ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

A Softwear Archive —

Sometimes, when you’re an archivist of my stripe, your tools don’t just include computers – sometimes they include something like this:

And really, you better have a truck when you drive down to the local post office with your “fuck if we’re going to deliver this” yellow slip and come up against this waiting pile:

You see, not all the history is downloadable, not all of it comes on hard drives or in a small package. Sometimes, it comes in a very large pack indeed.

So, what’s in this major haul of boxes? Well, it’s going to be pretty easy to explain and perhaps somewhat difficult to hear me out.

A while ago, Randal Schwartz of Perl fame announced that he was leaving his current home of many years and setting off on a new life, and along the way he would be discarding a lot of his old material to lighten himself up. So out would go the trappings, to the dump or friends who were buying things, and then he’d be all set for a different way of living.  Along the way, he took a photo and said “look at all this stuff” in his twitter stream. Another person, Daniel Packer, suggested that I be contacted.  Things being what they are, discussing contacting me in a public space immediately contacts me, so I hopped in and offered to pay postage.

And that is how I ended up with 22 years of computer conference T-shirts.

So, I guess for a certain segment of the population, the news of this is sufficient, but to another, perhaps larger segment, the question is why the fuck do you want someone’s laundry?

Well, let me first say that the vast majority of these shirts, possibly all of them, have never been worn. They were given as prizes or gifts because he’s Randal Schwartz and Perl is Cool and so Randal got them for free.  So get your nose out of the gutter.

But what attracts me to this is that these are an easily collectable slice of computer history and cultural context.  The shirts are printed for all sorts of reasons, and provided with all sets of expectations and goals.  The collection, as it is, gives you a glimpse of the last 20 years of computing that later times might really want. It is going to be relatively trivial to photograph these, list them, package them up, and then have them available for the future.

So here’s some off the cuff shots of these shirts. I don’t have time at this moment to really catalog them all, but maybe you can see where I’m going.

2010-10 052 2010-10 054 2010-10 055 2010-10 056 2010-10 057 2010-10 060 2010-10 062 2010-10 066 2010-10 061 2010-10 063 2010-10 064 2010-10 065 2010-10 067 2010-10 068

The hardest part is done – these shirts have been rescued from recycling and disappearing. Now we’ll see what comes of this.

Thanks, Dan and Randal.

Categorised as: computer history

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  1. Mustafa says:

    Time for another kickstarter round?

    I promise I’ll donate this time!

  2. Jesse Krembs says:

    Well Crap. Now I feel like you, Dark Tangent, ETA, & myself need to get together to do a giant photo t-shirt photo shoot, for a series of on print on demand art books! Crap.

  3. Yes, 98% of those T-shirts had never been worn. The ones I wore, I tended to keep, but I’m left with a mere 100 shirts out of the original 1500 or so. The rest were sent along to you to “archive”.

  4. Shannon Nelson says:

    Oh, I like that Teleport shirt! The printing on my Teleport coffee cup has finally faded away, as has our local ISP. Nostalgia… Luckily, Earthlink still supports our old email address.

  5. Chris says:

    Can someone please explain “Because SSH and a for loop doesn’t cut it”?

  6. Shadyman says:

    Hmm, sounds like Jason needs one of those shirt presses and the use of a large flatbed scanner 😉

    @Chris: I’d imagine it’d be something painful like a for loop to go through each IP address and try to ssh it as opposed to using task-specific tools. (Just a shot in the dark, really)

  7. Dragan says:

    I have an 1990 shirt of the Bitmap Brothers. I looks terrible tho, worn to death. 🙂

  8. Don’t forget about alt/description tags. Not only would it improve accessibility, but it would make the archive more indexable. Funny.