If you rely on refereed material …

Then a lot of stuff that happened just 10-15 years ago didn’t happen at all.

Some of my research is done “Just In Time”. I think of something I want to refer to, then I hit up IEEE Xplore and the ACM Digital Library to find conference papers or journal articles about it. A surprising amount of the time, I come up empty-handed, leaving me to rely on web pages for my citations.

For example, at the moment I want to refer to the 90s dot-bomb duo Beenz and Flooz. These two sites each have writeups on Wikipedia, but as far as the IEEE and ACM literature is concerned, they’re ghosts. Flooz appears in neither; the ACM has 4 articles which mention Beenz only in passing, not usable as a citation for the mere existence of these two firms.

I am not sure what to make of this. What our field needs is some historians to dig this stuff out before it’s gone forever. The IEEE had a journal for this — Annals of the History of Computing, but irony of ironies, it stopped publishing in 1991. The ACM have some conference proceedings on particular slices of history — programming languages and early PCs, for example — but nothing in general.

It’s a shame, but also very annoying. Against my own better judgement I am facing the possibility of having to cite Wikipedia in an honours dissertation.

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