Showing posts from May, 2014

Inconceivable amounts of data: a glimpse at our history

In various guises, we've been providing central computing services to the University since 1966 - in 1969, a proposed upgrade which would have seen the purchase of a fourth 4Mb disk drive was rejected, as it was inconceivable that the University would ever generate that amount of data.

These days, we can see more than 8 terabytes of data fly across our wifi network in a single day, we provide email accounts with 30 GB of storage, and the central filestore is supplemented by Google Drive with unlimited storage for native documents.

You might be tempted to believe that reliance on IT facilities is a modern phenomenon, and certainly the current omnipresence of technology is a significant change. But we were providing a campus network, with access to external networked resources, by the end of the 1970s. By the 1980s some students were so reliant on the facilities provided that they turned to direct action when they were thwarted - a student whose programming error put an entire room …

Our first IT Services blog post


You've probably already seen that our Library colleagues have been merrily posting here on the Liberating Information blog. The time has now come for IT Services to get in on the act.

We've got posts on a variety of topics lined up - we're hoping to share some useful advice, tell you things that you didn't know, and introduce you to some of our team. There's a lot going on in IT, and we want to keep you informed.

Our first 'proper' post, which looks at the history of IT Services, will be along any minute now.

‘The Pity of War’ - conflict and remembrance

The latest exhibition from Special Collections looks at conflict and remembrance through material found in the holdings at York. War affects everyone in some way - whether as a front line soldier, an artist or poet moved to create works inspired by war, or people who feel their conscience will not allow them to fight and kill their fellow men.
The four cases in the Harry Fairhurst corridor focus on War in Yorkshire; Art and War; the First World War; and finally the theme of Remembrance. Highlights include a silk hanky commemorating South African battles, copies of the Tribunal, a newspaper produced by the No Conscription Fellowship, and a book of Rupert Brooke's poetry with an inscription that ties it directly to the poet.

Brooke's Nineteen Fourteen sonnet sequence must be among some of the best known poems in the world. Written at the beginning of the First World War in a time before the reality and horror of trench warfare had started to become apparent, they reflect a spir…

The artist JMW Turner in Yorkshire

How many of you knew that the great landscape artist JMW Turner (1775-1851) spent time sketching and painting in Yorkshire?
York Art Gallery held an exhibition in 1980 that featured many of his works from around our area and we have the exhibition catalogue on the Library shelves. It’s only a slim booklet with black and white images but it makes for interesting reading. Turner painted scenes all over the county, including Ilkley Moor, Knaresborough and Whitby, and produced this beautiful painting of York Minster, viewed from the River Ouse, c.1815.
It's difficult to tell exactly where the artist must have been positioned for this view. Does anyone have a suggestion?
*** The picture to the left is Turner's Hannibal Crossing the Alps. According to, the tempestuous backdrop of this famous sceneis "reputed to have been inspired by a storm over Otley's Chevin while Turner was staying at Farnley Hall".

(For those readers who have completed the gruell…

Mind the gaffe!

Many of you will be working on your dissertations right now (unless you really did get sidetracked by this). This is your chance to get your thoughts down on paper on screen and show the world what you know.

But how can you be sure you're expressing yourself perfectly?

You probably know the difference between illusion and allusion, but do you know your euphemism from your euphuism? Are you confident you know when to use fortuitous and when to say fortunate?

Well, don't worry, for help is at hand: the Library has plenty of guides to the English language. You can search MZE 140.3 on the catalogue for lots of examples, but my favourite is the no nonsense Mind the gaffe: the Penguin guide to common errors in English by R.L. Trask (MZE 140.3 TRA). In his introduction Trask says quite boldly:
Many other usage handbooks exist, but some of them are a little reluctant to lay down the law. They often tell the reader instead 'Well, some people prefer this, but other people prefer tha…

Telling Tales

Back in the 1980s student life at the University of York was uninterrupted by social media. The internet was in its infancy and computer science students booked their hour-long sessions in the computer block just down from the Library (where we searched for books on microfiche). For entertainment, there were TV sets in the common rooms. We hunkered down in front of The Young Ones and had all-night horror movie sessions, mesmerised by the special effects in American Werewolf in London. The JB Morrell was closed on Sundays. Some of us (whisper it) read books for fun. We read alone. We didn't talk about it. There were no book clubs, nor did we spend much time recommending to our friends. It wouldn't occur to us to do so.

Tales of the City was just six years old when first I discovered a copy in Godfreys bookshop in Stonegate. A story of a naive young assistant moving from sleepy Cleveland to wide awake, loud and colourful San Francisco was the peak of exotic adventure to a studen…

The Flying Saucer Review: tales of our journal collection

Last month was an unusual change of pace for me as I spent many afternoons mucking in with the big journal move out to our new external store in Nether Poppleton. I have yet to visit this voluminous space, but of course like everyone else I have been imagining that vault from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. For someone who normally sits in front of a computer screen all day it was great fun to get my hands dirty. In this case, quite literally as handling dusty back issues of journals is a rather grubby task!
One of the unexpected pleasures of the task has been having a perusal of the weird and wonderful journals which the library has to offer.

My favourite so far has been the Flying Saucer Review.

At first I was sure that the enticing name would turn out to be a bit of false advertising but no, this magazine is about UFOs and the possible existence of aliens. I could not help but wonder which department had sponsored the acquisition of these periodicals.

Was it Physics?…