All manner of interest groups now use computerized bulletin boards. Registered users send announcements, comments, questions and answers to the board by E-mail, where they are then stored and distributed. For many, bulletin boards prove an efficient and informal way of keeping in touch and of finding information quickly.
A bulletin board seems particularly suitable for historians of scientific instruments to share expertise. A question posted electronically rather than sent to an individual by letter is more likely to be seen by someone with a useful answer or comment, and all recipients benefit from what is offered.
At the last meeting of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union for History and Philosophy of Science, held in Prague in September 1995, the Museum took on the responsibility of organizing such a bulletin board. Anyone who has access to E-mail and who would like to join the list when it opens should send a message to the Museum via firstname.lastname@example.org registering their interest.
The bulletin board has been christened ‘RETE’, reflecting not only the most prominent component of the astrolabe but also, in the sense of the original Latin, an actual ‘net’ or, indeed, the Web itself.