ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Generation TEXT —

In case you’re wondering, I do actually get fan mail, non-ironically, thanking me for the various projects I’ve done. I get hate mail too, but the fan-mail outnumbers it 20 to 1. So what I’m really saying is: Get cracking, you bastards.

In recent years, however, I’ve been receiving a type of fan mail I didn’t expect to get, but I should have. It reads, in various forms, this way.

“Thank you for being such an important part of my growing up.”

TEXTFILES.COM was founded in 1998. (October 8, 1998, actually). This means that it’s starting to edge towards 9 years old. It also means that it’s been possible for a kid to get online (let’s say, when they’re age 11 or 12), stumble upon the website, and then read it, off and on, until they’re in college. Since a lot of these files were written by kids between those ages, that means we have a case of a generation of teenagers leaving essays and thoughts to the next succeeding generation of teenagers, through my site.

I guess if you stick around long enough, you become an institution. The mail that comes now doesn’t have the tone of “good luck with your project”, but “I hope you can wish me well on my project.” Instead of “Where did you get these”, it’s “Thanks for having these.” In a few uninformed cases, I’ve actually gotten ‘Thanks for writing all these.”

Speaking of writing these…

When I put together, it was meant to simply be a collection of files that I knew people had worked hard on or which I was worried were going to disappear, even though they’d played a big part in my own youth. I figured I’d gone through all that trouble back then of saving them onto floppies and printouts, so I might as well put them online. That was 1998. Later, I realized that a few “BBS textfile-like” files were showing up, but I didn’t want them to end up being in the same place as the BBS textfiles themselves, so I created, which handles all the files made after 1995.

But an interesting thing happened. People started contributing new files to me directly.

And I don’t mean that they starting finding old BBS textfiles I didn’t have and sending them to me, although that did happen. I mean that people started writing new files in the style of BBS textfiles and then contributing them to me, directly, to be joined with the collection and “keep it going” even though there weren’t the same sort of dial-up BBSes to upload to.

Not wanting to shove them into, I created a directory, uploads, and started saving them in there, so they’d be a part of “the collection” without being relegated to “something I happened to find on the web”.

And here we are now, with over 550 files sent to me over the last 8 years. Quite a lot!

There’s a few people in there who have been contributing files to me for half a decade. I’ve actually watched their writing styles change, their focus and priorities shift, and in some cases, they disavow and hate previous works. It’s kind of fun to watch this progression in others; I certainly recognize that in my own works and growth.

So what’s it feel like to be an institution? Like I shouldn’t waste too much time in front of the TV, actually, and get myself in gear. High gear. I have to do it for the fans!

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