Friday, September 05, 2008

An Enduring Technology

Two hundred years ago, the Fagel family watched with horror as Napoleon rode across Europe, turning the continent into a war zone. They decided to flee from the Netherlands, selling many of their possessions. Trinity College in Dublin was to benefit from the Fagel's extensive library.

The Fagels had collected books and other printed materials of importance, with items going back two hundred years. Trinity College purchased 20,000 individual bits of the collection, and transformed its own library in the process.

If you're in Dublin, you're welcome to stop at the Long Room of the Old Library and take a look at history. A display has been opened to the public, featuring many of the most important books from the library's extensive holdings.

The words that were put down on paper long ago provide the modern reader with invaluable insight into the state of that ancient world. Within the special collection at Trinity College, the researcher can re-discover what was new when the world was a very small place.

Four-hundred -year-old books provide knowledge today, in a technology that has endured. Open the book and the words are there to be read. Can the same be said of an e-book, whose electronic letters require the proper program and operating system to be opened? Hard to imagine that an e-book published today would be readable four hundred years from now, when technology changes at a rapid pace. The printed page, however, endures.

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