Maggie Philbin on the technology behind Domesday 1986

On 27 November 1986, the BBC's Tomorrow's World demonstrated a, then, cutting edge Domesday video laser disc technology.

Presenters Howard Stableford and Maggie Philbin, who now works at BBC Radio Berkshire, showed two discs that contained the equivalent of 32 encyclopediae, 4000 floppy discs, 750 ordnance survey maps, 30000 photographs and one hour of film.

A live phone-in featured a caller from Loughborough who could access maps and photos of his village at a few clicks of a computer button.

Ms Philbin, who worked on the science and technology programme for 10 years, has vivid memories of reporting on the Domesday project.

She said: "I've recently watched the item again and I can see the slight hint of fear in my eyes as I go across to that huge old grey computer and 'will' it to do what we say it can do.

"My sense of relief when it performs perfectly is palpable".

Nowadays accessing maps and photos on computers is commonplace, but Ms Philbin said that back in 1986 no one had ever seen such technology.

"It was like a chunky forerunner of Google Maps," she said. "I don't think you can imagine how excited people were at being able to key in a word and have their area come up on the screen.

"It sounds so naive now".

The technology was very expensive, which is one of the reasons why it disappeared. The kit to read a video disc cost around £4000.

But Ms Philbin said that its historical significance is immense as no interactive project had been done on such a scale before.

"It was an incredibly ambitious project, involving millions of contributions from people across the UK," she said.

"It's brilliant that we can now easily access all that material from 1986".

She added: "It's a very powerful and detailed slice of 1980s history and I'm sure people will really enjoy finding and updating information.

"I'm looking forward to hearing all the stories which emerge".

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