ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Delightful Overload —

The wave of interest in my Arcade Manuals collection has not subsided; in fact, it’s kind of held firm the last few days, to the point that people are complaining about a general slowness. Over 200 gigabytes of arcade manuals have shot into the hands of over 20,000 people. That’s crazy.

Crazy good, I hasten to add. It’s amazing how many people were curious, wanted to read these manuals, maybe just wanted to see what one was, to get a copy of it and maybe immediately throw it out. Some, I’ve noticed, have begun just downloading the full-on site, apparently worried that it’s going to disappear in a few days and so they better get the shots in. You nutty kids, things are going just fine and I don’t expect any trouble for some time to come. The fact that there were so many people who wanted these things, for whatever reason, and I was able to bring it to them, that’s pretty amazing and makes me very happy.

But here’s the thing; none of it is particularly special.

First of all, there’s a better organized arcade manual site out there, (the ARCade ARChive). It’s been around for years, and except where a couple companies made them take crap down, they’ve got stuff really amazingly arranged. If I ever get my hands on the DVD images, I’ll mirror it, but still this is their bag and they’re great at it. Along a similar vein, the arcade manuals I have scanned are named according to the TOSEC convention and were obviously part of someone else’s collection; I don’t know if it was browsable but it likely was and is. With a modicum of effort, I stumbled onto sites that offer this stuff in Bittorrent form as well. In other words, I added a bunch of stuff to my site but I definitely didn’t add anything new to the network at large. It was there before and now it’s still there.

What happened, though, was that I got publicized in a few places, those places got linked from other places, and I won the “lottery”. But really, it was nothing special, just what got the attention of the herd that day.

Similarly, I got some attention for an entry I did on the 1980 Coleco Catalog, which was a caalog intended for distributors to choose the toys for the coming season. I got it from a flea market, haggled for it, and thought here, I’d saved something from oblivion, I’d done new work.

But no! There’s this site that totally kicks my catalog’s ass. Granted, it focuses entirely on the handhelds and not the other toys, but they do the handhelds really well. From this page, you get a link to this page which has a rare prototype for this promised game that never materialized! That’s dedication. But meanwhile you can do a google search for “Coleco” and my scan of the catalog is on the first page, right next to handheldmuseum. I don’t deserve that!

But this all highlights the cool part: this happens all the time. Instead of there being “the” handheld site, or “the” scanned catalog site, or “the” arcade manual site, tons of this stuff is everywhere. Even when one becomes a “hit” on the aggregate sites, that doesn’t preclude the fact that often the information is in tons of places, ranging from easy to rather difficult to suss out.

And beyond that, there’s stuff that you might want that, except through randomness, serendipity and coincidence, you will bump into.

For example, here’s a scanned book of the week weblog, which is basically a review and background for a scanned book available. Once a week, they’ve been shoving in these reviews of books, many of them around for months or years on, but now presented to you to find anew, for the first time. And when you find a book, you find a full book, dozens of scanned pages from all throughout history. Stuff you probably didn’t know you would even be interested in. And so it goes.

This is a miraculous time, that we are swimming in all this input. I have my preferences for technology of the 1960s and onward regarding bulletin boards or consumer electronics. But throw a well-scanned turn of the century tome at me and I’ll browse that sucker too. Heck, show me a well-scanned anything and I’ll probably give it a few minutes of my time.

This is constant, this incoming river of stuff. It’s torrential, truly a wall of information and images being scanned and attached to the huge ball of Internet Stuff. Sometimes it gets highlighted, other times it lays dormant for years before someone “discovers” it for a larger audience. I can never hope, in my lifetime, to even begin to even be aware of a small piece of it.

I guess I’ll just have to live longer. Good to have a reason!

Categorised as: Uncategorized

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Chris Barts says:

    I have to point you to Bitsavers now, because it is a perfect example of what you’re talking about. Bitsavers focuses on preserving information about relatively high-end computers and computer software (business and university use as opposed to home use, unless you happened to be massively rich and geeky) from the 1950s to sometime in the 1980s. Want to find out the instruction set for MIT’s TX-0, the first transistorized computer? Here it is in text form, and a scanned PDF is available in the same directory. The hacking world began around the TX-0, and its full instruction set is available for the grabbing.

    Be sure to hit the mirrors listed on the front page, of course, but certainly poke around and see what there is to see.

  2. I think the flood can be attributed to a couple of things.

    #1, the Internet is really fast — and I don’t just mean end user’s Internet connection speeds, although that’s certainly part of it. What I mean is, things go online fast, word gets out fast, people connect to it fast … and unfortunately, often times it goes offline fast. Back when things moved a bit slower, fewer people found out about things; downloads were slower, word travelled slower, and these data deposits tended to last longer. Back in the days of rogue warez FTP sites, sites would so online, programs would begin to trickle into them, word of the sites would spread, people would connect, often taking programs and occasionally leaving other programs behind, and so on. Nowadayz, I have this mental image of an angry soccer mob who (virtually) shows up, drinks all your beer, screws yer mom, kicks yer dog, pees on the carpet and sets the place on fire on the way out. WOOHAH FR33 STUPHS OMG YAYYYY! When you put things online like big collections of manuals, it’s this soccer mob who shows up, downloads everything, kicks your dog and screws your mom (or was it the other way around?) and so on. Unfortunately, it’s this giant, leech-hungry mob that ends up doing in a lot of smaller repositories that can’t (or aren’t willing to) handle the kind of traffic you’re seeing.

    And #2, I think these are being downloaded because they are for sale. A cursory search of eBay turned up lots of real manuals selling for $10 each. There are also CD compilations of arcade manuals selling for the same price. No doubt, the collection of manuals you have provided to the net will someday be for sale on eBay. Free > $10 — thus the downloading.