Somerville College and a handful of its students were featured in a CBS television news story about the future of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The news story was broadcast because the editors of the OED are considering ending the publication of a physical version of the full-length dictionary, for which the last edition (published in 1989) ran to some 20 volumes. Should they proceed with the reform, the full-length dictionary would only be available online. The Compact version, which comes in at 1,264 pages (according to the OED’s Blackwell’s website listing), would continue to be published in both formats.

The students were asked to talk about whether they still used a physical dictionary, while two first-year undergraduate students were filmed racing one another to discover the meaning of a word, one in the OED, the other via a google search on her phone.

To find out who won, see the video story (and accompanying text) on the CBS website.

Footage of Somerville College was taken in the entrance hall of the College Library and in the quad. In one of the shots taken inside the Library entrance hall, you can just about catch a glimpse of the portrait of a young girl named Ada Lovelace. A set of notes taken by Lovelace in 1842-3 have often been described as the world’s first computer programme, which would place Lovelace among the series of figures whose breakthroughs contributed to the digitisation of knowledge.

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