In Realtime: It Is Done —
When I can feel my face again, and after I finish cleaning up my untouched-for-a-week life up in New York, I will sit down and write a proper Post-mortem of everything, but here’s the high level news.
The goal, as you might recall, was to go into a closing warehouse of manuals, take as much as we could, and store it somewhere so that it could be properly “dealt with”, with the rest ending up in the trash.
We hit that goal. In total, the number of boxes is something between 1,600 and 1,700. These are boxes that each contain from a half-dozen to dozens of manuals, shop notes, catalogs and other related documents, mostly for testing equipment and electronics tools.
A few of us tried to do a very rough, very hand-wavy job of determining what the total number of manuals was, because it sure as hell wasn’t 25,000. At the end we decided that it is definitely over 50,000 and it is probably as high as 75,000. So we rescued twice as many items as I was told the room contained. That’s fantastic.
The amount of people who had walked in through the front door to volunteer help, some of them knowing nothing other than an address and that a friend had said “You must go there”, numbered at least 60. In some cases, entire families came – Mom, Dad, Daughter, Grandkids all being put to work to find duplicate manuals. Finding what a volunteer can best be used for is a bit of an art and not a science, but I did my best – some people were a little too roughed up to be lifters, and others were handed a task and went at it for 5 hours without a complaint or a break, building up a ruinous sweat.
I didn’t get a photo of everyone and it is going to be a crapshoot to get all the names up there, so when I do the postmortem and thanks, I expect to be modifying that posting for weeks.
My job was mostly to keep a lid on knowing how it was all going to pan out and to make sure our two main outside vendors, the moving company and the storage facility, didn’t give us any surprises.
To make things easier, I’d rented two, and then three spaces at a storage company a mile from the warehouse. It wasn’t one of the free ones people generously offered (and which were all between 30 and 60 miles away), but instead was a very quick staging and timeout location for getting things out of immediate danger. I’ll just repeat that, here: this is not the final home, just an easy place to start to look at the collection intelligently and carefully. In an ideal world, I’d have been let into the warehouse in January and would slowly have cataloged and worked through the whole place, and then began organizing the moves and future homes. But this went down in less than a week, and here we are.
There were a lot of great ideas that volunteers and collaborators came up with, on the spot, looking over the whole thing. Systems and procedures and what-ifs and what-abouts abounded. Generally, I took the word of someone standing right there over someone on a forum bloviating about the One True And Right Way. From these volunteers came ideas like how to approach some sorting, methods to mark off completion, potential organizations that might be interested, and so on.
But one volunteer had, by far, the most immediate major influence.
Floating in the back of our minds was how we were going to get all these boxes over to the storage. Even with a mere mile distance, it would be a soul-killing convoy of cars and trucks putting items into the storage units. It could have gone into Thursday. Thoughts of grabbing day laborers were floated, along with who knew what friend who could bring “a truck”.
But this volunteer suggested we hire movers, and also suggested who he had heard were great local movers. They ended up being Budget Movers of Westminster. A quote and a price later, and there they were at 9am the next morning. The next morning.
Like it often is with professionals, they didn’t whine, grate, or sniff when faced with a room of boxes – they just got to it.
Having wrangled volunteers for three days at that point, it was great to just have the ability to hire a firm to get the last tedious and dangerously physical portion done. “Please take this mass of boxes and get them to this other box.” was worth paying the money for, money which people all over the world sent me.
I rush to say that we definitely did have a couple other trucks and cars in the mix – we did four major loads of boxes from the warehouse to the units, and along the way, four car/truckloads of boxes went through volunteers, just to get that last little bit into the units before it got to be too dark.
At the end, we had all the boxes into the units (with some space left over), and for various values, the manuals and materials were “safe”.
When we were done with the storage, we went back through the warehouse, cleaning up some messes, tidying the place, and giving the shelves one last review.
One volunteer didn’t want to go. He kept sorting, kept going through, kept finding what he thought was one last unique manual. He went from shelf to shelf, just checking, just wanting to be 100% sure we’re captured one unique copy of every single manual in there. He’d gotten a ride from a friend up from Virginia, and then just stayed. He did not have a clear plan for how to get back, but figured it would work out, just like I’d written a post on here the previous Friday, in what was just a little less than a week ago, announcing this impossible task.
But he just wouldn’t let it finish.
We ended up shutting the lights off on him.
There’s a lot left to write, and I’ll get that going immediately in a post-mortem, along with ideas for the future. But at this moment. I am totally at peace with how things have gone. I’m in the manual world now, and I love the people it has brought into my life.
More coming soon. Thank you, everyone.
Categorised as: computer history | jason his own self
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Incredible, commendable effort.
Good work everyone!
Jason, I always knew you were awesome. Really wish I could have been a part of this effort. I’ll be there next time.
You all did an amazing thing here. Massive props to everyone who contributed!
If I want to give you some money to help with costs, but don’t want to use Satan’s festering dickhole to do it, are there other options? I’ll feed my info into PayPal if I that’s the only way to go about it, but I try to keep them as far away from my money as possible.
Never thought a story about moving truck loads of historical manuals would be spine tingling. But here we are!
Hell yeah, I’m putting “immediate major influence” on my resume
It kills me that I didn’t hear about this until today and the real crisis is all over and I didn’t help, but I just sent some paypal money, and when you need people to help with the sorting, scanning, redistributing later at least I’ll be around for that.
Brilliant! Great job to everyone!
Amazing! Congratulations on safeguarding a lot of computer history. Good luck with the rest of the work.
Proud to be a small help. (Did VA dude get home?)
Haha my house used to look like this…
Nothing short of awe-inspiring what you guys (and gals, and kids) managed to pull off here. Never underestimate the capabilities and endurance of those who are truly passionate about their chosen cause – you are no less than heroes in a world that doesn’t seem to bother to recognize such qualities anymore. High five!
Hopefully the last guy managed to get back home safely. (You didn’t lock him in, did you?) Dude, you are crazy. But I do mean that in the nicest possible way. 🙂
Great job. This is really important.
So many books, or other hard-copy information, have been either lost, or locked up in an attempt to monetize it, for example Google Books, even public domain books are unavailable for downloading in most cases. And, the library of Alexandrina in Egypt, even though they say they want it to be accessible to everyone, they actually mean, you may visit the actual library in Egypt, because scanned books are not really downloadable, or even accessible. It’s sad.
Hi, I’m the guy from Virginia! Thanks for mentioning me, it was an amazing place, sad to see it go. By the way, my phone is about to die and I have no other way to contact you — how can I get out of here? The doors appear to be locked. There is enough light for me to see around, and I’m not in any hurry, I’ve found some *great* stuff in here, but at some point I will need to leave this building. Any tips appreciated.
A big bow to the Jason and all of the volunteers for saving these artifacts. You all are amazing for stepping up.
To the guy from Virginia: It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.
It is very important to document how things had happened once, and what was tried and what were the results, especially when it comes to industrial application, as they can definitely help people to understand things better.
I had read some where that NASA has lost many important document related to the Saturn V5 Rocket Engine which had propelled them to Moon. This is very sad. All the year’s of hard labour and knowledge lost.
You did a terrific job in saving these manuals, and for this you have my sincere regards.
Admirable, great to see people appreciating the effort people have put in over their working life advancing technology It would have been a shame if this had been consigned to the incinerator.
I personally appreciate it.