ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Scanning Even More Infocom —

I’ve been a little busy this summer with a lot of projects, to say the least. One of them involved going to Steve Meretzky’s basement to scan things.

Some time later, I asked of Steve if it would be possible to, well, you know.. scan every scrap of paper related to Infocom he had.  Nicely, Steve said yes.

So in the background of everything else, I’ve been scanning thousands, thousands of pages of design notes, sketched maps, press clippings, memos, correspondence, you name it. All related to Infocom. (There’s more, but I just couldn’t be 100% comprehensive on all the papers, related to Legend Entertainment, Boffo, and other works Steve was involved in.)

I mention this because we’re getting towards the end of this project. I’m now scanning deep into the night, as much and as fast as I can, all the pages I’ve been lent, so that these will absolutely be saved for the future. I’m scanning in full color, at 800 dpi. Each TIFF is 2-4 megabytes. As you might expect, this has been adding up – hundreds of gigabytes of scan data.  It has been huge.  And I am nearly done.

Poor Intern Rob‘s been sucked into this process as well, just so I don’t go completely off the rails.

It’s not been easy – some items are fragile (basically all are one-of-a-kind), while others are odd sizes or require multiple scans to get all the sides and configurations.

How good a scan is 800dpi? This good:


That’s from a hand-drawn map of Leather Goddesses of Phobos, on graph paper. I wanted it to be the case that people down the line could get a very good idea of what was said on each page, and an academic or scholar of Infocom and Meretzky could clip out very good example images for others to inspect.

To scan I use Hamrick Software’s Vuescan, which is so far beyond the other scanning software I’ve found as to leave them in the dust. It does what I expect scanning software to do: I put something in, say ‘scan’, and it does the scanning, saves off two versions of the file (full-size and JPG) and then beeps twice. You’d be surprised how unbelievably shitty, un-user-interface-y and plain all around hostile scanning software is out there.

After scanning, I will then go through the documents to find all items written by others who are not Steve, then interact with them about getting permission to post these items. Then comes redaction of personal information (phone numbers and addresses are in some). After it’s been determined what people are comfortable with going public, it will go public. This all might take a little time, but I want no regrets or tears for doing all this – I want people to see the stuff, to see how much work went into these games and how a master gamesmaker honed his craft over a decade at a world-class software maker. But we’re going to do it right, OK?

The documents are destined for an archive that is not me. I’ll leave it to others to announce those details. I just want it known these aren’t going back down into a basement. I just wanted one excellent scan of them before they moved onto the next phase of life.

It was a huge, huge display of trust on the part of Steve Meretzky to let me have the privilege of scanning these documents for posterity. These were documents that had never been out of his hands, ever. I am humbled and appreciative of that trust, and I intend to finish this project with pride, and ensure later generations will enjoy this work, and what can be learned from it.

Categorised as: computer history

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  1. Drew Wallner says:

    Any chance any of this content might potentially end up as an “extra” on GET LAMP when it has its DVD release? Just a thought…could be really cool.

  2. Michael Kohne says:

    Vuescan GOOD. After you mentioned it, I bought it (even though I only scan one text item a month, and rarely some pictures). Not fooling with whatever Canon gave me with the scanner has been very nice, let me tell you.

  3. Chris says:

    This is amazing, and I can’t wait to see the documents.

  4. Ed says:

    Interesting. We are scanning letter-size documents at 600 ppi in 24-bit color and the TIFF image files are coming out at 50-80 MB, even with LZW compression. I wonder how you are getting 2-4 MB per image file. Are you using 16 bit color? Or could Vuescan be doing some kind of lossy compression to the image file, and then using TIFF as a wrapper?