ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

In Realtime: Saving 25,000 Manuals —

Earlier this year, a number of kind folks told me that an esteemed seller of manuals was going to be getting out of the business. I lamented but didn’t give it much thought.

As the months went on, I eventually got into contact with them, and they with me, and we discussed a possible contingency where, just before they were to throw them out, I might find a way to at least save some of them.

This week, that time arrived. In fact, it’s late Friday and I have to start taking them out of the place on Monday.

Let me mention a few details and how I’m doing this.

First, after a conversation with the folks at the warehouse, I immediately decided to drive 230 miles to the location, to show several things: that I was serious, that I wanted details, and to make arrangements.

This is quite a collection of manuals.


It has been explained to me that they intend to throw them out next week. It’s a whole complicated story why, but it stems from the loss of the lease for the building and not enough of a business case to move it and set up another long-term storage.

But they’re being kind enough to allow me to try and take what I can, so that’s what I agreed to and what they’re up to.

We walked the place and discussed history, logistics, and paper quality.


These are very nice manuals, some dating back to the thirties. Many are of impeccable quality.


To give you an idea of how close we’re cutting this… as we go through the shelves and take a unique copy (sometimes there are a dozen or more copies in a shelf), the non-unique copies are going right into a dumpster. They will likely be helping us as they go, doing the pulling out of one or two unique manuals and then having the rest disappear.

It is 2am as I write this – I hope I don’t have to explain the inherent meaningfulness, usefulness, and importance of saving as many unique manuals from this collection as I can.


The plan is to arrive Monday morning, along with $900 of bankers boxes an anonymous donor paid for, and start putting these manuals into boxes. I am then going to rent a nearby (1 mile away) Storage Unit, using a rented truck from a nearby Truck Rental place (2 miles).

The warehouse is located in Finksburg, MD, about 30 miles northwest of Baltimore.

The more people who I can get to show up to the place during the day or early evening, the better. The more people who throw money at me via paypal (jason at textfiles dot com) so I can pay the $250/month storage unit fee until the end of the year (so this can get an appropriate home), the better.

This is a lot to take on. But when history’s at stake, it’s what has to be done.

Full photos from today’s shoot are here.



Categorised as: computer history | jason his own self

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  1. Steve says:

    Good luck, sadly there’s nothing I can do to assist beyond wishing you well. You’re a hero for doing this stuff, Jason.

  2. Darkstar says:

    Wow, Just.. wow. Sooo much cool stuff in there. Is there also something computer-related? From the pictures it looks like mostly datasheets etc. for electronic components and a few manuals for scientific/technical equipment.

  3. Where is this warehouse?

    • phuzz says:

      Apparently it’s in Finksburg, 30 miles northwest of Baltimore.
      There’s the small matter of the Atlantic ocean between me and there though, so I’m afraid I can’t help much.

  4. Bill Jackson says:

    The library of Congress can be the archive of last resport?

  5. Effrem Norwood says:

    What state is this located in?

  6. ben kent says:

    Please, put up a link to a donation site. I am in rural Kentucky and want to help.

  7. tamper20 says:

    Hey there, I’d suggest contacting the American Amateur Radio Relay League to start with. There are plenty of ham operators who love old hardware, and those manuals will be very interesting to them. If nothing else, they ought to be able to connect you with old hardware enthusiasts.

  8. H Greely says:

    May I suggest a scanning party! Provide coffee, bagels, chicken sandwiches and WiFi…Oh, and an industrial guillotine to take the spines off. Volunteers bring their own laptop and scanners. I would come if I lived on the East Coast.

  9. Jake says:

    Contact and get these scanned and uploaded, I’m sure they would be thrilled.

  10. Ed Palmer says:

    Have you contacted The Internet Archive to see if they’d be interested in taking them?

  11. nctnico says:

    It would make sense to filter through the manuals and only preserve the rare ones (Japanese brands). Perhaps digitize them and make them available online.

  12. wes brown says:

    Jason, I just sent you one months worth of rent. If I can do more I will. I would also love to see this collection digitized for everyone to use and enjoy if humanly possible.

  13. Helpful Suggestion says:

    You may want to check with if you haven’t tried that already…..

  14. mofftigriss says:

    (French guy, to far away…)

    You need to contact as soon as possible. Really.
    And to tell the story, and make it strong.

    If there is a lot of software / computers stuffs, try to contact the MO5, it’s a french association who work for computer/gaming-stuff preservation. Maybe they can help you ( contacts, mainly. They have an internationnal network of them) :

    Search help in the local hackerspaces (there is some of them, only in Baltimore).

    You can make something big with help, good luck 🙂

  15. The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park is looking for an Ericsson Telecom datasheet for the the GC10A Dekatron… if you run across any move please post!

  16. Charlie Wilson says:

    I wish I had known about this before. You might contact the Living Computer Museum (a Paul Allen thing) in Seattle. They may be interested in some of the material.

  17. Tom says:

    I’d like to suggest putting pallets on the floor of the storage unit before loading the boxes in there. That will lessen the chance of water damage. Water has a strange way of making into those units.

    Also, take pics of the barcodes, print them and tape them to the boxes, or just put them in the box before you put the lid on. If the owners will allow you to copy their inventory database, it might make easier when it’s time to pull them out of storage.

  18. Tyler Pieron says:

    After seeing the link on Reddit, and reading the story here, I immediately though of the digitization work that Google is doing – no only would the books be saved, but be made available for everyone to use for years and decades to come. The contact link for Google Books is here:

    Best of luck!

  19. terrahertz says:

    Dammit. This would be Manuals Plus. It’s a tragedy, and should be criminal that they are dumpstering their manuals. I’m in Australia, or I’d be there with a semi and filling up shipping containers. WHHHY can’t they donate them to an organization able to store them and give them away?
    I really do think that destroying these old and in some cases unique and irreplaceable manuals should be a crime.

  20. Church says:

    Holy shit this is in my neck of the woods. Which biz is this? I could make an educated guess, but I’d hate to find out there’s a cluster of them. What’s the earliest we can be there?

    Details, man!

  21. JimmyG says:

    I can help, I’m a few miles away. But not until after work ~6pm. Shoot me an email with details.

  22. Serj says:

    Sent you $50 for enterprise. Hope you find the means to digitize this treasure trove.

  23. Brad Srebnik says:

    Many companies have associated museums that might take manuals if they could be shipped. For example, Tektronix has one at

  24. nohazmats says:

    I encourage you to reach out to the Historical Electronics Museum located near BWI Airport. They may have human and other resources to contribute (and may desire to provide a permanent repository for this priceless colection!)

    • Bill Jackson says:

      The magazine archives copy for sale business has collapse in the past 10 years due to the existence of digital archives made from these and other scanned originals. As result, the money earned from these sales has dropped because there are dozens of free online Instruction Manual data bases.
      The manual used to be a scarce resource – no more.

  25. Ryan says:

    You should contact the Unallocated Space meetup group/hackerspace to see if they can help. You may also want to contact UHaul for recommendations for movers. I’ll gladly chip in the money for a few hours of labor, but unfortunately I will be in Toronto while you need the help.

  26. Nate B says:

    Whoah, It’s like a physical dead-tree version of the Archive Team! Swooping in to rescue information from impending doom, or something. Do you know those guys? 😉

    I kid, I kid!

    Seriously this is awesome, and as one of those “kind folks” mentioned in the opening, I’m super glad to see it coming to fruition. At some point I fully expect to see a chart of “Amount of paper (in tons) in Jason’s possession awaiting digitization” plotted over time or something.

    I’ve sent some dollars to help with storage. I’m half tempted to call off work tomorrow and drive down there. It’s only 8 hours…

  27. gizmo1324 says:

    Please post a link for donations…Thank you for taking up this effort.

  28. a d00d says:

    It was pointed out on by a poster (not me) that, if this news would have been made public during a week day rather than on the week end, that people would descend in droves upon you!

    As for me, it’s clear from those pictures that these need to be preserved and not destroyed. The ideas from the other posters above are great ones. I sure hope the collection can be saved. Unfortunately, since I’m broke and on the wrong side of the country and continent, I can’t help. Good luck!!

  29. I might be able to help, but I have back problems and I’m scheduled for surgery in 2 weeks so what I can do is limited. I’m only about 15 miles away in Cockeysville. I have a friend who services test equipment and he may be interested in some of these – he is also not far away, in New Windsor. Let me know just where this is and when you will be available there.

  30. TW says:

    The BAMA or boat “anchor manual archive” also hosts thousands of manuals for electronic equipment. It would be a good idea to contact them and see if they would be willing to host or assist with getting help for the archival.

  31. I’m in the area and depending on the time I can help. Whats the address and when do you plan to move them?

  32. Priority number one: landlord gets paid! Then we’ll see about those manuals…

  33. I helped rescue 20 or so boxes of Prime Computer manuals from a site in the UK (I’m in the US). I got them all scanned with a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner ($400 on Amazon). These things are *fantastic*, and will scan 30-60 sheets (both sides!) per minute. I had maybe 10 paper jams or double-feeds, all detected by the scanner. It also converted all of the books to searchable PDF’s. You’ll want to do that in a separate step though, because it is very slow. I scanned without OCR first, then overnight I did the OCR conversion with Abbey FineReader (came with the scanner). A fellow Prime fan is hosting the scanned manuals at:

    Good luck!

  34. Steve says:

    Mybe contact the Smithsonian or the computer history museum in San Jose?

  35. Brent says:

    +1 on national electronics museum and Google Books.

    Electronics museum may be able to provide short term storage, but Google seems like the way to go for archiving and possibly even the scanning itself. Plus there should be enough tech dweebs there to understand the value of this collection.

    And good on you for stepping up to save these.


  36. Jim Williams says:

    I am in the area and may be able to help, depending on work hours, etc. Please let me know how I can find the place and when would be a good time to show up.

  37. Brian K. White says:

    I didn’t hear about this until today right this minute while listening to Retro Computing Roundtable podcast.
    Is it already too late to help? I am willing and able to drive the few hundred miles to the area and rent a truck and/or just give you money towards truck & storage, and of course my own hands and back. But is it all over by now?

  38. lpress says:

    I just found this link — what happened?