ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Floodwaters Rise —

So this is what my job is and that’s pretty goddamned great.

I am currently in a project to gather up scanned copies of every computer magazine or newsletter that has gone out of print. That’s what I’ve mostly been up to, and that’s where I am.

As of this writing, I have put up the following magazines and newsletters.

Computer Magazines

Computer Newsletters

This is over 2,500 issues of magazines. It’s a little harder to calculate page counts, but I believe we’re somewhere in the order of a quarter million (250,000 pages) uploaded in the last seven days. When I’m productive, I’m productive.

Let’s get things clear – I am not the person who scanned these magazines, not the person who collected them (in a few cases, I’ve been sent copies of magazines from this list or which should be on this list, but I didn’t scan them). I’m just someone who has gone out and gathered these from a huge amount of sites that have one or two magazines, or huge piles of newsletters and magazines, and I’m purely a middleman.  A very, very active middleman.

The Internet Archive backend is amazing and I have been learning a lot of ways to work with it. Specifically, I wrote a script called ingestor which can be handed PDFs of magazines and feeds them into the right place, the right collection, and with a bit of the information needed to make it slightly useful, i.e. title and date and grouping it into the right place. From there, the even more amazing deriving mechanism of Internet Archive converts the PDF into Epub, Kindle-compatible, Daisy, Djvu and whatever else it thinks it’s capable of. It also provides a kick-ass online reader so your device or browser can just start immediately reading the document. The whole thing is hardcore and intense and when I hand off the PDF of a magazine issue, I truly feel that issue is saved, preserved, and relevant.

But the work isn’t done. Here’s what I hope gets done, what I think is left to do.

When a magazine issue is up, say, this issue of Your Commodore magazine, you only have a small amount of obvious information that a script could yank in: Title, Issue Number, Month, Date. What should be up there is at least a copy of the table of contents in the description, which will help searchers greatly. What would be a dream would be a set of metadata pairs like the UPC code, the editor’s name, the page count, and the rest. I have little hope that we’ll get the dream, but the stuff that should get up there will ideally become the province of interested parties.

Besides the scanning that the army of anonymous or not-so-anonymous groups are doing, I’d like to see the descriptions and table of contents get swapped back and forth between us – having a copy, the scanning or hosting site having a copy.  If you look at some of the magazines, such as Compute! Magazine, you can see indexes and descriptions are already in. That’s because work was done on another site – I’ve given that site,, credit for doing so. I believe intensely in giving credit for it, and making those indexes generally available. I hope people consider adopting a shorter-run magazine, and doing all the describing – the cool part is you can read up on this magazine and learn everything about it, reading every issue and getting steeped in the history. But we’ll see how this all pans out.

The work continues. My intention here is to no less than utterly change the state of access to this vital aspect of computer history, this collection of programs, advertisements, images, and information related to home computers. I hope the payoff is worth the effort.

Get reading!

Categorised as: computer history

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. Can you point to some article describing how these scans are made? I mean, other than the obvious. I have a few hundreds magazines, comics and books I’d love to non-destructively scan, but all I have is a flatbed scanner, meaning their spines will either get damage or, in the worst cases, I’d have to cut them off altogether. Other than purchasing specialized book-scanning equipment, how does one solves this issue? Or is a destructive scan the only practical way to go?

  2. SN says:

    If you’re taking suggestions, I’d like to see archived copies of Rainbow Magazine (a computer magazine for Tandy Color Computers back in the early to mid 80s) made available on Internet Archive. A while back, I saw scanned copies were being posted in various places, so I’m guessing they’re sitting out there somewhere, waiting to be archived..

  3. Coderjoe says:

    @Alexander Gieg:

    There is the DIY book scanner project at

    Their goal is to make it easy to make non-destructive book scanners.

    Additionally, I think I read that does accept loans for scanning on their book scanning equipment.

  4. Ross says:

    You have brought back to me parts of my life that were the happiest during a time that was the worst for me. You have no idea how outrageously happy I am to see these covers and articles again. Thank you.

  5. CaryMG says:

    INFO FTW !!!!!