xstarshub.com Digital Media Art in the Upper Rhine Valley.
Conservation – Restoration – Sustainability
Hans Pufal

Conservation of computer hardware

From their earliest appearance, computers have been used to generate artwork either by printing or producing sound or video recordings. Later, computers were used to play games with users, or to act as intermediaries between several players. More recently, as computers became more affordable and smaller, they have become an integral part of the artwork itself. This raises the question of how to conserve such an artwork since the embedded computer or its associated software will eventually fail. Four conservation strategies are discussed : Restoration : repairing a failed computer or replacing it with an identical copy. Rebuild : construction, from scratch, of the computer using, where possible, original components. Reconstruction : construction of a new version of the computer using modern techniques and components. Software emulation : emulating in software the original computer using a modern, hence much faster, machine. Examples of each strategy will be given and the advantages and disadvantages of each will be discussed.


Hans B. Pufal, «Paleo information scientist». Bitten by the computer bug in his early teens, he taught himself FORTRAN and ALGOL when the only available machines were large room-sized, mainframe computers. After graduating from Bristol University with a degree in Maths and Computer Science, he embarked on a professional career as a software engineer, but always with an interest in the hardware and in particular the hardware/software interface. His career took him from the UK, via Belgium, to California and Silicon Valley before returning to the UK and finally arriving in Grenoble, France. Here he became an active member of ACONIT where he could indulge his passion for the history of computing. He is co-author of a book on the history of computing, and has had several papers on the history and preservation of computers published. He has worked with the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris, helped in the creation of several exhibitions and developed the web based emulation of the French SEA CAB500 computer. He had a cameo appearance as a computer operator in a 2005 television ad for the Renault Megane. He is currently engaged in working with the Europeean project KEEP.

The project is supported by:
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