[vcf-midatlantic] Culpability and Provenance

Dave McGuire mcguire at neurotica.com
Sat Jan 16 03:08:52 UTC 2021

On 1/15/21 11:24 AM, Jeff Salzman via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> 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.

   Well, that depends entirely on the system we're talking about.  THAT 
system, yes, "Where and how was THIS ONE used" I'd imagine is a pretty 
common question.  That's an extremely rare system; I'd be surprised if 
there were even ONE more of them out there in the world.  But what about 
the Kaypro II?  I alone have nearly a dozen of those.  One of them was 
used by a public high school history teacher to prepare course material. 
  I know this because I looked at the disks before I erased them.

   Did I erase them because I was being overly paranoid about someone 
else's old high school data from 1986?  No.  I erased them because the 
data was useless and uninteresting, and I needed some blank disks.

   But if paper tape were erasable, would I erase the paper tapes that 
came with the Univac, even if it were "just" old data?  Very likely not.

   My point?  It's a judgment call, and not even a particularly 
difficult one.  Experience is what gives us the tools to make these 
judgment calls, and people like us do it all the time.  I'm willing to 
bet that nothing major has been lost due to our activities, and I'm also 
willing to bet that nobody got hauled off by the cops because they got 
caught thumbing through Mrs. Scheleka's public high school history tests 
from the middle of Wisconsin in 1986.


Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
New Kensington, PA

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