Besides adding thousands of items to archive.org and uploading terabytes of data (I’m at 28 terabytes of data uploaded since May of this year), I’ve also been working among a bunch of fronts to bring a whole raft of knowledge and history into the browseable, usable world. Trust me, a lot is getting in there. Allow me to both reveal the next step in this grand arch plan, and put a call out for people to help.
To review, the Grand Arch Plan that has been going on for 30 years.
Step One: Begin collecting computer history. I started this step when I was 9, pulling together printouts, cassettes, later floppy disks, and hardware.
Step Two: Put it all up on the Web. I started this step when I was 28, creating textfiles.com and consistently adding to both that collection and related collections.
Step Three: Absorb the human stories. This is what BBS Documentary, GET LAMP and the next three documentaries are for. This has resulted in hundreds of hours of footage of people talking about computer history, almost all of which I am putting online into the collections begun in step two.
And now the next step:
Step Four: Ubiquity. Make it possible to get to all of computer history from everywhere, as wherever feasible. Do what it takes to make it feasible.
I’m well into this step, having affiliated myself with one of the largest public data collections in the world and giving them massive piles of materials from the first three steps. Everything is open, everything is on fast pipes, everything is easy to pull down and do what you want with it. It’s going very, very well.
But on the whole I am primarily dealing with artifacts and not experience. A number of people have done some good work to bring in experience of computer history, most notably the Emulator People. In fact, if you don’t go too crazy on the rococo specifics of the accuracy of emulators, they do really really well to take you from “I wonder what it was like to play Choplifter” to “Wow, I am playing Choplifter“. And as someone sitting in the channels of several emulation projects, I will tell you they are all getting better, every single day – improvements in speed, accuracy, flexibility and expandability.
So here is what I’d like to do.
Without sounding too superlative, I think this will change computer history forever. The ability to bring software up and running into any browser window will enable instant, clear recall and reference of the computing experience to millions. Setting up images that provide walkthroughs of specific computer history/reference, that will allow playing and and recall of all manner of things online for the last 50 years (the MESS emulator has support for the 1960 PDP-1). I am more than willing to engage in debate over this – but my hope is that you’re past this and going “but how is that even possible?”
I’m focused on it. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve been doing for 30 years.
I am right here. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we can get started making an ad-hoc group to work on it. I can answer questions and talk to anyone. This is priority one for me.
Hope to hear from you.
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