“Making History: Applications of Digitization and Materialization Projects in Repositories” – Appendix B

Appendix B: Technology Choices

The photographs I used to build my model were taken using an LG Optimus G. Released in 2012, the Optimus G is a midrange smartphone running Android 4.0.4. The camera is 13 megapixels, with a resolution of 4208 x 3120 pixels. Though I have added applications available through Google’s Marketplace—Aldiko, Angry Birds, Facebook, Fruit Ninja, NPR, Wonder Weeks, and the like—the phone substantially conforms to factory specifications.

I also took photographs using a Nikon and an iPad. The Nikon D50, a 6.1 megapixel DSLR, is nearly a decade old. It was announced as retailing for $899 (though I cannot remember what we actually paid for it).1 The iPad 2, model MC770LL/A, retailed for $599 when it was released in 2011 (though ours was free: my husband won it in a contest at work).2 In short, they are generally well-reviewed consumer devices. They are relatively old (in terms of product life cycle and, in the case of the Nikon, chronologically), not cheap at the time of manufacture but also not highly specialized equipment.

Though the Nikon and iPad photographs were not ultimately the ones I used to build a model, these devices were still part of my process. They provided the opportunity to experiment and compare the results of different devices (in a more humanistic, less technical specifications-based manner) and, in fact, it essentially came down to a coin flip as to whether I would build my model using an LG or Nikon photo set. Photographs taken with the Nikon and iPad are among the images included in this paper.

My laptop is an Acer Aspire 5755-6699 with an Intel Core i3-2330M and Intel graphics card. While I have installed programs—Microsoft Office 2010, Scrivener, Skype—I have not done anything particularly adventurous. The laptop runs a factory-installed Windows operating system. In 2010, the Acer was a $400-price point machine. All modeling for this project was done on this machine. So, for that matter, was the vast majority of the research and writing, which involved Firefox, Scrivener, and Microsoft Word.

Autodesk’s 123D Catch is available as a free download, an Apple application, and a web-based application. (Premium options exist, with added benefits including licenses to use models for commercial purposes, discounts on MakerBot purchases, and the option to create 2D .dwg files. None were relevant to my project.) The system requirements for the desktop version are modest: Windows 7 or higher, XP Service Pack 3 or higher, an Intel Core 2Duo, 1 GB RAM, 1 GM disk space, an OpenGL compatible video card with 256 MB memory, and Microsoft run-time libraries.3 I did not experiment with the iPad or iPhone versions: I have an Android phone, and the household iPad is largely dedicated to streaming media and an exhaustive collection of horse-themed games. Ultimately I used the web-based application.

Meshmixer, another Autodesk application, bills itself as a tool for “making crazy-ass 3D stuff without too much hassle.” It is available as a free download for Windows and Mac. Though the software is being actively developed (the most recent version as of this writing, 2.4, was released in May 2014), the official documentation is nearly two years out of date and rather light on technical specifications.4

I selected hardware and software based on availability and minimal expenditure. My motivation was, in part, selfish: I did not want to spend a great deal of money on this project, so I used tools at hand. However, price-consciousness is also part of my argument. I wish to demonstrate that repositories can undertake a project like this without the investment of significant resources. It is reasonable to expect that someone on staff will own a device capable of taking digital pictures. (Autodesk recommends 3 megapixels or above, a requirement met by many older devices.) Internet connectivity is ubiquitous, as is the Windows operating system. Any reasonably current machine is likely suitable for the desktop version of 123D Catch without any special modifications. Repositories with older machines can take advantage of online applications, or use the personal devices of Apple fans on staff. In short, the technological barriers to entry are low, and the necessary equipment probably already sits on desks—or in pockets—at a repository.

  1. D50 archived product page, Nikon Web site, http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Nikon-Products/Product-Archive/Digital-SLR-Cameras/D50.html (accessed 10 July 2014); “Nikon D50 and exclusive preview” Digital Photography Review Web site, April 20, 2005, http://www.dpreview.com/articles/2208220954/nikond50 (accessed 10 July 2014). I feel compelled to protest the use of the term “archived product” used by Nikon. I echo Theimer’s objections to the manner in which the term “archives” has been applied within the digital humanities, albeit within the context of consumer electronics rather than academic disciplines. (Kate Theimer, “Archives in Context and as Context,” Journal of Digital Humanities Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring 2012), http://journalofdigitalhumanities.org/1-2/archives-in-context-and-as-context-by-kate-theimer/ (accessed 29 March 2013).) The D50 has been discontinued: it is no longer manufactured. Nikon may for all I know maintain some number of units in a corporate archive or museum, and it’s fair to say that those particular units have been archived. But that does not apply to the broader class of all D50s. 
  2. Moren, Dan. “Apple confirms internation iPad 2 launch on March 25.” Macworld. March 22, 2011. http://www.macworld.com/article/1158694/ipad2_international.html (accessed 10 July 2014). 
  3. For specifications, see Autodesk 123D, http://www.123dapp.com/catch (accessed 10 July 2014). 
  4. See Meshmixer, http://meshmixer.com/ (accessed 10 July 2014).