-midatlantic <
vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:

> I love tech for techs sake. It can be both art and science. However, the
> provenance of a computer transcends its physical reality and breathes
> another dimension into it, bridging the gap between human and machine. This
> helps to gain understanding about the overall significance of them beyond
> the merely functional.
> On Thu, Jan 14, 2021 at 11:14 PM Dave McGuire via vcf-midatlantic <
> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:
> > On 1/14/21 9:54 PM, Bill Degnan via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> > > First of all, I believe (my belief) that one should try to leave a
> > vintage
> > > computer as-is if possible, to preserve it's providence.
> >
> >    That really depends on what you're trying to achieve.  Over at LSSM,
> > our philosophy is a bit different: our focus is on the computers, the
> > technology used to build them, and the software used to run them.  They
> > are tools.
> >
> >    The work that Joe Shmoe did on this or that specific machine is
> > irrelevant to all of that.  It may serve as an example of the sort of
> > work that one might use such tools to perform, but that's about it.
> > More often than not, it's just in the way.
> >
> >    If it were a museum of a different type of tool, say, wrenches, we
> > likely wouldn't care about what (say) car engine this or that specific
> > wrench was, at one point in its service life, used to work on.  We might
> > have an engine in the museum with the wrenched posed on it, as an
> > example of the tool being used to perform work, but expending effort to
> > display the same engine (not the same kind, but the same ONE) that Joe
> > Shmoe worked on with that wrench in 1962 brings little value to the
> > exhibit or the point it's trying to make to the viewer...because it's
> > about the tool.
> >
> >    If the focus is on the preservation of work performed with the
> > computer, sure, I can see that.  But is that a common focus in efforts
> > like ours?  I doubt it.  I'd have no problem with it if it were so, but
> > still, I doubt it.
> >
> >    Just my USD$0.02.
> >
> >              -Dave
> >
> > --
> > Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
> > New Kensington, PA
> >

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