ASCII by Jason Scott

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In Realtime: Prepping for the Transfer of 25,000 Manuals —

A day after my previous post, and things have been happening.



First, I asked for people to send money if they couldn’t help any other way, and people have. This took away any concern on my part that 1. The materials are not recognized for their value, 2. I would blow out my savings trying to make this all happen. This has allowed me to take all the other steps I’ve taken with no problems.

A storage unit has been rented, about a mile from the warehouse. I’ll be pre-paying for a few months, and if needed, rent a couple. That will fix the immediate “no place to go / have to make some poor guy lose access to his basement out of the goodness of his heart” problem. Plus, the close distance means people can be sent on packing runs very quickly, and be back in almost no time.

About a dozen people have said they will try to be there. I think it needs to be more. Many people will be coming in the later half of the day, when energy will probably be flagging for the ones who come in the morning, but I can really use more people coming in the morning. Hit me up at if you want to volunteer to be there, morning or evening.

So, in the very short term, looks like at least some amount of the manuals are going to be saved. Obviously there’s no guarantee it will be comprehensive, but we will be doing our best to get as much as possible. Since I’m driving down tonight and staying in a hotel nearby, I will be answering mails and comments as I can, but tomorrow is going to likely be occasional tweets of the action and a whole lot of moving paper.


The first post made it to Hackernews, HackaDay and a lot of tweets. Naturally, since I’d written the post in haste (this is all, after all, real time), gaps were happily filled by people and a lot of suggestions were made and questions were asked. So let’s hit those off.

Hey, you should work with the Internet Archive. Way ahead of you. I work at the Internet Archive. Whether they’re going to take up piles of paper is another issue, but the scanning and hosting of said scans would definitely happen – maybe I’ll do a crowd-funding or action for it. But yeah.

Hey, go ask Google. I think people don’t understand what Google is and how much it particularly cares about doing “The Right Thing” (not much), and the next person to mention the Linear Book Scanner (a prototype that destroys books), well, they’re going to get a hug and my distracting words of love.

You should go ask this library or that archive or that whatever. I agree that is a possibility, but none of these institutions, none of them, can work within a 48 hour turnaround. So I’m doing it. The goal is to pay for at least 3 months of storage and maybe more, until the right thing is done with these manuals.

Why are these even worth anything or worth keeping, tidy your life, lighten up, etc. Either you really understand why 80 years of manuals, instructions and engineering notes related to 20th century electronics are of value both historically, aesthetically and culturally, or you don’t. To try to make the case would be a waste of time for both of us.

This is impossible. Nothing is impossible.

Update later!




Categorised as: computer history | jason his own self

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  1. P H says:

    Good to hear that you’ve got the money in place.
    These are historically important, and I’m certain that many more of these archives get thrown out – it’s fortunate that you’re able to save (and make public) this one. Best of luck!

  2. dsalasoider says:

    I’m in the wrong country to help out and lack a Twitter account, but have you already tried tweeting at the local hackerspaces? (per google) It seems like they might have an incentive to keep old hardware manuals around.

  3. knitbrew says:

    Thank you for taking the effort to preserve these.I have sent a message to the Society of American Archivists listserve about your project. Perhaps someone there can recommend a suitable long term solution. I am sure there is an archive out there somewhere for which unique engineering/technical manuals fall under their collecting scope. Perhaps a university with a prestigious engineering school would be interested. Best of luck!

  4. gizmo1324 says:

    Is there a donation site yet?

  5. Where is this located? If it’s nearby I can come help.

  6. I also want to reiterate what someone else said. Don’t set the manuals on the floor in the storage unit. No matter how dry concrete looks, it wicks up moisture from the ground and will rot any paper set on it. I speak from bitter experience. The solution I’ve used is just throw some cheap 2*4’s on the floor, and set the boxes on those.

  7. terrahertz says:

    There’s another discussion of this on an electronics forum here:

    Thanks for your efforts. I’m one of those who consider these manuals to be a priceless treasure, that MUST be saved. And not just to scan then destroy the physical copies, but to preserve and distribute the paper manuals to those who do value them.

    The people saying “tidy your life, lighten up, who needs physical copies, etc” are all short-sighted fools ignorant of history, and have NO IDEA of what could happen to our electronic castle of cards in the future. Physical copies of these manuals cannot be valued in today’s commercial terms. They are an irreplaceable cultural and technological treasure.

    I’m cursing that I’m broke atm, and in Australia. Or I’d be filling a room of my house floor to ceiling with this opportunity.
    Also cursing that once you have these packed in a storage unit, there will be no way to buy selected manuals when I can afford it.

  8. J. Peterson says:

    Many of the manuals look like they’re 3-ring bound; easy to feed to a sheet scanner. On the others, maybe buy two or three; one to sacrifice to the scanner and a couple paper copies for posterity? People are going to be googling for these for years to come. I hope all goes well with this mission.

  9. Church says:

    An address would be nice.

  10. BLT says:

    How much would it be to just pay an additional month on the lease? It seems like the books could stay put if you picked up the lease for a month or two.