U2.3 Scope & Terminology – Digital Technology

Digital Technology is essentially equipment and systems powered by computers. Common types of Digital Technology include laptops, tablets, mobile phones, apps, wi-fi, internet web sites, and email. To get a computer to work, its instructions (the programme), and the data the programme works on, are turned into codes made up of simple digits. The computer then performs mathematics on this huge mass of digital codes. Hence the process of getting things such as papers, books, photos and whole systems of information and actions, into a form that a computer can deal with, is often called Digitisation.

For individuals and households, the most useful pieces of digitisation equipment are the scanner,  the digital camera, and the personal computer. Scanners turn physical paperwork into electronic files that computers can manage, display and even understand; and digital cameras do the same for whatever they are pointed at.  A personal computer (such as a laptop, tablet, or smart phone) enables those electronic files to be stored, edited and searched.

Digital technology can be used to augment collections or to replicate or replace collections. In the OFC context, augmenting a collection means using a computer to store information about a collection in order to manage it and to retrieve items from it. Replicating a collection in the OFC context, means making digital copies of the physical items in the collection. If the physical items are then discarded, the digital replicas effectively replace the items in the collection.

While many of our possessions are physical, we are encountering an increasing number of things that are created by computers and so are already in digital form. Such ‘born digital’ items (for example, emails, downloadable music, and ebooks) may not require initial digitisation, but they too still require a personal computer with which to store, manage and search them. Indeed, some developments in digital technology are not just additional things to deal with – they completely disrupt the way we live. For example, digital music has completely changed the way we buy and listen to music; and the old approach of buying a roll of film, taking photos and getting it developed has been almost completely extinguished. It is within this context of disruptive change that individuals and householders are having to make choices about what new technologies to buy into, and about how to adapt the way they used to do things to get the best of old and new.

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