But it’s only 2 years old!

An early model of me and my laptop.

An early model of me and my laptop.

I guess I’ve always been interested in technology. From the days of floppy disks to the days of super phones, the latest gadgets have always piqued my curiosity. And for good reason: as it turns out, technology will have a large part in shaping my future career. This is why I am enthusiastic about opportunities to acquire new digital skills in classes like HIS 9877: Digital Research Methods. (Plus, working in the command line makes me feel a little bit like one of those really cool superhackers you see in movies.) But my first post about the Digital Research Methods class has less to do with our in-class activities as it has to do with some obstacles I’ve come up against.

When I first tried to start a virtual Linux machine on my Sony Vaio, I got the error message:

VT-x/AMD-V hardware acceleration is not available on your system. Your 64-bit guest will fail to detect a 64-bit CPU and will not be able to boot.

I wasn’t the only person to get an error message, so I followed along with the class on one of our classroom’s iMac computers, as did several others. Afterwards I tried a 32-bit version of the virtual machine, thinking that might solve my problem, but no luck – two more error messages:

The guest is trying to switch into the PAE mode which is disabled by default in VirtualBox.

A critical error has occurred while running the virtual machine and the machine execution has been stopped.

There is no option to enable the PAE mode in the menu VirtualBox suggested. So I started digging around in the BIOS (had to watch a couple YouTube videos just to get into it…I am so not a superhacker!) but there was no option to enable virtualization. After some emails back and forth with the professor and searching around in forums, I found out that my computer, VPCEB31FD, just happens to be one of the few Vaio machines that cannot handle virtualization. There is no BIOS update, the CPU itself simply does not support that kind of technology. I suppose I will be doing the whole course on one of the university’s computers.

All of this is to say that digital media are not as stable as we might think. My computer runs perfectly well and up until now, did everything I needed it to do. It’s only 2 years old! I can’t believe I’ve already run into this kind of issue. I thought my computer wouldn’t need to be replaced for a long time. Digital technology offers new opportunities for historians to make their work more accessible; but after this incident I do wonder how we can ensure the longevity of our work in an age where technology is changing so quickly. What can I do to make sure my digital products aren’t obsolete or incompatible with other technologies in 2 years? On the research end, what can I do to make sure that my resources are always adequate? Over the past three decades of digital technology, what has stood the test of time and what hasn’t?

All of this is also to say…I’m angry at my computer.

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4 thoughts on “But it’s only 2 years old!

  1. gabriellebossy says:

    Great post! I totally agree- I was thinking how great all these digital history opportunities were until my internet crashed! It goes along with the point made in class that although there are many great this about digital humanities, it can leave behind a lot of people who are illiterate or don’t have the financial means to keep up with technology that seems to change so rapidly!

  2. michaelohagan says:

    I think this brings two excellent points – how can we keep up with the constantly changing technology and, in a sense more important to historians, how can we ensure that the “outdated” technology will remain accessible in the future? Archives are already coming across the problem of outdated file types that need specialized programs to open? Can we be confident that we’ll be able to open these files in twenty, fifty, or one hundred years from now? Furthermore, will the drives they’re stored on be able to last that long?

    • jsherlo3 says:

      The sad thing is that some archives like the City of Toronto–in order to deal with the obsolescence issue –have just given up on digital technology, and any born-digital materials that they receive, they are just simply converting them into analog formats like paper and microfilm (e.g. taking emails and just printing them off and filing them). Apparently the City of Toronto Archives finds this more cost-effective than trying to keep up with all of the technological changes happening.

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