A Small Exercise in Computer Archeology

My first computer was an Atari 1040STF, which I used until about 1995, when I replaced it with an HP 715/50 workstation. I put the Atari away in the attic, where it remained for the last 18 years.

While staying with my parents over Christmas, I decided to finally get it out and determine whether it would still work (and thus whether to keep it or dispose of it), and to try and get the data off its hard disk. There wasn’t anything terribly important on the hard disk—otherwise I would have done this earlier—, so there wasn’t really anything at stakes, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise in computer archeology.

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A Review of Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts

LINGUIST List issue 25.292 features a review of my book Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts by Bev Thurber. I was very happy to read that she thinks that the book is “a good overview of recent progress and problems in applying techniques from NLP to historical texts” and that it “provides a valuable introduction to the field for humanists who want an overview of how NLP techniques have been used with historical texts and what promise NLP holds for the future.”

Read the full review on LINGUIST List.

Digital Humanities Defined

As I’m writing this, I’m on my way back from the conference “(Digital) Humanities Revisited – Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital Age,” which was organized by the Volkswagen Foundation and which took place from December 5 to 7, 2013 in Herrenhausen Palace in Hannover.

Organization and catering were excellent, Herrenhausen Palace is a perfect conference venue, the program was excellent, and I got to meet many great colleagues. There is one thing, however, that increasingly irritates me. It doesn’t have anything to do with this conference, but it is rather a characteristic of the field called “digital humanities.”

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Timeo Danaos… Or: Why I’m Wary of Google Docs

During the last couple of weeks I had to use Google Docs quite heavily in order to work on a large, collaborative document. Without any doubt, Google Docs is a convenient platform for collaborative work, offering collaborative real-time, browser-based, WYSIWYG editing for various types of documents. However, the experience was not a good one, as the 150-page document clearly tested the limits of Google Docs. Loading the document was slow; navigating even more so. I wasted a lot of time trying to export the document as PDF file; sometimes it worked, but most of the time, I could only download an empty file, regardless of whether I used Safari or Google’s own Chrome browser. For editing, however, Chrome eventually turned out to be required, and I was forced to use it, even though I have serious issues with Chrome.

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VARD 2.5 Released

Another short project note: Last week, Alistair Baron released a new version (2.5) of VARD. VARD is one of the most popular programs for normalizing or modernizing historical texts prior to linguistic analysis.

The VARD Web site has more information.

tranScriptorium

This is just a brief project note:

tranScriptorium is an EU-funded (FP 7 STReP) project, which aims to “develop innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions for the indexing, search and full transcription of historical handwritten document images, using modern, holistic Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology” (from the Web site).

The tranScriptorium project is scheduled to run from January 1, 2013 until December 31, 2015. The project consortium consists of the Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), the University of Innsbruck (Austria), the National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos” (Greece), University College London (UK), the Institute for Dutch Lexicology (Netherlands), and the University London Computer Centre (UK). Targeted languages are Spanish, German, English, and Dutch; the project Web site does not state if tranScriptorium focuses on a specific period or a particular type of document.

Workshop on Computational Historical Linguistics at NoDaLiDa 2013

It’s been a couple of weeks now that I attended the NoDaLiDa 2013 workshop on Computational Historical Linguistics, where I gave an invited talk.  The workshop—and Oslo in general—was a very pleasant experience.  The organizers (chaired by Þórhallur Eyþórsson from the University of Iceland) had booked a great hotel room for me, no, a suite actually, larger than my apartment in Mainz 🙂 Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the main conference because I had to continue to Paris, but at least I could attend the conference dinner, which took place at the Oslo Opera House.  Very nice!

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