The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #3819   Message #19915
Posted By: Susan of DT
25-Jan-98 - 10:57 PM
Thread Name: History of the Digital Tradition
Subject: RE: History of the Digital Tradition
Those of you who have the DT on disks have seen the "blurb" that is included. I just did a cut and paste of most of it, below. I hope the format comes over ok.

I had been writing down or photocopying songs since 1968 when I was a senior in college and realized that I would not be singing with that group much longer. By 1988, I had spiral notebooks that had lost covers and loose leaf books with reinforcements on the holes and was wondering how to preserve the collection. Only a few of my songs were on the computer, since I photocopied where possible.

I went to one of the Greater Washington Folk Music Society singing weekends in the woods with Dick. Since we are a distance from DC, we only go to these two events a year. There are wonderful singers in that group and a few are part of this forum. As Dick says below, I had my notebook and Dennis Cook had his. I asked to see his book and saw that all of his songs were computer generated and realized I had found the solution to my problem of preserving mine.

Dick suggested that Dennis and I merge our collections and the DT was born. If Dick had not gotten involved with the conception of the project and the programming details, the DT would have ended with the merger of two collections.

At the time, we were using Osborne computers and it was a while before the individual files were put into askSam. We had disks with hundreds of individual files on them. We kept finding a little known limitation of floppy disks - besides a limit of size, there is also a limit of how many files can be in the disk's directory... We do still distribute it on disks in several formats, but most use the web. I imagine we will be making CD ROMs before much longer.

The 'oficial' blurb follows, without the "thanks to" section in case people don't want their names on the net.


In the beginning....

Back in the Spring of 1988, two folk music enthusiasts, each clutching a weighty notebook, met and compared (what else?) notes. Since the two, Dennis Cook and Susan Friedman, were both using home computers as word processors to produce new notebook pages, a decision to pool resources was an obvious one. The Digital Tradition was born.

It soon became apparent that word processor files had severe limitations as a storage format for the words to a large number of songs --- even with the 400 or so songs that we started out with, the collection was space-consuming. Worse, it was almost impossible to find what you were looking for. Duplications kept popping up, and cataloging was a nightmare.

After a good deal of experimentation and researching --- we first tried archiving the songs to save space, but this didn't help us with any of the other problems --- we encountered a very fast, very powerful full-text search program called askSam that was the answer to our prayers. To make things even better, askSam's publisher (askSam Systems, Perry Florida) was interested in what we were doing, and graciously allowed us to distribute a read-only sub-set of their program at no charge. As a result, it's a simple matter to sift through our ever-growing collection (6000+ songs as of October 1996) and extract any song with, say, the name Mary in it. Or all (or any) of the more than 370 Child ballads we have. Or songs by your favorite composer. Or, for that matter, any bawdy Scots parodies dealing with computers --- yes, we even have one of those.

The next major step was to find a way to share the melodies of the songs. We found an effective answer in a music-processing program called SongWright (Songwright, Leesburg VA). This program allowed us to enter songs in a reasonably compact format (so that they don't occupy an unreasonably large number of disks), and, among other things, allows them to be played on the computer's built-in beeper. The good folks at SongWright have also been gracious enough to allow us to distribute the play-only version of their program at no charge. Frankly, we're overwhelmed by the helpful attitudes of the people at both askSam and SongWright --- we hope that you'll be sufficiently impressed by what you see of their fine products to purchase your own copies of the complete systems. If you do buy SongWright, for example, you'll be able to print out the tunes to over 3300 of the songs --- in any key, yet --- as well as edit them and play them through a MIDI interface on a wide variety of electronic instruments.