ASCII by Jason Scott

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The Case for Manuals —

It has been quite a great time at my new position within, working as I am from a remote location.

Forget hitting the ground running – I’m trying to make the ground have no idea what hit it.

I already just mentioned the MUD archiving work I’m calling out for, but there’s lots more on my radar.

Let me speak of one now in version 1.0: the collected, curated archive of arcade game manuals I am adding.

Right now, it’s at 362 manuals.  Soon it’s going to be 1,700. I added an initial batch to learn how one does bulk importing on, and then I have been entering metadata (along with a handful of volunteers, who are listed on the front page). With the addition of the metadata to all the manuals, and the whole thing being searchable and browsable, I am declaring it version 1.0 and then will come back to it later this summer.

Manuals are, to me, at the very heart of what makes a library useful. Anyone who has had a junk drawer of discarded instructions, or bought a critical item with 10 unlabelled buttons, or found themselves wondering what to call this part that just snapped off in your hands, knows the in-the-now importance of manuals – but this critical moment comes with weeks or years between emergencies.  Meanwhile, manuals get thrown out, instructions get lost, lore gets forgotten. But if they’re kept in a library, where the community can find and reference them as needed – you ensure the stuff is right there when you need it. In the case of manuals for things like tools, firearms, cars.. a manual can literally save lives with critical information. Less so, of course, with arcade games.

But arcade game manuals have a special place for me. I said as such when I wrote an entry about my initial acquisition of these.  You feel like you have a magic book in your hand, where this wonderful video game has all sorts of options, stories, and explanations you might never know about just being a “player”. Few people are “just players” anymore, of course, so some of this is just technical information, but there’s so many uses for these manuals beyond access to instructions, and the subjects themselves are so interesting, that I get a real charge out of making all of it available.

But while it was great to put that up initially on, making a more canonical version at the Internet Archive means that people can point to an institution, with non-profit status, making these manuals available to people who need them, and to perhaps encourage people who have manuals for games that are not digitized yet to do so. (Personally, I’d wait until I upload the other 1,300, just to be absolutely sure the game manual in question is not already available.) This is all very exciting, and one of many collections I hope to bring to the archive under the guise of my new job/career.

So browse around, download, check them out.

Hey ground, how ya feelin’ about now?

Categorised as: computer history | jason his own self

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  1. Sushi K says:

    I feel this way about pack-in CD ROMs that come with products …

    Regardless of whether the actual drivers or DLLs or PDF files all exist somewhere, the packaged CD ROM is a cohesive and complete snapshot of everything that goes into making a certain thing work, and I think they are worth saving.

    You know I try my hand at this archiving thing here and there and this is some low hanging fruit that I’ve been working on.

  2. Mike K says:

    You rock. I wish I could somehow help with archival stuff but I wasn’t even born yet when games like Robotron came out or when MUDs were popular. Keep up the awesome work