retroTECH is a Georgia Tech Library program in which the campus community can create the future by exploring the past. The vision for the retroTECH Lab entails a highly curated combination of classic, older hardware and software alongside modern tools for digital archiving and emulation, all designed to be accessed and used. This newly piloted lab will not only serve as a hands-on historical reference point; it will activate new ideas about future technology and preserving innovation.
The retroTECH space takes what archives around the world are doing behind the scenes with digital forensics and born-digital workstations, combines it with a hackerspace ethos, and brings everything out for public-facing access, empowerment, and engagement. The retroTECH program aims to reimagine digital archives by offering patrons a chance to use vintage, forensic, and emulation equipment typically restricted to library staff, museums, and specialized collectors.
The Library and Archives acquired their seed collection of five classic workstations from a Georgia Tech alumni and former faculty member whose work inspired the idea. Along with several emulation workstations, these machines form the core of the pilot retroTECH Lab space, where our team is testing programming to be implemented in the future permanent lab in the renewed building. We are currently developing two mobile labs—the Emulation Time Machine and Archive-O-Matic, which will expand retroTECH’s services beyond the borders of the physical Lab space.
The retroTECH team is committed to community outreach, continuing education, and developing partnerships around campus and the Atlanta area. Since the opening of the lab in 2015, the team has fostered a relationship with Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication program. Faculty partner with retroTECH members to develop course based instruction sessions that allow students to explore the archived technology, reflect on the histories of digital media, and develop research questions related to their assignments.
In addition to course-integrated instruction sessions, the retroTECH program also offers ‘drop in’ hours. During the Fall and Spring Semesters, the Lab is open for Georgia Tech community members and the general public. During ‘drop in’ hours users can explore the classic workstations and retro games.
In the summer of 2016, the retroTECH team received a campus grant in partnership with the Digital Media Game Archaeology Lab to host an event series that would bring communities together to explore digital pasts and futures. Fall speaker series events investigated such topics as Game Archelogy and Production, Vintage Computing, and Digital Forensics. The spring lineup will include additional panel discussions, as well an interactive data recovery workshop. The events are free to attend and open to the community.
For information on the retroTECH program, equipment, Lab hours and more, visit: http://retrotech.library.gatech.edu/