Everybody needs a new year’s resolution. Most of them also need to follow through. I am going to try both.
It’s a simple one, too: “By the end of 2013, change online computer history forever.” I’ve been working at the Internet Archive for nearly two years now, every day better than the last, with memories and happiness among the finest I’ve known. Now it’s time to secure the rigging and sail into the sunrise.
To that end, I am concocting several grandiose projects intended to bring the maximum amount of computer historical data into the best possible and most accessible ways that I can, and ensure they’re at arm’s reach for research, knowledge and reference. Everyone has various subjects and specialties they particularly enjoy – this one is mine.
So let’s begin.
I am shoving over 25,000 manuals, reference sheets, catalogs, code listings and books into the Internet Archive from the directories of the Bitsavers Collection. As we speak, I’m past 2,000 of them, and hundreds are coming in every few hours.
Bitsavers is a brilliant scanning project that has been a dark horse wonder on the internet for years now. It’s the hard work of multiple good people including Al Kossow, who is the curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. With millions of pages scanned from intimidating numbers of sources, Bitsavers is a vital resource, well maintained, and extensively mirrored.
It was only a matter of time, then, that scripts I’d written could be used to ingest all of Bitsavers into a collection at the Internet Archive. It’s only a few dozen gigabytes, right?
ingestor, the script I wrote that does it, will eventually be one of a number of public tools I’ll provide to help people bring bulk-upload projects up to speed. A number of Archive Team members already use these tools. They’re fast, the error checking is a-ok, and once you have a bunch of a certain type of file, you just sit back and watch the Magnificent Contraption (my name for the Internet Archive’s processing infrastructure) in awe.
The Internet Archive is, at its heart, a reading machine – a place where the data can be experienced (audio, video and books) by downloading or streaming all sorts of media. Bitsavers has, to its credit, heavily prioritized acquiring scans and data over presenting it all in a cute little package. Combining these two forces results in an unstoppable library.
Here’s some documents to check out, to see what I’m talking about:
- The original project scope papers by Jef Raskin for the Macintosh computer (1980)
- How Write Protect Tabs worked in 1958. (Disabling writers for Drum Memory)
- The Second West Coast Computer Faire Conference Proceedings (1978)
- The 1960 Tektronix Catalog of Oscilloscopes and other Electronics
- Working with a Winchester Drive Controller in 1983, from Western Digital
- The VT100 hogs the spotlight, so here’s a VK100 Terminal Manual (1982)
- The manual for the Atari 400/800 Text Editor (1981)
- That awesome party back in 1951 when MIT discussed how Magnetic Drums would work
And, I promise you, there’s a lot more in here.
Is it buried? A little. I’ve got plans on how to fix that as well. But for now, I’ll be shoving these documents in as fast as my scripts can wend them and the Magnificent Contraption can OCR/Convert them.
Again, I had nothing to do with the scanning and arrangements of these wonderful documents. I’m just putting them into another framework, another place. And I hope that the toil and effort taken by the Bitsavers volunteers can get even wider recognition.
Stop in, browse around. You might be surprised what you find.
And things are just getting started.
Categorised as: computer history
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