On our first foray into the world of digital curation on Wednesday we very quickly discovered that dropping, altering, and generally messing around with bytes tends to corrupt file formats, and absolutely dropping those bytes tends to corrupt file formats absolutely. Using a programme called ‘Shoot the File’ we mercilessly subjected PDFs, word documents, JPEGs, TIFFs, and a HTML document to such an onslaught that many of the documents were rendered useless or even inaccessible. Whilst minor alterations prompted the loss of information such as diagrams a major corruption reduced the previously clear, distinct images to works of abstract expressionism. Sadly I was unable to open the ‘clean’ versions of the sound recordings but I have it on good authority that corrupting the sound of a cow’s mooing is particularly satisfying!
Onto our second task and for this we entered the world of binary coding. Like Indiana Jones in ‘The Last Crusade’ we were confronted with three challenges of increasing complexity (although fortunately not of lethal cunning). Armed with a UTF-8 Converter and Base 64 String Decoder we were able to convert the three strings of code expressed in binary, hexidecimal, and Base 64 formats respectively into the following questions:
- On March 11, 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson mandated that all computers purchased by the United States federal government do something. What was it?
- The vigesimal system was memorably employed by a U.S. President when dedicating a cemetery. Which President, and what decimal value did he express in vigesimal notation? Hint: in old Norse, a notch on a stick used to tally values in vigesimal notation was called a “skor”.
- What are the sixty-four characters used to encode Base 64?
To which we answered with the assistance of Google and Wikipedia that Lyndon Johnson mandated that all computers purchased by the federal government support the ASCII character encoding system, that Abraham Lincoln was partial to waxing lyrical in the vigesimal in his Gettysburg Address (Four score and seven years ago….), and that the sixty-four characters used in Base 64 are as highlighted in the following link.
I’ve also attached this link to a song by New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo as it’s the only song I can think of that has a binary solo.