A Reader Service —
Life working as an archivist for The Internet Archive has been going fantabulous, thanks for asking. I start to feel like one of those individuals tweeting or writing about “being in an amazing environment working with great people on world-changing projects”, except in fact I am not working in some primary-color-and-convenient-free-coffee cube farm that is trying to create Douchenozzle XL in a field of Douchenozzle Plus so they can gain 60 percent of Douchenozzle market share and charge subscriptions. I am literally working for a non-profit dedicated to spreading as much information and knowledge as possible to as many people as possible, a mission I set out on in my early teens. But Internet Archive is doing it at an amazing scale, with a relatively small staff, in an incredible location and with a style and grace that’s hard to be cynical about.
I’ve just been informed that I have surpassed one terabyte uploaded to archive.org since joining up. For some that’s a lot, others are saying to me “you slacker”. Just to take the second group seriously, the deal is that I am trying to upload things in a curated, properly handled fashion, with completeness and accuracy the watchword. It is so easy to drown in this incoming waterfall of data and then never have it be found by anyone again… literally the “stacks” one expects at a large archive or library, where someone rooting around years later finds precious things stuck halfway between two travel brochures. I hope I can avoid that.
So allow me to announce my second major collection on Archive.org (arcade manuals being the first). This new collection is one which will be familiar to some readers and unfamiliar to others.
I call it The Reader Service Collection, and what it is is a collection of mostly 1980s-era advertisements, flyers, mailings and catalogs I collected in my early teens. Right now it’s 139 items but I expect it to eventually grow to about a thousand or so, maybe a thousand and a half. It’s called the “Reader Service” collection because I got them filling out Reader Service Cards in the back of my computer magazines, and I’d just circle them ALL. So then I ended up with a box of these things, and I kept them for a long time, and now here we are.
Again, if this sounds familiar, that’s because this was once digitize.textfiles.com. In fact, this is a ported mirror of the entire contents of digitize.textfiles.com, including the massive TIFF file originals, and all the descriptions I’d cooked up. For extra fun, you can browse around on this very weblog and read the spectacular online fight I had with Benj about the morality of watermarking scans, the announcement of digitize.textfiles.com, where I start to wonder how to scale it, and the look back on all this from Benj himself.
Enmeshing myself with librarians and archivists, as well as my work in digital preservation, means that I encounter a lot of hand-wringing about archives and libraries and what they’re “for” and what they “do” and the rest. My concerns are a little more reptile-brain oriented and reflect a few that an entire subculture and aspect of life (home computer era of the 70s and 80s) was in danger of being forgotten, and whatever means necessary to get it accessible was the top priority. But that’s getting slightly easier, and the concern now is getting it searchable, browseable and findable. That’s where we are now.
So by pulling digitize.textfiles.com into archive.org in the guise of this Reader Service collection, I get the advantages of more drive space, more bandwidth capacity, and a ton of derived formats for each item, meaning it’s easier to get it in front of you. If you want it in PDF, great. An archive of JPEG or TIFF files? Got it. Kindle-compatible? EPUB-ready? All set. It’s amazing!
Oh, you want some highlights? Sure. How about:
- A 1983 Electronics catalog with gizmos, gadgets, tools and a whole bunch of massive-sized plastic cases?
- A brochure for a nice rustic computer summer camp where you can learn assembly language?
- The brilliantly named Honeybox Omnisonic Imager?
- The true lowdown about the BASF 5 1/4″ Floppy Qualimetric standard?
- The secret weapon in beating Atari 2600-related hand cramps which we called The Stick Station?
- IBM trying to convince you that using a computer is a good idea?
- A catalog of primarily computer-themed candy and novelties?
- And finally, the worst-drawn computer game catalog in history?
Categorised as: computer history | housecleaning | jason his own self
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Awesome! Great to know that this collection has an even-more-permanent home. Not sure how archive.org works – do you “own” the collection, i.e. can only you add items to it? I’ve got a few flyers scanned and many more waiting, so if you want to add any of the stuff on our site (linked in this post) go right ahead.
Hi Jason, two questions.
First the short one, how about a tip on where I can find the “Lisp Issue” of Byte Magazine online. It would fill my heart with that nostalgia, you know?!
Here’s the other one. Now that you have tasted the benefits of archive.org’s software, would you have done http://www.textfiles.com differently? Are you going to totally abandon the ways of static html and your own software? Is archive.org’s software open source? If not, what would come close?
I am sure that the guy scanning Bytes in the Atari Age forum will be sent a copy of that issue to destroy, and you’ll get the PDF at that time.
I would not have done textfiles.com differently. I will continue to do what I do, but for the large, large projects where you end up with massive collections of data, like, say, footage or scans, archive.org’s resources are much greater than mine. In the case of PDFs I’ll keep my version up but things where I was barely making sense doing it will go to them. I believe all the software is open source, yes.
That is great that you kept and scanned all the old Reader Service Card mailings. I used to fill them all in like that too but I don’t have most of the mailings any more, even though I stayed on some companies’ lists for years.
My favorites were the ones I got by filling in cards from a couple of computer magazines from France. I was amazed that so many companies were willing to pay for international postage to send me their intriguingly foreign catalogs and brochures.
I actually went to that Old Acres Computer Camp for a day with my Cub Scout troop, by the way. We didn’t do anything in assembler, just BASIC. I have dim memories of spending most of the day trying to figure out how to do graphics and disk I/O on a TRS-80 Model III.
Thanks for the kind answer, Jason,
Wanted to share a tangential story. When I was young I used to fill out these same cards, only I varied my first to initials so I could track when and if my name and address had been sold to mailing lists, and I did this through a PO box. One summer day in harder times I let the box expire, and the mail was automatically forwarded to my parents home.
Well, dear old dad flipped when he received a zillion pieces of printed spam, all with what he claimed where a million aliases!
But in the long term, the only thing he really objected to was the quarterly flier from Loompanics, with it’s artwork of stuff like soldiers shooting on Santa Claus for the December issue, artwork over the words “our men want books.” When this thing came, he would place it face down on the mail table and tell me “you got ‘our men want books’ so I would remove it quickly and save the rest of our family exposure.
Awesome work. It’s great to see all of this history making it’s way into archive.org. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The watermark history was really interesting to read about. It’s so unfortunate that everyone (!) always watermarks anything they scan, and “community” websites (such as MobyGames) throw their watermarks on images and then claim ownership of them. For me as soon as I see a watermark the image has been destroyed.
Great work. I cant wait to see what comes next.