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Revealing the Unreadable: David Mills' Wuthering Bytes Talk

Gareth Halfacree

It's Wuthering Bytes month here at oomlout, and the countdown is finally over: this weekend saw the UK Maker Belt's premier technology event open the doors of Hebden Bridge's Town Hall to all-comers, beginning with the Open Source Hardware User Group's OSHCamp. The event has an extended schedule this year, covering a full week, and it all culminates this Friday with the Wuthering Bytes Festival Day and a talk we're particularly excited about from David Mills.

It's no secret that the hobbyist has it better today than ever before. The cost of tools for making - even industrial-scale tools, like PCB printing platforms, CNC mills, laser cutters, and 3D printers - are dropping every year. Even niche devices like thermal imaging cameras are becoming more affordable, but there's one area where the hobbyist is unlikely to dabble: X-ray imaging systems. That's still the preserve of researchers like David, but you might be surprised by what he uses the high-priced CT scanning equipment for.

David works at the Queen Mary University of London Institute of Dentistry, but you'll rarely find a tooth under his X-ray emitter - you may, though, find his lunch, but that's less about research and more about an inventive guessing game played out over Twitter. Instead, David's research concentrates on making media that has succumbed to the ravages of age readable once more. Beginning with ancient scrolls, which would crumble to dust if unwrapped, David has since moved on to canisters of film which have long since turned to a single fragile mass. Using a combination of medical-grade CT scanning equipment and clever software, David has been able to recover text, video, and even audio from these documents - and without damaging the originals.

David's work is a great example of using equipment in novel ways, and his talk - which will include demonstrations of the data he has been able to recover - is sure to be a hit with anyone interested in preservation and the history of media. If that's you, tickets for the Festival Day are still available via our dedicated microsite - but going fast, so we'd recommend getting yours sooner rather than later.

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