ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Collection —

Here is how it is done.

After a couple days of delightful reunions and questionable criticism flare-ups at the Open Video Conference, I am walking what is supposed to be a few blocks to a post-event dinner. In fact, it is a many-block walk, and I am walking with Kevin Driscoll, who I know through many different avenues. In the time allotted us by luck, we discuss many different things.

“There is someone on a mailing list I subscribe to that is giving away a lot of computer journals and magazines,” says Kevin. “Maybe you’d like to know about it?”

“Without question,” I say. “I’ll take any and all of it with no reservation.”

Kevin provides my contact information to the person (who shall remain nameless for the moment, until I hear otherwise about his comfort about being known), and the person mails me.

We discuss the situation, and I stop by for a visit. Having assembled decades of magazines related to computers, technology and programming, and realizing that he doesn’t need it as he used to, he is looking to donate it somewhere and have it looked after. I offer to take it all, without reservation. He is pleased.

Today I stopped by and picked up the collection. It is very large:

It is comprised not only of magazines and journals, but also some technology, specifically Sun servers and Amiga 3000/UX machines and a variety of modems, some in pristine form and still in the box. This took three people about half an hour to load. It took two of us about an hour and a half to unload.

The collection, now in my kitchen, is daunting:

I won’t have solid numbers for a while, but my gut tells me this is in the range of about 12,000 documents. Some of them are near-entire runs of magazines, from 1970s baby steps through to 1990s rollover and irrelevance. Others are proceedings from conferences like USENIX, or collections of sales material for any number of products now gone.

Going a little closer, here’s a collection of late-1970s BYTE magazine:

Lying on top is a selection from one of the first twenty BYTE magazine issues.  But as I said, I now have BYTE basically from infancy through to the 90s.

When I get these magazines, I bag them in comic book bags, giving them slightly more protection than just being stacked up. The only issue here is that they end up becoming a rather unstable pile because of all the plastic. But still, you can do a pretty good job of stacking up bagged/protected magazines for eventual placement into bins. Here’s  a collection of bagged piles, soon to go into bins, from this collection:

The bagged issues are then logged by me into my system that is generating Now that that system is coming into some real content, I will be re-jiggering it to make better sense of what it has. For now, though, this brings the number of logged magazines up past 1,800. I expect it to grow by leaps and bounds with the introduction of this new collection.

What I’m up against is probably best demonstrated by this stack of National Geographic, which is just the issues from the 1950s:

The National Geographics go back to 1916. It is quite something to hold a magazine that hit the stands 24 years before my father was born. Most of this stuff dates to the last 30 years, though. Is National Geographic outside my purview? Maybe by some eyes. But it has lots of technological history and it certainly has wonderful photographs of technology and ads for other technology in it. So I’m quite comfortable having it around.

This all came about because of a chance conversation, an opportunity seen, and a willingess to offer to take an entire collection out of the home of someone who wanted it gone. Others offered piecemeal acceptance – an issue here, a pile there. I was the only one who offered to take it all. I’m glad I did.

Ironically, I have been working to simplify my life. This has temporarily made it rather complicated. But life doesn’t schedule things based on our goals, and we sometimes have to realize that opportunities just kind of show up.

I will have more information on the depth of this collection in the future. Until then, remember to say yes.

Categorised as: computer history | housecleaning | jason his own self

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  1. Wyatt says:

    Very, very nice! But at the same time it raises the question in my mind of how you (will) preserve it aside from bagging and tagging. I’m not an expert on the life-expectancy of periodicals, but I feel like there must be some amount of deterioration over time, especially for the old NatGeos. As the collection grows and time moves on, what are your plans to preserve these things while still making them accessible to people?

  2. Shannon Harris says:

    Reading this and seeing these pictures…my first thought was….”Is Jason married ?” – because I don’t know if you’ve ever mentioned it before or not. But my wife would kill me if I brought home a U-Haul full of history. I agree that National Geographic has many times had great feature stories on technology – I do have a few on my shelves as well. If you have the space – keep them all, otherwise maybe scan out the relevant ads and keep the ones with full stories.

  3. Demie says:

    National Geographic is available in digital form, going all the way back. Just letting you know in case you thought of scanning them.

  4. Jason Scott says:

    I’ll write an entry on what I will do with this, which will answer these questions.

  5. robohara says:

    Seeing those pictures makes me physically uneasy. I’m a terrible multitasker. If those showed up here I’d have to start cataloging things and wouldn’t — no, couldn’t — stop until I was done.

    I guess the answer I would like to know in your next entry is: what happens when the collection outgrows your home — or, more importantly perhaps, what happens when outgrows Jason Scott?

  6. RetroC64 says:

    THIS IS IT! I AM OUTRAGED! I tried collecting the most basic of computer histories on eBay. Not did it take forever to find even the dumbest stuff but I paid a Fortune.

    Now you show us this incredible collection of rare history that simply falls on your lap for free.

    I am official as green as your text in envy.

    Great post. 🙂

  7. coax says:

    wow man excellent. i have some old computer magazines from early 90s too, they are always fun to reminisce with.
    it was a whole different vibe back then..