Fifty years ago this week, Duke students faced off with computers in model car races and tic-tac-toe matches in the annual Engineers’ Show. In stark contrast to the up-and-coming computers, a Duke Chronicle article dubbed these human competitors as old-fashioned and obsolete. Five decades later, although we humans haven’t completely lost our foothold to computers, they have become a much bigger part of our daily lives than in 1965. Yes, there are those of you out there who fear the imminent robot coup is near, but we mostly have found a way to live alongside this technology we have created. Perhaps we could call it a peaceful coexistence.
At least, that’s how I would describe our relationship to technology here at the Digital Production Center (DPC) where I began my internship six weeks ago. We may not have the entertaining gadgets of the Engineers’ Show, like a mechanical swimming shark or mechanical monkey climbing a pole, but we do have exciting high-tech scanners like the Zeutschel, which made such instant internet access to articles like “Man To Fight Computers” possible. The university’s student newspaper has been digitized from fall 1959 to spring 1970, and it is an ongoing project here at the DPC to digitize the rest of the collection spanning from 1905 to 1989.
My first scanning project has been the 1970s Duke Chronicle issues. While standing at the Zeutschel as it works its digitization magic, it is fascinating to read the news headlines and learn university history through pages written by and for the student population. The Duke Chronicle has been covering campus activities since 1905 when Duke was still Trinity College. Over the years it has captured the evolution of student life as well as the world beyond East and West Campus. The Chronicle is like a time capsule in its own right, each issue freezing and preserving moments in time for future generations to enjoy. This is a wonderful resource for researchers, history nerds (like me!), and Duke enthusiasts alike, and I invite you to explore the digitized collection to see what interesting articles you may find. And don’t forget to keep checking back with BitStreams to hear about the latest access to other decades of the Duke Chronicle.
The year 1965 doesn’t seem that distant in time, yet in terms of technological advancement it might as well be eons away from where we are now. Playing tic-tac-toe against a computer seems arcane compared to today’s game consoles and online gaming communities, but it does put things into perspective. Since that March day in 1965, it is my hope that man and computer both have put down their boxing gloves.