ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

The Scanination and the Burnination —

So Redwolf’s watermarking mania cranked me off on the 10th of March. From the 10th to the 11th of March, I finally sat down and scripted a bunch of back-end process to finish a previously dormant project, digitize.textfiles.com. This is a “money where my mouth is” website that would have digitized material, without watermarks, as well as the full TIFFs available for archivists and maniacs.

I finished this project on the evening of March 11th and mentioned it on my weblog.

On the 12th, waxy.org mentioned it. Then the MAKE zine Blog mentioned it. Then a bunch of other weblogs picked it up. digg got it.

Then CNET called. Then we started to get a little pounded.

By the time OSNEWS arrived with their own gang of hit bats, over 12,000 people had seen the website. TWELVE THOUSAND.

It’s not really slowing down yet. It’s happening again and again; someone goes “Wow, neat shit”, and then passes it along to enough people that someone who has a prominent position somewhere lets their audience know about it and it bounces out into the world’s face again.

The reason why, of course, is that this is, in its own way, interesting stuff. Either the images are eye catching, as advertising was meant to be, or they show a historical situation, like price or design. Maybe people spy a name of a company long gone or unlike how it was back then. Or they remember something from their own childhood, an image or phrase that makes them feel young again.

That’s the great thing about museums. They range the gamut of reactions and emotions, just by people witnessing the exhibits.

Ironically, I’ve had a number of people contact me about sending me stuff as a result of seeing the digitize.textfiles.com site. And then, in some cases, they ask if it’s OK if they can watermark what they send in! I link them to the appropriate weblog entry and say no, no it’s not OK. A few have decided to strip their watermarks and send me the originals. A few are up in the air. But I’m holding firm on this, so no need to waste either of our time if you buy into vandalism.

In its short 9 days of existence, the DIGITIZE site has added over 215 pages of scanned material. I have a lot left to go. I’ve purchased a better flatbed scanner that arrives tomorrow. I am on the beat.

But what about my documentary? Well, that’s where things dovetail nicely, because I had on my plate the project of scanning in dozens and dozens of text-adventure related material for the use in the documentary. Guess where it’s all going!

And how do you keep track of this stuff flying in? Well, that explains last night’s project. I spent a little while coding in Bourne shell, and I am happy to announce that the DIGITIZE.TEXTFILES.COM website now has an ATOM feed to tell you when I’ve added new material! This is the first main textfiles.com site (outside this weblog) to have such a feed, and likely more will have them over time, but until then, get your newsreader, subscribe to the feed, and you’ll know when the latest ads, brochures and manuals join the pack! I promise it’ll be something you’ll enjoy.

As for the stuff itself, I suppose I could fill ASCII.TEXTFILES.COM with endless yammering each few days about what I’ve added, but I think that my energy can be better spent elsewhere. When I add a new piece, it’ll contain a few lines from me about why it got scanned or what I think about it, and I believe we’ll leave it at that unless there’s another factoid or relevant essay I want people to know about.

A lot of these have very special personal meaning for me, hence my keeping them nearby for over 20 years. (Some of them I’ve kept for 25.) So while there’s historical meaning in a grand sense, a bit of these are like baby pictures; I remember being 11 and knowing that I was going to get one of these things, whatever it was, or that when I was older I would learn how it was done and make my own. Many of them were programs or products that I hoped I would be there, at those places, being a part of this wonderful colorful world.

And you know what? In a way I am.

Just to switch gears slightly, I wanted to just mention how that whole collecting all of the podcasts project was going.

It’s going very well.

I have thousands of different podcasts. I have many tens of thousands of individual episodes. I have hundreds of gigabytes of shows, sermons, mixtapes, chats, you name it. It is a spectacular success.

It’s all very scripted and I stress that I put as much energy into this thing on a daily basis as, say, one would putting on their socks in the morning. It’s really that far in the background.

Recently, however, I had to start figuring out someplace to store them as I was filling hard drives quicky.

If you want all of the kind of finger-in-the-air pontificating that geeks are truly capable of, far beyond which operating system is best and which computer language will keep you in Cheetos for the rest of your life, just start discussing storage, especially long-term storage.

For my own part, for this project and the amount of money I am willing to throw down on it, I am currently using DVD+R discs.

I have finished a bunch of interrelated scripts that move 4.5gb chunks of podcast into a place for me to burn into two copies, which I store in different binders, and which have unique IDs on them. The MP3s or other files on the podcast directories are then replaced with a short paragraph of text, saying, basically, “this was burned to Disc ID whatever, the MP3 file that was here was this long (minutes and seconds), this big (bytes) and here was anything like ID3 tags.” In this way, I can be sure of keeping track of what was downloaded, while freeing up 2-10mb space with a 500 byte pointer file. Which I also back up.

At some point, I’ll likely switch to other medium, like maybe just buying $50 hard drives and storing copies off to two of them and then storing those hard drives. Freaky, but it might be good.

Long-term? Do I think this medium is “archival quality”? Am I sure it’ll be there in 100, 50, 10, 1 year?

NO.

But at least I’m trying.

That’s all I can do.

I’ll happily make copies of what I’m doing for any entity that wants this, as long as they cover medium costs, and maybe time if that ends up being significant. Libraries, universities, people…. you know where to find me!

And so it goes. The scanination, the burnination, the infiltration. I’m having a wonderful time. Archiving is my passion. And there’s so much cool stuff out there.

If I had a family crest, it would probably say at the bottom, in big letters:

“I WILL HOLD IT.”


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10 Comments

  1. Jason (another one) says:

    Time will tell with the DVD+R discs. Certainly, you are doing (more than) your part to collect and store these. Those 5.25″ floppies weren’t meant for long term archival storage, but they stumbled into helping preservation efforts years later.

    Of course, the floppies were a temporary medium to get the bits onto a gigabyte-sized hard disks. Before long we’ll probably have the disks to keep all of those DVD+Rs online.

  2. Andrew says:

    are you five people?

  3. Patrick says:

    Thanks for the ATOM feed! I’d like to suggest adding a <link> element to your top and index pages, so that the feed will be picked up by user agents that know what to do with them.

    <head>
    <link rel=”alternate” type=”application/atom+xml” href=”/atom.xml” />
    </head>

  4. Krisjohn says:

    A friend has started using “Par2″ (http://www.par2.net/ http://parchive.sourceforge.net/) to add data-recovery information to the DVDs he burns.

    (When it comes to your TIFF scans, I strongly recommend creating uncompressed TIFFs, then using WinRAR to compress them with the error recovery option offered by that program, then add par2 when you burn the files to DVD.)

    Personally, I came to the conclusion that hard drives were by far a cheaper option than DVDs. And I have so many PCs that I can easily keep all the storage I need on-line. I passed the terrabyte mark a while back. While I’m sure you consume that sort of amount of storage at a scary rate, I still think a hard drive in an anti-static bag will offer better long term data storage than a DVD.

  5. Jason Scott says:

    Patrick: I added the head/link element you suggested. Let me know if I did it correctly.

    KrisJohn: I do expect I’ll be going in that direction. It turns out there’s an actual program like PAR just for DVDs!

    http://www.dvdisaster.com/

  6. kevin says:

    Do you do requests? :-) I’ve been looking for a ~1982 vintage novation modem catalog ever since I BURNED mine 10 years ago. heh, I foolishly thought I could curb my Apple II collecting at the time. That’s also when I gave away all my old softalk, softline, A+, incider, call-apple and other magazines. By now I’ve bought most of them back. heh

    Anyway, I remember looking for many long hours at this old novation catalog, it’s in the old tall and narrow format their manuals were in. It had the original Cat coupler modem they made, the Applecat and Applecat II I think. I’ve slowly been trying to collect all the original manuals and boxes to make a virtual novation museum. So far I’ve only a complete archive of j-cat and even that I haven’t had time to put up…the manual is up there though. Interestingly, someone recently told me that apple’s original modem was OEM’d by novation.

  7. Patrick says:

    > Patrick: I added the head/link element you suggested. Let me know if I did it correctly.

    Perfect!

  8. RedWolf says:

    I’m happy to have inspired your latest masterpiece in archiving. :)

  9. Jason Scott says:

    And I’m happy to note that at my weblog, comments are not deleted because they’re less than positive about the weblogger.

  10. RedWolf says:

    Thanks, Jason. I love you too.