ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Historian!! —

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The stack of huge boxes on my door containing this material heralded an important milestone in my life: my first assignment as a professional historian/archivist.

From the official announcement:

To celebrate ‘GDC 25’, the conference organizers have appointed an official historian for the show in the form of noted technology archivist Jason Scott, known for his digital archive and his history of preserving important digital artifacts.

Scott, who has created the BBS Documentary and the just-debuted interactive fiction documentary Get Lamp, will be in charge of receiving and synthesizing historical accounts, anecdotes and other media from GDC attendees, and digitizing extensive printed, audio and video archives.

He will be posting a twice-weekly blog post on the official GDC website news page [RSS feed] and sister outlets starting in early November, revealing exclusive videos and audio lectures, stored on the UBM TechWeb Game Network’s GDC Vault website, alongside other images and analysis from the history of the event.

Alongside this announcement, GDC organizers – part of the Game Network, as is this website – and Scott are calling for submissions from people who’ve attended the show over the past 25 versions. They’ve set up an official email address,, which CGDC and GDC attendees can email with anecdotes and reminiscences of attending previous GDC shows.

In addition, if previous attendees have content from classic shows they’d like to share, please tag photos as ‘gdc25’ on Flickr or upload videos to Vimeo or YouTube, and email the official ‘gdc25’ mail address.

As it says, I am going to be posting updates of the incoming pile on their official weblog for the GDC (Game Developers’ Conference, in case you’d not picked that up) and not here. However, I am allowed to keep copies of what I scan and digitize and even host stuff that I think is relevant.

It’s a paid position, but I’m not being feedy-hand-bitey when I say it’s not enough to live on – it’s a fee for a part-time contractor to do this work. I would like to get a couple assignments or jobs that could help me bring in income, because to be honest things are on a very slow downward spiral financially. I know that sounds surprising, but GET LAMP and BBS Documentary are high-quality projects – they cost money to print (and more have to be printed) and I do actually, you know, travel and buy technology to support my work. I just mention this in case anyone wanted to talk to me about possible employment, part-time or other… I’m around, people.  Let’s do lunch.

What’s important about this role is very obviously not the money. It’s that I am truly and honestly doing work in the field I wanted to switch to, computer history. I’m doing it for something very interesting, and I am being given an opportunity to prove myself in this task. It is challenging, it is fun, and it will be a great time telling the stories coming to me. Not to mention all the artifacts that people are getting inspired to tell me about. This is fantastic.

This very simply would not have happened without the Sabbatical. Absolutely not. I never get tired thanking the people who gave towards that funding, because I never stop benefiting from it. Thank you, people.

Now, let’s archive some GDC!

Categorised as: computer history | jason his own self

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  1. johngineer says:

    Congratulations, Jason! I can’t think of anyone more qualified for the job!

  2. Benj Edwards says:

    I second the congratulations. You are the ideal man for the job.

  3. Chris says:


    Have you ever digitally archived video tapes before? If you don’t have one already, pick up a high end SVHS VCR (Just about every Betacam SP VCR is high end so no issue there) and a time-base corrector.

    I’m doing my fair share of video tape archiving at the moment. With the correct equipment chain, the results are coming out WAY better then I expected.

  4. Primoz says:

    Congratulations Jason, I’m really happy for you. You always do amazing job and i’m sure this opportunity will open even more doors.

  5. Steve says:

    Jason, congrats again on being the GDC historian. It’s really great to see them recognize the work you’ve done.

    Chris, got any links to guides/equipment/etc? I’ve got a bunch of tapes here, and a Mitsubishi SVHS VCR, and hoping to do a bunch this winter.

  6. Chris says:

    The Mitsubishi is generally a good unit but lacks many of the picture processing features the newer JVCs have. A list is here:

    I personally own a JVC HR-S7800U and its digipure feature is excellent. The downside is my particular unit has tracking problems with EP speed tapes. I would aim for a 9800U, 9900U, or 9911U if shopping (or PAL equivalent if you are overseas). If all your tapes are SP speed, then consider an industrial editor. The Panasonic AG-DS555 (playback/rec) and DS545 (playback only) are great SVHS units with built in time-base correctors. With these units its important to get the hours of use from the seller as many get beat to crap and need a tune up. With all VCRs, avoid “untested/as-is” units…. they are usually broken. ALWAYS test “new to you” machines thoroughly with a tape you don’t care about getting eaten before putting in something you can’t reproduce.

    For time-base correction out of the JVC, I use a AV Toolbox AVT-8710, which is a re-branded Cypress CTB-100. The latter is widely available on ebay for about $180-190. Avoid used studio TBCs, I made the mistake of getting one and it had issues with changing and bleeding color along with noise.

    For capture I am using an AVermedia HD DVR PCIe capture card (support composite, S-video, YPbPr component, and HDMI in). Besides somewhat buggy drivers and issues with my motherboard, its a solid card and will capture 3 hours straight without any audio sync problems or dropped frames. I’m doing lossless compression to HuffYUV using VirtualDub at 720x480i. Note: The USB version does NOT support raw uncompressed capture with VirtualDub, avoid it.

    Captures come in at about 25GB/hour, compression should be done was a decent MPEG-2 compressor if writing to DVD. A lot of folks like TMPGEnc because of its low cost and good quality (output comes close to professional MPEG encoders with 4 figure price tags). High motion/shaky footage like home movies should be encoded at the highest supported DVD bitrate for best quality. You’ll fit about an hour of video per single layer disc (better for archiving then DL). Commercial programs can be encoded at lower bit rates due to less motion.

    More info about the above topics can be found at that digitalfaq site, including a forum staffed with knowledgeable folks and a list of archival quality DVD blanks. The and doom9 forums are another great resource.

  7. What a nice gig, congrats, I am very happy for you! Another reason to go to USA for the next GDC, yet it’s quite far away… will ponder this…