ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Thousands More Hip-Hop Mixtapes, Why So —

A few more thoughts on this one.

A lot of people stopped by when the word about the Hip Hip Mixtape Collection got around. They stopped by this little site, and then hopped over to the main collection, and they’ve been having a great old time.

When tens of thousands of people swing through a new thing, you get variant opinion, and if you’re really super double-lucky, you get some discussions way down there that are rather interesting on a “well, few people were ever going to talk about that” way.

Here are those, based on what I read:

  • Why doesn’t this guy monetize this!
  • A bunch of these tapes are fakes/crap
  • Aw, man, it’s only post-2000 stuff

Let’s address those, plus a few other things.

Why doesn’t this guy monetize this! 

Because I work for a non-profit that’s a library and archive, and we don’t monetize stuff like this. We don’t put up ads and we don’t put up click-throughs or pop-ups or demands for cash. It’s actually heartening to get these sorts of comments, because it means they’ve probably never heard of the Internet Archive before, and woo-hoo, new patrons! The more people who hear about the Archive for the first time, the better the world is for everyone. So anyway, no monetization/financial schemes behind this, sorry. (Some wanted to invest.) I’ve learned there are sites that do ad-supported distribution of these mixtapes, and they have all sorts of barriers and clickthroughs to ensure you see the ads. We are not them, that’s not what we do over at the archive.

A Bunch of these Tapes are Fakes/Crap. 

So, I came into this thing like I do a lot of things – go out and acquire whatever I can find and pump it basically automatically into thousands of items (you don’t think I’ve listened to these things in any great amount, do you?). As a result, it’s been a learning curve to find what’s in there. And what I learned is that there’s a wide spectrum of tapes out there, and that Sturgeon’s Law applies quite readily.

There are tapes that are cool amateur productions (created by a small crew or by someone trying to break into the business or get their voice heard), tapes that are kind of promotional items (like, they drop them into the world so word about the artist gets far and wide, usually done by some professional organization) and then there’s DJ mixes, where they do intense remixes of music to showcase their talents. Oh, and then there’s DJ mixes that are basically just a bunch of mp3s thrown together. As we’re finding those or get told about them, they go down. There’s nothing creative or new there (except maybe the cover art). The world is not bettered by them – I won’t miss them. So it’ll take a little while for this all to wring out, but it’ll happen.

Aw Man, it’s Only Post-2000 Stuff.

There’s definitely a lean towards the present with these mixtapes, probably a function of how I’m getting them, from online collections. There’s a few that predate 2000, but those are going to be from cassette tapes, and I’ve not yet stumbled on the Elephant Graveyard of old hiphop mixtapes from cassette. (I’ve got collections of rave tapes, and other 1980s and 1990s artifacts, of course.) I think it’s just a matter of time – after this current pipeline dries up, I’ll start trying to get us to host older and older stuff. How well that goes is up to the people out there – like everything else on the archive, it’s a matter of folks reaching out or giving good pointers or suggestions. I might stumble on things myself but it’s not guaranteed. As it is, the current collection is low-hanging fruit, and some of it is rotten and some of it is very fresh. But I definitely am not sitting on some hidden pile of pre-2000 stuff and going “nah, too historic”.

A few other thoughts

The most intense part of this whole thing was that I had to write this crazy ecosystem of around 15 scripts that deal with a whole pile of contingencies with the tapes. These scripts will fix ingested files, verify they’re what they say they are, reconfigure cover images so they’re in the right order, and add automatic metadata where possible. I actually have directories that drain into other directories that then drain into other directories, and then scripts do automatic evaluations all the way around, and then upload. It’s a terrible contraption but the results are generally OK. I then have to write scripts that crawl through the stuff and clean up what went there, and the result is what you see.

The result of this scriptology is that I’ve learned even more about dealing with odd ingestions that will be reflected on other collections as I go, i.e. the console demos collection I’ve been adding, which does all sorts of crazy robot stuff on combination .zip/.rar/whatever stuff from all sorts of sources. It sort of works! It’ll make things easier in the future! Everyone wins!

And finally – I realize that I am just stumbling backwards into this mixtape thing. It got along quite well without me or the Internet Archive for decades. It doesn’t “need” us anymore than many subcultures “need” us – but my hope is that the appearance and ease-of-access of these tapes will foster both spread of the best of what’s out there, and bring more people to the site to check out all the other things we’re hosting. I’m due someone to come in and lecture me on the “right” way to do all this and what it all “means”, and I’m up for that conversation. What I do know is that tens of thousands of listens are already on the site, with a few thousand more listens every day so whatever it is we’re doing, we’re doing it right for somebody out there. Let’s keep doing that.

And finally.

If you only have one album from this whole collection you want to be told to listen to, if you want just one single tape to somehow magically consolidate all the thousands and thousands of works on the site into one single item, well, ladies and gentlemen, your humble curator must point you in a single direction:

Yes, that’s right, I’m betting the house on Hamburger Helper: Watch The Stove, a 5-song EP mixtape of rap and hiphop, even sort of a ballad, about Hamburger Helper. Hey come back

Sure, you’re going to scoff, but over the course of this mixtape, you will have your eyes open to the myriad feelings and deep emotions of Hamburger Helper, and you too will sympathize with Helper as he explains how the world simply can’t do without this delicious mix. And if there’s one caveat, one life motto you will walk away, it’s to never take someone’s Helper. Just… don’t do it.

Enjoy the tapes. And yes, if you have leads on good additions to the collection, hit me up.


Breaking the Dragon’s Back (What 2016 Is, Update) —

On the first of this year, I posted an entry about my plans for 2016 with cutting back and getting healthy. I’ll be travelling on June 1st and probably won’t have time for a half-year update, so let’s do this now.

On the personal health front, which was important and more so than anything else, there have been great strides. I looked like this in December 2015:


Well, I looked very lucky as well as overweight. Probably 240-245 in that shot.

Now I look like this:


I now weigh roughly 210-213 depending on weigh-in time. So, I’ve lost 25-30 pounds or thereabouts. Make it 30 or make it 20 if you prefer. So let’s call it a qualified success.

The difference is palpable. The last time I weighed 210 pounds, I was 36, so that’s about a decade ago. I feel the different walking, I can feel it on my face, and I have slightly more energy. My waist size has gone from 40 to 36.

As promised, I can wear more and more flamboyant clothing with no tightness:


I snore less, and I definitely have somewhat lower blood pressure, although I still need the drugs that keep it in check. So, at the half-year mark, the strides are really on schedule where it comes to weight.

As I mentioned, a lot of this is I’ve cut every drink out of my life but water and seltzer. I went pretty low carb, avoiding everything for which sugar is the main ingredient. A lot of meat. A lot of cheese, and then I stopped eating cheese except as an occasional part of some meat I was eating. No bread, obviously. And then, after a while, I started getting away from massive portions. Snacking dropping down. Occasionally having something off this regimen, although seriously avoiding anything non-seltzer and non-water-only, because I no longer believe Diet anything is anywhere further than some sort of lie. And as for water/seltzer, drinking a lot of it – gallons a week, probably.

I’ve held up on this, and went through it in stages, until it became part of me. I do not miss anything except maybe ice cream and I don’t attempt to build mountains of food when I do eat. I also am mentioning all this here but don’t really bring it up unrequested in conversation. (Some people wonder what happened, which is the best question to ask.)

This is not my goal weight. My goal weight is likely around 190-195. I don’t think my body type can sustain anything lower without using some pretty radical methods/approaches, and I’m not prepared to do that. I was 200 in college, so 195 is probably it.

I’ve also not started a significant physical fitness regimen, because I didn’t want to do that until I was hauling a lot less weight. So walking will increase, and I intend to keep the numbers way up on that. In other words, I expect the second half of this year to have slightly greater difficulty over the first half. But the first half has been very satisfying.


The other part of all this has been divesting myself of materials, both from the Cube and from my office, into homes and warehouses and groups it should be. To this extent, let me say that I have given away or sent away a third of everything I own. I have, and continue to have, too much stuff, but it’s going along well. What you see above is me setting up a scanning and ingestion station to blow through materials and get rid of them. Here it is a while later:


Lots gone, lots scanned, and more to come. I’m just trying to get through everything as absolutely fast as possible, get it online, handled and out of my life. I want it on the Internet in some way or another, and the materials stored in proper homes. This is going slower than I’d like, but it’s because I didn’t really understand exactly how much stuff I had. I had way too much.

So many boxes are going in many directions. For example, I sent 750 POUNDS of Wired magazine to a group. I’ve sent about 10 boxes of videogame systems to another. I’m sending t-shirts to another. And so it goes. This will take the rest of the year, done right. I’d love to be rid of the cube as soon as it makes sense to try.

Finally, after a trip I’m taking in June, I’m going back to the documentaries, renewed and with a lightened load, both personally and physically. It’s time to finish those up.

So yes, I’d say 2016 is going along well so far, regarding these factors at least.




A Demoparty in a Browser —

I am a huge fan of the demoscene, and have been for many years now.


If you’ve not heard of the “Demoscene” or the “Demos” within the realms of computer experience, it’s worth it, heavily, to check it all out. For decades, majestically talented programmers, artists and musicians have created top-notch experiences on a massive range of computers and then gave this hard work, sometimes weeks or months or even years of effort, away for free.

Nine years ago (!) I was entranced enough about it to try to explain it in a week of postings here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 – and if you don’t have the time to read them all, I’ll summarize thus: The Demoscene is an incredible artistic subculture that creates unique and amazing things, also subject to behind-the-scenes drama and cattiness that all thriving creative cultures do. And the result of their efforts are amazing displays you can enjoy online or in person around the world.

The side effect of this work, however, is how much intense processing and power a system showing a demo might need to have. And demos can be brutal when it comes to system requirements on modern systems. They’re not subject to the requirements of, say, a game that has to play on as wide a set of machines as possible to ensure biggest sales. They’ll come right out and demand top of the line bleeding edge acid dogfood specs, because they can. When parties, held around the world to show off these works, are showing these programs, they have machines that might as well eat meat.

There’s another class of demo, which attempts to put the most amount of power in as tiny a space as possible. We’re talking executable sizes of 256 bytes, or 1024, or 8k, or 64k and so on. It allows a limit on the programming side that favors efficiency and skill in compactness. Let’s set those aside for the purposes of this entry.

And then there are console demos.


Not only do we have demos that are exercising the latest and greatest. We also have demos that are written to use the most basic hardware out there: game consoles. The limited platforms that are machines like the Atari 2600 or Sega Genesis provide a level playing field for artists making a mark within the demoscene. Make these limited machines do something out of the ordinary, and you will get lots of positive attention from your contemporaries, because you obviously worked hard to squeeze this performance out of these things.

To get that special performance, you often have to do insane coding to the console, so that it does things it was never designed to do, and to find weird explosive bugs or undocumented behavior that you can bring to the forefront. It’s obscure, strange magic and it’s as intense as possible for the hardware.

You might see where this is going.


As of this writing I have put 120 console-based demos into the Internet Archive and gotten them emulated in the browser.

Because not everyone has a ROM burner for an old console (or even the old console) at their fingertips, the ROM files made for these demos are either left up languishing, or are often loaded into emulators, or even just turned into YouTube videos to give people an idea of what they’re looking at. It’s generally accepted that playing videos in lieu of getting stuff executed on actual hardware is a necessary but sad evil. And of course emulators have been there for some time, although with many of the same problems that Emularity/JSMESS was meant to address (taking a while to assemble, no one-click referencing for your friends, etc.)

What we have here is instantaneous demos in your browser. You click on these, and it boots up an emulated console playing the demo.

On one level, that’s all you need to know. Go forth and try them out. Every entry has a link back to a page about the given demo so you can see them under other circumstances or fall into a hole seeing all the amazing demos there are out there.

But I wanted to cover a few more things.


With the integration of JSMESS’s aspects into MAME, comes near-instant turnaround for upgrading the emulation on the Internet Archive. If someone patches or improves a platform supported in MAME, we can have it running on the Archive, and all the programs that use that supported platform running the updated code… in about 10 minutes. Before, it was a little more involved, so if someone did the work, we might still lag on the repair for days or weeks or even in a few cases, years. So that is gone, and with it, any hesitation to encourage people to join development of MAME to make emulation on it as accurate as possible.

You see, these demos I’ve thrown in, and more coming, will likely not be 100% accurate on the browser emulation system. These are tough little nuts when it comes to undocumented tricks and traps to make things go. It’s not a surprise the emulators will fall down. But that’s great. It means there’s a demonstrable, viewable program that will show the problem at hand and encourage improvements.

MAME is open-source in the proper licensed sense now. There’s no reason for people to not be porting over compatible code or improvements into it. The changes will be reflected on the browser emulation as well as MAME’s many other platforms. It’d be excellent work to do. And the reward will be to make things run even more accurately for other, non-demo items.

These two factors are why I’m pushing for this now. I want to see the loop close and for us to see improvements in emulation with a large range of talent joining into this great cause. MAME is a fantastic emulator. It needs more people to do the very intense grunt work of making pixel/speed-perfect emulations of these platforms, before we have no platforms to reference.

And for everyone else…. there’s some damned fine work in these demos, and if I can cause hundreds or thousands more to see and respect these works than had seen them up to this point… that’s a pretty nice day all around.



Thousands of Hip Hop Mix Tapes, Why Not —

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been uploading thousands of Hip-hop Mixtapes into the archive. The resulting collection still has a way to go before it’s everything I have acquired at arm’s reach (limited by bandwidth and a few other technical factors), but now that it’s past 150 solid days of music on there, it’s quite enough to browse and “get the idea”, should you be so inclined.

A quick note: If women in scant bikinis, lionization of drug use and violence, and endless intense profanity is not your bag, this is a whole lot of that. Probably don’t visit.

CoverI’m sure this is entirely old knowledge for some people, but it’s new to me, so I’ll describe the situation and the thinking.

Instead of The Part Where Jason Tries to Describe a Basic Thing, there’s some excellent introductions and writeups about mixtapes in Hip-Hop culture at these articles:

So, in quick summary, there have been mixtapes of many varieties for many years, going back to the 1970s to the dawn of what we call Hip-Hop, and throughout the time since the “tapes” have become CDs and ZIP files and are now still being released out into “the internet” to be spread around. The goal is to gain traction and attention for your musical act, or for your skills as a DJ, or who knows what else.

There is an entire ecosystem of mixtape distribution and access. There are easily tens of thousands of known mixtapes that have existed. This is a huge, already-extant environment out there, that was doing pretty well.

So naturally, I stuck my big fat face into it.

Cover (1)

The code I had to write to pull in these tapes (which are often distributed via torrents, because the albums generally range between 80-200mb), then to clean up the resulting downloads, and make sure the right cover is the “official” cover in the collection, took me a while. It’s “human/machine augmented” stuff, because there’s massive variation in how the files come in. Let’s not pretend it’s real work – the real work is even keeping track of all this stuff.

I have a list of 17,000 tapes to access at the exact moment, and so something close to that number might end up at the Archive across the next couple months. Keeping track of new releases will have to be automated, I suppose. I’ll probably need help.

Cover (2)

There’s a lot coded into the covers of these mixtapes (not to even mention the stuff coded into the lyrics themselves) – there’s stressing of riches, drug use, sexual drive, and oppression. I’m personally fascinated at the amount of reference to codeine and the purple color of “Purple Drank”, which, if you’ve missed that subject matter up to now… good for you.

There’s parody, there’s aggrandizement, and there’s every attempt to draw in the listeners in what is a pretty large pile of material floating around. I can listen to some of it, but not really much before I “get it”.

But it’s not about my personal preferences in music – it’s about the fact this whole set of material has meaning, reality and relevance to many, many people.


How do I know this has relevance? Within 24 hours of the first set of mixtapes going onto the Archive, many of the albums already had hundreds of viewers, and one of them broke a thousand views. As of this moment, one has passed 14,000 viewers, and has only been up for 5 days. Somebody wants this stuff, that’s for sure.

And that’s fundamentally what the Archive is about – bringing access to things. I’m sure when Brewster set the place up 20 years ago, his big dream wasn’t that a guy like me was going to show up and go “Video Games and Hip-Hop!!!” but here we are.

The end goal here, like all the things I do in this realm, is simple: Providing free access to huge amounts of culture, so people can reference, contextualize, enjoy and delight over material in an easy-to-reach, linkable, usable manner. Apparently it’s already taken off, but here you go too.

Get your drank on here.

Front Cover

The Manual Rescue: Take Two, And Please Help —

Short Story: An attempt to finish off this phase of the manuals (move from three storage units to a storage space down the road that costs 1/10th the price) is going to happen this Saturday, April 2nd, in Westminster, MD. I invite people to make the trip, and if reporters/students want to come to learn some of what the items are, they are welcome too. email me at The added costs are still here, so if if you send donations to it helps a lot too.

I’ll make this one all text. You can read the previous entry if you want pictures – it all looks the same right now. (And if this is 100% new to you, you could read all the old entries about this.)

So, I had to call it on Tuesday, return the truck and pallet jack, lock everything up, and drive home. (It took six hours, because of crazy construction work on I-95.) I’d have liked to have emptied one of the three storage units, but it was just not going to happen. Three pallets of boxes are sitting in one unit, so they’re ready to be put on a truck, but it was down to just me being available on the Tuesday, and I saw an incredible safety and health risk, so I dropped it.

Let’s be clear; this one is on me. I had to spend a lot of time on other projects this year (and a lot of materials have gone out my door, as well as work over at the Internet Archive in general) but cutting things so close to the end of the month was a huge mistake – now I have to pay for these three storage units for another month, a significant cost. People who think I am taking on too much can definitely point to this project, although I still think it’s a matter of the learning curve more than the task at hand.

We learned a lot on the loadout this week so far – how to properly pack the stacks, wrap them, and get them onto the truck. We also know the job is at least one ofthreer people helping get the pallets onto the truck (relatively) safely and then two moving the pallets from the truck into the storage space. We learned that the boxes can go between 30-35 a pallet, That means that we will probably end up with having to hand-load additional boxes into the filled storage room and there might, still, be a small storage unit in use, but it would be really small (and frankly I’d like to avoid that). The cost savings will be enormous when these are in their new spot.

And again, I’ve got a home for about half of the manuals – the Internet Archive will take them, and then we’ll see about scanning them. The rest are likely to go to some candidate archives I’ve been in contact with – they move really slow and that’s been a problem too.

Therefore, the new plan is this Saturday, a weekend, when I hope I can get a bunch of people to show up. A dozen or more would be fantastic – one group setting up and wrapping the pallets to get them ready to go, while a second group is driving over the truck and moving the items into the storage. This could go really fast – the boxes are all ready to go, so they’re fine, and it’s just a matter of putting the stack of boxes into a room. No sorting, taping, labeling, nothing. Just move and move.

I’m open to reporters or students or studying archivists to come to the event – they can look through a few things to see examples of the materials, and hopefully lend a hand? Just a few boxes. That’s all I ask.

If you can’t make it, and want to help, paypal would really help. It’s and the costs have been rather tough on me, personally. (Although folks have been helping a lot, let’s make that very clear.) The three storage units were $1000/month, and doing this into April means that it’s going to be another $1000 that way, as well as the $900 paid for the new space for six months (which is very good!) and renting a pallet jack and staying in a hotel near it all, and driving 500 miles round trip to be there and…. you see what I mean.

But it would really help if people could make it out there this Saturday, early, so we can get this thing stable and not costing so much. It would really help a lot. Please contact me at if you can do it or need to put someone into contact with me.


Let’s put this thing to bed.



The Manual Rescue: A High and Low Day —

Short form is that I thought I’d be out of all three storage units with the manuals and in the new space, but we only had four people show, so at best I drop to one storage unit and possibly two. Anybody able to help by coming to Westminster MD on the 29th would be appreciated; otherwise, you could paypal to if you want to throw money at doing another month.

Today went well, but it probably could have gone better.

imageWe had a rented 26 foot truck with liftgate, a pallet jack, and a bunch of pallets. I got to the mall early, and we signed all the papers and the contract so that there is now a 1,300sq ft. space in the mall I have for 6 months. It all went very fast, and as I was shown where the pallet jack could move stacks of manual boxes and where they’d go, I was very happy indeed.




We had a total of 5 people involved, not all of them all day, and as a result, we have bundled up one of the three storage units, but only got 9 of the 12 pallets of manual boxes out and on the truck and in the new space in one day. It’s just too much for such a small crowd. With luck, tomorrow, the other three will definitely get out of there and in the new home.

This is good! One storage unit down means no more $300/mo storage for that set. But if we can’t get rid of the other two units, that’s still piles and piles of material left to go, still being rented by the month.

I’ve already determined that getting all three will be impossible by tomorrow. It’s just not realistic. So I’m hopefully shooting for two of the three being empty, which will radically cut down the per-month cost of storing these. (The price on the mall storage is very, very low, which makes me happy.)

imageimageI had a meeting with Brewster at the Internet Archive about storing the manuals that are not HP and Tektronix (those are very common). He agreed! All the non-HP/Tektronix manuals have a home! I will have to deal with scanning and storage, but that will happen.

But meanwhile, it is costing $1000/month in the current location and about a tenth of that in the new. It’s really important to get as much over to the new location. That’s why a truck was rented, pallets acquired, and incredibly involved moving work was being done.


This was not pleasant work, to be sure – heavy sets of pallets of boxes plastic-wrapped into towers of documents and loaded on a lift gate. We had to be very careful with them, which took quite a bit of time to get right. Eric and I were there all day, Matt was there a bunch of the day, and Elaine and her son helped. But that’s all we got.

It’s a Monday. Not everyone has a flexible schedule, obviously. And of course the worst that happens is that I or someone who helps me pays a little more money to keep the manuals somewhere for a month. That’s definitely not as compelling as them being thrown into a dumpster. So it just wasn’t possible to rile up the Corps to come.

imageTomorrow, pretty sore from today’s work, I’ll do my best from about the middle morning until the late afternoon to move as much of these things as possible, with whoever can show up. It’s what I do, it’s what has to be done.

Do I despair? Oh, sure I despair. It’s a lot of work to save some very old manuals, and when money gets spent this way instead of many other ways, it can feel like bad priority. I definitely feel that once in a while.

But I also know that once these items are in a safe place, and they begin becoming reference material and digital material, a whole host of information and culture will become available again that in no way is guaranteed to have otherwise survived. A lot is out there, of course… this is just one pile. But it’s a pretty big pile.

I’ve learned a ton overseeing this project. I definitely will come into others with wider eyes and background. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d do differently. And I know that spending a whole day doing this is not ultimately what I’d always be preferring to do.

But I’m in this. I’m big on follow-through. Follow-through will happen.

Since I am positive the third unit will not be emptying, I’m going to have to pay for it – and if people want to send money via paypal ( noting it’s for that, it’ll help a lot. And it would be great if people came tomorrow – but I can’t count on it, not on a Tuesday.

But maybe soon I’ll arrange this for a weekend, and we can have more people involved as the boxes are sorted for final ship to the multiple homes I’m now negotiating for them to have. We can have a nice Saturday of it. We’ll picnic.

Until then, I’m going to go to bed and remember why I got into this all in the first place – because I refused to sit still and throw up my hands. And so much more is to come.


The 2005 Podcast Core Sample —

A little over 10 years ago, I had this notion.

It was that the Podcasts of the time, growing as they were, were really self-initiated sociology studies; that they would represent a whole range of folks and voices recording ideas and statements with the world extending before them. I also could tell they would often be fleeting and would likely disappear.

So I started to copy them.

This weblog has been around long enough that I can point to my thinking at the time:

This project went on for about a year, I’d say, and during that time it collected many, many mp3 files. I then burned them onto DVD-ROMs and stored the DVD-ROMs away, for “later”.

“Later” is now.

Uploads from all the DVD-ROMs found (so far) in my shipping container are now up on the Internet Archive, in the 2005 Podcast Core Sample. It’s 540 different shows, and about (roughly) 14,000 episodes split among them. I suspect the number will grow as I find more stored DVD-ROMs, but 14,000 should hold people for now.

It’s a wild, wooly and weird collection, to be sure.

It was not clear where Podcasts were going to go, back then. There’s some history of podcasts essays out there, and I won’t try to duplicate them – it’s the case that “make audio files available for people to listen to on a date-based basis” has tons of precursors before the term “podcasting” hits, and when “everybody” seems to be podcasting. General consensus is that 2004 is when it really takes off from non-insidery people, i.e. someone wants to talk about Hot Wheels or Wine and puts up a site RSS feed to let you hear the newest “episode”.

So, the machine I set up did the grabbing, constantly, from 2005 onward, and then, ultimately, the machine encountered issues and I stopped, having considered it a pretty successful project. I would have liked to have grabbed even more, of course, but I was doing a lot of grabbing on spec at the time and I had no idea what if any would hold attention going forward.

So, with the collection now up on the Internet Archive, it’s all accessible, at once, again. I idly checked a few and some of the podcasts have gone on to continue to have episodes, while others, as expected, have been crunched under and lost in the decay of time.

I’m just glad they’re off DVD-ROMs and that a mere 10 years later, people who study or want to understand early Podcasting have another collection from which to draw.



5 Years at the Internet Archive: The Party —


UPDATE: The Party happened, and was well attended (dozens of people), the band was great, and we scanned a bunch of heads. Thanks to everyone who showed up, and here’s to five more years!

I’ve been at the Internet Archive for five years as of this month. I am sure I will write some very long, very large essay on here about all the ramifications of that, but for now, I think it’s a party that’s called for. A nice big party.

Sorry for the short notice, but if you’re in San Francisco, this Friday, March the 18th… I’d like to invite you to a party at Codeword, jwz’s newest club. The doors open at 8pm, the drinks are not free but admission is. I’ll be there all night, happy to talk with everyone and ready to dance.

Codeword is located at 917 Folsom at 5th Street, San Francisco.

If you can read this, you are invited.

Again, sorry for the short lead time, but arranging events has always been something I’m always doing on the spur of the moment.

Update: I’ve booked the Cantina Band to play live at the party!

See you there!

The Historical Laundry Conundrum (Find a Home for Shirts) —

Here’s a ponderable.

About 5 and a half years ago, I took delivery of a bunch of shirts from Randal Schwartz, he of Perl fame. The reason for this (as explained in that entry), was that he was doing a major cleanup of life and he wanted to donate them to charity, and I happened to see his “look at all these damn shirts” photo and offered to take them. He agreed.

A few years later, I took a small number of these shirts and photographed them. The collection is now sitting at the Internet Archive. Here is a link to it.

Fast forward to now. I’m in the middle of finally giving away some of the dragon hoard to proper institutions and locations that should have them, now that value is recognized, and that’s been going well – well over a thousand pounds of material have left my shipping container out back.

Now we’re back to the remaining shirts.

So here’s the situation.


Current I have what can honestly be called “a whole heck of a lot of shirts”. They’ve been laundered and folded by a service. They’ve been taking up space in the cube for years, and it’s time for them to achieve some sort of conclusion.

I’ve begun photographing the remaining shirts, intending to have a pretty solid photograph of each one’s design, so the designs have a life beyond these shirts. Old cartoons, logos, events, and other information will exist on in a digital form to allow people to see them, refer to them, and so on.

But the shirts themselves.

I’ve tried a half-dozen locations, including the Living Computer Museum, Computer History Museum, and elsewhere, and nobody particularly wants the shirts. Everybody thanks me for asking, but they’re not overly interested. (My friends at the Strong Museum of Play will want anything with games, but there’s not really any game shirts here.)


So, here’s the deal.

I’m going to photograph all these shirts across the coming days and maybe weeks, going through about 1,200 of them to get their images saved and uploaded. After that, if I am unable to have someone find me a home for them, they’re going to charities, which was their original goal.

If you know an organization that wants them, get in touch with them and ask. Don’t just dump a pile of names on me – I’ve already done that. I’m looking for a place that wants technology t-shirts, 99% of them never worn, all laundered, all ready to go to a home, or to the donation bins down the road.

Act fast.


So, on one level, there are people who think I would keep these items, forever and ever, unchanging, never letting the physical objects go away. I appreciate that reputation, but it’s not earned. I mostly keep things that I think need homes and that people either don’t have homes ready, or the world isn’t ready for.

In the case of these shirts, I was mostly concerned that the designs and information on the shirts would be lost – the graphics, the proof something happened, the logo and mottoes that have been buried by time and would otherwise be hard to find. People who want to make new shirts based on these designs would be drawing off the photographs anyway – making new shirts is extremely easy in the modern era, as are drawing graphics based on a provided image to trace over. I’m not worried that the information within them will be lost.

You start to run into harder use cases for the shirts as a whole – perhaps some production company wants vintage shirts for a scene taking place in the 1990s (but they’d just make new ones, frankly, and browse the web for design ideas). Maybe some of the groups within these piles would love old shirts again (but the matching of shirts to willing people who used to have these shirts is diabolically difficult). And, I thought, a computer museum or technology museum might want these materials, but they really don’t seem to.

But I have done my best, and I will be dedicating hours to this material being digitized and put online, so I’m doing what I can, and more than the original destiny of these shirts.

I’m interested in the debate about such things. Naturally the world is full of cases of people saying “If only I had glass marbles” and someone else going “what do I do with all these goddamn marbles”. This may be another one of those. Maybe the heretofore-unknown 100-year old Museum of Old Shirts is going to ask me about these in 3 years. But that’s the froth and weirdness of life. I’ve done my best. Everything else is gravy.

But let me know.


The Emularity Sounds Better —

The Emularity, which is the name for the emulation loader framework that the Internet Archive uses, has gotten a notable upgrade in sound performance.

While hanging around in the IRC channel, a relative newcomer, Grant Galitz/Taisel, mentioned doing lots of optimization work with sound on his own project, IodineGBA. I asked him to take a quick look at how JSMESS/Emularity did sound loading, and he suggested a few quick optimizations.

They worked handily.

All JSMESS-emulated operating systems on the Archive are now “better”. Better is, of course, relative. If your system is slow, we made it slightly better. If your system was fast, then little crackles are now gone. You’re probably somewhere in between.

Here’s one to test with: Jumpman, a truly amazing classic released by Epyx.


It’s a beautiful classic, and the opening song is very charming. The only problem is that it previously sounded terrible, everywhere. Now it sounds pretty good, in a lot of places. (Bear in mind that all Atari 800 programs make that razzing noise at the beginning, as it reads off the “floppy drive”.)

Works best on Firefox. Likes heavy hardware capabilities. Is better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow.

What was nice about this, particularly, is that we made one change to the loader code and suddenly 25,000 items just sounded “better”. That’s the kind of easy upgrade I like to see.

Sound is a very big deal. When it’s not quite up to snuff, people really feel it deep. As time goes on, it’ll improve. Until then, try rediscovering some of the programs up on the Archive and see how much better the sound is.