The computer — or more precisely information and communications technology (ICT) — is now an essential tool for the historian and historical study. Today’s ‘history workstation’ includes computers, modems, scanners, printers, digital cameras and a paraphernalia of software packages to access resources and analyse historical source material. The computer is a central feature in libraries, archives and competes for space with books and manuscripts on the historian’s desk. Even those most resistant to the lure of the machine use computer-based library catalogues and word process their books, articles, dissertations and essays. The skills required for computer-based research and writing are natural developments from the ‘traditional’ skills used by historians but have helped to transform the study of history over the past three decades (at least). Whereas in the early days of mainframe technology, the computer’s contribution to history was viewed in terms of crude data analysis or ‘number crunching’, the major current use is for locating and retrieving information via the internet. However, to reduce the role of ICT either to simple quantification or merely to accessing information would be to overlook the rich and complex part the computer has to play in the work of the historian.
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