17.658 what they (you) were thinking OR how did I get involved in all this?

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Feb 19 2004 - 02:59:39 EST

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 658.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

         Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 07:53:14 +0000
         From: Robert Kraft <kraft@ccat.sas.upenn.edu>
         Subject: Re: 17.656 what they (you) were thinking OR how did I get
involved in all this?

> >What did philologists, historians, musicologists, literary critics,
> >linguists and all the rest -- all these and more turned up in the
pages of
> >the early issues of CHum -- see in the computer that attracted them? What
> >was the nature of the ideational baggage they brought that motivated them
> >and that shaped the early applications of the tool, indeed defined the
> >for them? How did those of us who are old enough, and were flogging
the use
> >of computers at the time, appeal to the curious masses? What did we
> >observe at the time?
> >
> >Yours,
> >WM

Since I've been asked (yesterday!) to write an autobiographical
retrospective on all this, why not start here? I knew, somewhat vaguely,
about the use of computers in Father Busa's Aquinas project because my
office mate, a Patristics scholar named Robert Evans, was taking a
computing course and occasionally mentioned such things as he shuffled his
stacks of IBM cards. This would have been in the early 1970s (he died
unexpectedly in 1974).

When at a meeting of the steering committee of the newly formed
International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies (IOSCS) in
1970 or soon thereafter, the question of creating a new lexicon of
"Septuagint" Greek was discussed, I offered the opinion that this would
be a good project for the use of computers. Bad move. The presiding
officer, John Wevers, commissioned me to look into the possibilities,
which I gradually did with the help of then graduate students Jack
Abercrombie and Bill Adler. Emanuel Tov (Hebrew University) was appointed
editor of the desired lexicon, and I began to work with him on creating
concordance type tools to facilitate the lexical work.

By 1978, a small feasability grant from the NEH was obtained to explore
the possibility of getting the Greek Jewish scriptural materials (LXX/OG)
into electronic form, with an eye to creating "Computer Assisted Tools for
Septuagint Studies" (CATSS) and after that came further funding, including
support from David Packard (IBYCUS Computer System) and the Packard
Foundation as well as major NEH grants. The Center for Computer Analysis
of Texts (CCAT) was founded at the University of Pennsylvania, with Jack
Abercrombie as technical director, and the associated Septuagint project
developed in three directions under the co-directorship of Emanuel Tov
(Hebrew University) and myself -- Morphologically Analyzed text (David
Packard had created the basic program for automatic analysis, and the
team at UPenn did verification and correction of the data), Parallel
Hebrew // Greek text (using programs created by Jack Abercrombie, plus
lots of massaging by Emanuel Tov's team in Jerusalem), and the Greek
Textual Variants module (still underway here at UPenn -- reliable
scanning of printed Greek has been a major problem!). Along the way, we
discovered that lots of other things could be done with texts and
computers, of course, and we discovered that lots of people with
various interests and motivations were anxious to obtain the tools as
well as to learn the technology, but in outline, this is how it all began.

Bob Kraft (now Emeritus)
Faculty director of CCAT, co-director of CATSS

Robert A. Kraft, Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
227 Logan Hall (Philadelphia PA 19104-6304); tel. 215 898-5827

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