The ALD and „the“ computers: a conflictual relationship


The „relationship“ mentioned in the title now spans more than 50 years. When the idea for something like the later ALD was born in September 1972, it was clear from the start that this new atlas was to be created by making full use of all contemporary technologies, which at that time undoubtedly included the mostly room-sized „electronic computing devices“. The German abbreviation EDV („elektronische Datenverarbeitung“) was also circulating for them at the time.

However, more concrete ideas on the use of EDV did not come to the fore until 1985: that was when the regular field work for the ALD began and the problem of EDV-supported input of the data collected in the field immediately arose. Two concrete „tasks“ were connected with this: the coding of the phonetic symbols, the input of all transcriptions and their storage in a relational database.

And of course the question of the manpower, hardware, operating system and the programs to be used. And also about the financing and spatial accommodation of all this.

With a lot of luck and by working up a lot of sweat, all this was „happily“ solved in the period from 1985 to 1998, i.e. until the ALD-I was published.

In the course of the elaboration of ALD-II (period: 2000 and 2012), on the other hand, immediate and radical changes had to be made: new team, new programs, new hardware, new sources of funding, new university logistics. Once again, under the mild glow of a „benevolent star“, the desired goal (printed work and a series of accompanying tools on the web) was achieved according to plan – and thus „happily“.

After that, however, things „came thick and fast“.

Since all financial support ceased with the expiry of third-party funding and my retirement, and the University of Salzburg declared itself „not responsible“ for the further maintenance of the new net tools, the programs that had been put online in 2012 fell silent one after the other from 2016 onwards.

Once again, a „benevolent star“ came to our aid. Thanks to two grants from the Austrian Science Fund FWF and also thanks to the IT bravura of two young Munich computer scientists, the silenced net tools were replaced by completely new IT products and even surpassed in the process.

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