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Lewis R. Lancaster
Department of East Asian Languages
University of California at Berkeley
California, U.S.A.


BUDSIR IV for Windows

This new release of the Siam Edition of the Pali Buddhist canon represents an important technological advance over the previous CD-ROM. Prof. Supachai and his staff at Mahidol University are to be congratulated, not only for the upgrade but also for the willingness to continue to improve the database. It has been known for some time that the storage of data in digital format is fragile and subject to the rapid developments of innovations in computer storage. This type of “publication” is very different from printing, since a book once bound and placed on a library shelf will remain usable as long as the paper survives. Not so with the database which requires programs that function within the structure of certain machines. Unless the material can be made to migrate from one generation of software and computer configuration to another, it will soon become obsolete. The technology of five years ago appears primitive in light of the new advances. With this problem in mind, the group at Mahidol continues to refine and update the Siam Edition. It is a task that has little reward and often the users are unaware of the problems which have been faced and solved in the process. At times, users of digital databases are upset by having to upgrade. Accustomed as they are to buying books that will last them for a lifetime, it seems out of place to make continual changes in archival text material.

While changes are resisted, the user has a continually improving resource for research. The very nature of future scholarship will rest on these evolving programs and computers that allow us to access, retrieve, and create with an ease that our predecessors never experienced. At this point in time, nearly 400 copies of the electronic version of the Siam Edition are in use around the world. It is certain that there are not 400 libraries of the world that contain a complete set of the Pali canon. That means that within a three year period the electronic distribution of data has surpassed the traditional library system for this particular canon. Of great interest, to those who are looking at the patterns of purchase, is the fact that a large percentage of the first CD-ROM has been acquired by individuals, not libraries. This indicates that electronic materials are quickly finding a place in the scholar's study rather than a public collection.

Eventually, this database along with other archival ones will be available in some form through the Internet. Standards for Internet use of diacritics are still being decided. Sanskrit and Pali scripts have been included in the UNICODE program. Future forms of data will have to be moved into these international standards. We have in this release the upgrade to the current state of the art, but we realize that in a few years, users will be asking for new formats. The work of maintaining the data remains a constant and important task.

We are indebted to Prof. Supachai for his dedication to the modern task of computerizing and preserving Buddhist data in a useable form. Since the BUDSIR IV CD-ROM was the pioneer project in the field, it is important that the production team has created a model of continuing to work with the database. Users of the new version will find it to be a great step forward in terms of software. Strategies of use and search will be enhanced by the options now available for the data.


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