Until fairly recently most of the official transactions were accomplished by means of paper documents, such letters, deeds, reports and other written or typed records. Materials like these still form the largest part of record materials in practically all archives. Modern technology is rapidly changing the way in which the public and govern authorities conduct their affairs, and thus altering the nature of archives. During the 19th century the invention of the printing press and typewriter have had an important effect on the physical characteristics of archives. Especially photography has had and have until today an equal impact; encompassing pictorial records, cinematographic records, aerial photography and microphotography. Of course in 19th century also the widespread use of sound recording has accompanied and complemented various photographic processes. Although in archival science the most profound technical innovation of all time affecting records creation and use is the computer. It is revolutionising our lives in innumerable ways, many of which have to do with the creation and manipulation of information.
The further we advance into the computer age, the greater will be the reliance of government and other segments of society on computers to handle matters that once were documented solely on paper; and the proportion of information in archival repositories on machine-readable media may be expected to increase exponentially.
Archives may thus be seen to take many physical forms, each of which has its own special requirements for storage, preservation and use. The major categories may be briefly described as follows: Manuscripts, cartographic and architectural records, audio – visual materials, machine – readable records, printed archives. It might be noted here, parenthetically, that both micro- reproduction and the computer are increasingly versatile and powerful tools for accomplishing a variety of sophisticated tasks in archival repositories, as well as serving as the means of recording permanently valuable information which eventually comes into archival custody.
At present, it is well known that computers and everything associated with them are changing and developing so rapidly that archivists and writers cannot keep up with ought them. Nowadays we seem to have moved from a period of excessive optimism to a period in which the limitations and drawbacks of automated systems are mush to the front of users minds.
In addition, over the last twenty or twenty-five years, many of the largest archive repositories have begun experiments seeking the development of computerised archive descriptive databases. In many repositories, these efforts have gone through the experimental stage and are now being incorporated into ongoing substantive programs. Storage and publication of aid through these programs is now taking place in some storage areas. Since the 1970s in the United States of America, many archive repositories have joined the “SPINDEX III” programs, with a view to a sufficiently extensive network for the computerised accumulation, manipulation and exchange of archival descriptive information. Although this particular program was created in order to provide