Archives and Computer Museum History Center

From: <(>
Date: Thu Nov 25 13:02:31 1999

Dag Spicer wrote (about the goals of the CM History Center):

>>>4. Have your own sites linked to (or even archived) by the Center as a
>>> way of bringing attention to your specific area of interest.
>>You're ahead of me... what do you mean by archived? I would think that
>>private sites would be kept up by the owner...

>One of the concerns we have at the Center is that while there are superb
>computer history sites out there run by individuals, there is no
>institutional architecture for ensuring that they can continue past the
>sponsor's lifetime or (much more likely) even five years. As you know,
>some of these sites are simply superb and irreplaceable resources whose
>loss would be gravely felt. If we take the geological timescale into
>account (50 years for computers!), there is a real concern that such
>wonderful resources might no longer be maintained after some finite amount
>of time. I think you'll agree this is a pretty reasonable conclusion.

Certainly, in this day and age, after an archive of information is
*organized* getting it *distributed* isn't such a big deal. For instance,
I've been archiving all PDP-11 (and also PDP-10) DECUS software/freeware
that I've been able to get my hands on for most of this decade. The
collection started out as hundreds of reels of 9-track tape, lots of
8" floppies, etc. Now the PDP-1n freeware collection, several Gigabytes in
size, resides on a handful of CD-ROM's which the public can access through
anonymous FTP, a web site, and they can also order CD-ROM copies through

Does it take a concerted effort to package a widely dispersed collection
into such a tiny and potent package? Of course! None of this
would have been possible without my networked PDP-11's here in the lab with
tape and disk drives to read the old distribution media. But after it
gets distilled, it's easily distributed. I can pop a CD volume into the
mail for a few bucks, compared to the hundreds of pounds of original
tapes and disks that the software was originally distributed on.

And - as icing on the cake - real PDP-11's with attached CD-ROM readers
can directly read the CD's, since the CD's are available with native PDP-11
filesystems on them.

So, in many respects, things are much easier today than they were a decade

What *isn't* so easy is tracking down the "originals" and convincing their
owners that it is a good thing for the contents of their archives to be
copied to more modern media. Now, it may seem like a no-brainer to many
folks here that this is the "obvious" thing to do, but let me tell you,
getting my hands on stuff to put into the archive is like pulling teeth
sometimes. Usually the tapes are stacked in the back of a warehouse or
in someone's basement, in less than ideal storage conditions, and just
getting their current owner(s) to drop them in a Fedex box and send them
to me (on my Fedex account number, so they're not out any money) can
be an ordeal.

So, Dag, let me ask you this: what efforts are being made at the
Computer Museum History Center to archive media in the collection?
While my personal efforts have been concentrated on PDP-11's and PDP-10's,
I'm certain the Center has a wider range (and older collections) of
information that can be transcribed to modern media. Most of what
you have is several decades old by now, I would guess, and you've
got a coherent plan to check the condition of the media and copy them
to more modern forms when possible, right?

 Tim Shoppa                        Email:
 Trailing Edge Technology          WWW:
 7328 Bradley Blvd		   Voice: 301-767-5917
 Bethesda, MD, USA 20817           Fax:   301-767-5927
Received on Thu Nov 25 1999 - 13:02:31 GMT

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