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The trials of the Hogwarts IT director

by John Cox

Headmaster: I regret that I must resign my position, effective two weeks ago, at least. It is simply impossible under these conditions to create a modern, integrated, flexible IT architecture aligned with the school's educational mission and objectives. Despite my best efforts, Hogwarts' IT communications infrastructure will remain dependent on owls, talking letters, the use of Floo powder and a fireplace network, and of course, divinations, dreams and visions.

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Reader Comments:

Coxrid: I appreciate your position, as I have in the past, to no avail, worked with Arthur Weasley to try to work out the magical-interference problem with muggle electronic devices, although it's possible my progress was hampered less by the problem itself and more by the fact that Arthur kept taking all my devices apart, and destroying most of them in the process.

You pose the theory that it's not the spells themselves that cause the problems, but the magical energy of the wizard. I agree, and I was convinced the problem is exacerbated by the use of wands, which greatly amplifies and focuses the magical energy. In theory, it should be possible to add filtering properties to the wands to mitigate the magical-interference problem, although I couldn't prove that in practical testing.

It's a shame your efforts to bring Hogwarts into the 21st century could not be accomplished, although it's possible your lack of success was due to the fact that it had be brought into the 20th century first...

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on August 17, 2007 3:54 PM

For some reason I am reminded of the Star Trek movie (I think the first one), where Scotty sits at the computer in the 20th century, says "Computer" and waits for a verbal reply. I think many wizards and witches would respond as Arthur Weasley does, with curious and innocent confusion, especially since no wands are necessary.

If Hogwarts school went online would special firewalls (fiendfyre wall?) be necessary so ghosts wouldn't travel out of Hogwarts on the internet, scaring Muggle users, provoking more witch burnings and discrimination?

Posted by Patty from Quincy MA on August 18, 2007 09:01 AM

I've frequently wondered how the library at Hogwarts works and/or why it doesn't appear to be more magical. How come we've never seen Hermione use a card catalog? Does Madame Pince know the location and contents of every book by heart? I suppose you could just accio for something (as Hermione did for the dark magic book in DH) but that assumes you know specifically what you're looking for. Something like a card catalog (or a computer index!) helps you to find something you might not know how to look up because of its cross-references...

I'd personally like to see a computer program which translates runes...

Posted by Fred W from Ottery St. Catchpole on August 18, 2007 1:11 PM

But... why would a wizard care? What could they do with muggle stuff they couldn't do with magic? Arthur is fascinated with the way muggles get along without magic, but he doesn't use any of those muggle ways in his own household.

Does Hogwarts need a card catalog? Who's to say Madam Pince doesn't know the location and contents of every book in the library? Does that mean she still wouldn't insist on the students searching and exploring the library on their own? And when have we seen Hermione confounded by finding something in the library? Only when she's looking for something that's against the rules...

Posted by Rudy from Baton Rouge on August 20, 2007 3:32 PM

I'm pretty sure Hogwarts library has a card catalog. It's just that JKR wouldn't want to waste paper with Hermione using a card catalog. And many of the books we see her using in the library are books she's already checked out and read. And a card catalog wouldn't be very hard to make, because most of the books in the library are non-fiction.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on August 20, 2007 10:50 PM

"PowerPoint Wizard!" I love it!

Could the Hogwarts library be anything like the Unseen University library in Discworld? (i.e. infinitely big, and containing every book ever written plus a few that haven't yet but could be written, plus a few that couldn't, etc.) Just a thought.

Posted by Fawkes on August 21, 2007 06:24 AM

A nice attempt at bringing hogwarts into the 21 century. however i have trouble pictures an electronic hogwarts, the teachers may as well use remote controls instead of wands, though the wizards in the series are far more evolved from the muggles!

Posted by Alex B. from London on August 21, 2007 08:47 AM

First: snicker! (I love the idea of cables in conflict with magical stairways! Kind of like having house rabbits!) (Ask me how I know!)

Second: As a Librarian, I take issue with the poster who thinks non-fiction card catalogs are "easier". Computerized databases of card catalog information are the magic of the Library universe, but in days of yore you had to type the following cards by hand, all identical, with NO typos (or you start that card over): shelf list card (the master index to books in their positions on the shelf -- Dewey Decimal number order, for example); author card (one for EACH author -- non-fiction OFTEN has at least two or more authors); title card; series card if part of a series; subject cards (one for EACH subject and in interesting non-fiction, I have seen as many as five to ten subjects assigned, so that "one" card for the set actually ran to three or more typed cards. In many cases there were additional cards for other information, as well. Each card (or set) had to be filed correctly and eventually found and pulled when the book was withdrawn or lost or stolen...

Miss Pince, however, probably had house elves prepare hand written (in green ink calligraphy) cards for everything, but she probably (as a more hostile example of the breed of librarian) kept it to herself, only allowing grudging access and under watchful eyes! Not many of us have that attitude in real life, although I do confess that it's more likely in historical archives (which the Hogwarts Library would be) than in public libraries.

Posted by SherryBinNH from New Hampshire on August 21, 2007 1:58 PM

if muggle stuff does not work at hogwarts, then how does snape use a projector in the POA movie?

Posted by Rob on August 21, 2007 8:39 PM

Ah! Very good question, Rob!

It's not really that all muggle inventions don't work in Hogwarts, after all, there are clocks there, and other mechanical things. It's that muggle ELECTRONICS don't work around magic. Hermione tells us in Goblet of Fire that muggle walkie-talkies don't work in Hogwarts, they're electronic. Radios and TVs are similar, and of course, as Coxrid very aptly described in the article, any kind of computer hardware is just a lost cause...

A slide projector, as seen in Prisoner of Azkaban, isn't electronic, and it's very possible that the projector Snape used wasn't even ELECTRICAL, it probably had a candle as its light source.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on August 21, 2007 8:55 PM

But Neville said that in the while the D.A. were in hiding, they were keeping up with Potterwatch on the radio!

And in both PoA and GoF movies, a record player is used.

Posted by C.J. from Utah on August 21, 2007 9:51 PM

They were listening to Potterwatch on the Wizarding Wireless. Those are magical devices, not muggle radios.

In Goblet of Fire, the record player is obviously totally mechanical (not electrical or electronic) because it was all needle and great big amplifier horn.

Posted by Dave Haber from Los Angeles, CA on August 21, 2007 9:52 PM

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