Farewelling the field book – historic telecommunications field records preserved as digital files.
The scandalous Nambassa Camp drawings of ’81, the dynamic break-dancers of 84, and the slimy Waingaro swamp creatures of ’89 – all sound rather alarming. In fact, they are among some of a more creative notes and drawings recorded in field books by telecommunications engineers over 100 years as they worked throughout New Zealand to bringing communication to the masses.
Today the paper field book has been overtaken by progress, with those working in the field now switching to using GIS or AutoCAD to record cable details and site information.However, Chorus is ensuring these historic paper records, containing vast amounts of data still used for reference today, are preserved and accessible as digital files.
Over the past six months, Desktop Imaging prepared and scanned approximately 7,000 field books in colour at 300dpi. Each field book was carefully disbanded to scan both the covers and the contents; there was an average of 100 pages per book which amounted to Desktop Imaging preserving thousands of the historic records from the past three decades in digital format.
Chorus Manager Records & Data Allan Haydock said the small, lined, hardback books, held with an elasticated tie, were a “legendary icon” in the telecommunications industry with almost 16,000 produced over the past century-spanning two World Wars, covering the length and breadth of New Zealand. The oldest held by Chorus dates to 1913.
“The telecommunications industry in NZ would not be complete without preservation of these enduring antiquities” said Allan.
“The work carried out by Desktop Imaging is the perfect way to preserve the legacy of cable-laying from our draughting forefathers and provide soft copy access to these historic records. While these are historic documents, many of the cable records are still relevant today and this process means that Chorus can make them easily accessible to contractors working on current projects.”
Allan said that the project had also highlighted some of the creative talents of the field book ‘authors’ with colourful descriptions of some of the scenarios they encountered in the course of their work.
“The Fieldbook was dedicated to recording the location of trench lines, plant items, cable details and, on occasion, ducks and interesting flora and fauna,” he said. “Between these hallowed pages lay secret symbology, vital measurements and an entire plotting language the likes of which has not been seen since The Da Vinci Code.”
The original premise behind the Fieldbook was to provide field recordings for “draughties” who would later draught the details properly back at the office. However, some linesmen took a more informal approach. “There is the good, the bad and the downright bizarre with entries that indicate there’s more story to these entries than can be written down,” said Allan.