Video games have an issue with memory. Sometimes development and culture within the medium ends up locked in obeisance to nostalgia, an assumed audience of pixel art and chiptune fans who really just want a Final Fantasy VII remake or yet another Legend of Zelda. At other times it's like we can't remember the past five years of history, routinely hailing "firsts" that have certainly been done before, or treating well-trod debates as if they were new conversations each time they simmer to the surface again.
According to the Internet Archive's Jason Scott, much of games' history risks being lost to the winds. So does a lot of writing and criticism -- a lot of us former contributors to storied magazine Edge just found out a lot of our online content has simply disappeared in the latest migration.
And as much as folks like me lament the lack of women's voices in games, or the absence of mainstream interest in games as a sophisticated form, the accomplished J.C. Herz was writing sophisticated game columns in the New York Times just 15 years ago, and I never even knew til recently. She also, like me, wrote a memoir of the 90s internet during the 1990s, not unlike my own recounting published just a couple years ago. We also have the same big curly hair. Anyone's time paradox gone missing?
"Older software is hard to get to,” Scott said. Today, game developers could very well be throwing away history. "The thing about game and computer history is that it's both adored and ignored," he added. People typically don’t recognize the historical value of things in the here and now.
Especially as so many games move to online, preservation continues to have emerging challenges. "Software half-life is ridiculous," Scott said, adding that the average multiplayer network game lasts about 18 months before the servers are turned off.
Part of the challenge of game preservation is also the way people see them. "Games are not just products, but they're also products,” he said. The drive to preserve these items isn’t so urgent. But, Scott said, games are artifacts and game history overall needs to be preserved.
The work of preserving game history can take shapes like The Internet Arcade
-- over 900 arcade games playable in-browser -- or keeping collections of game magazines. It can even be as simple as keeping a copy of your own work, or even hanging onto your office Christmas cards, Scott says.
My new Guardian column, Go digital by all means, but don't bring the venture capitalists in to do it, is an open letter to the poor bastards who run public institutions, asking them to hold firm on delivering public value and not falling into the trap of running public services "like a business."
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Trevor from the Library of Congress writes, "The American Folklife Center at the LOC is inviting Americans participating in holidays at the end of October and early November to photograph hayrides, haunted houses, parades, trick-or-treating and other celebratory and commemorative activities to contribute to a new collection documenting contemporary folklife."
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Emmanuel Goldstein from 2600 Magazine writes, "Volume 4 of The Hacker Digest has been put into PDF format, comprised of issues of 2600 Magazine from 1987."
This was the first year that 2600 adopted the digest format. For the first time ever, a hacker magazine would show up on newsstands and in bookstores around the world. New concepts such as cellular phone fraud and electronic mailboxes for $20 a month were introduced to the public and scrutinized in the pages of 2600, while traditions like the letters section, payphone photos, and 2600 meetings were in their infancy. The hacker spirit from these early issues is remarkably similar to that of today: defiant, curious, and overflowing with data.
VOLUME 4 OF THE HACKER DIGEST RELEASED ALONG WITH DETAILS ON ITS HISTORY
Rogue archivist Carl Malamud writes, "The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has announced that they are removing the archives for 5 important courts from their infamous PACER system. PACER is the ten-cent-per-page access to U.S. District and Appeals courts dockets and opinions."
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found a copy of one of his favorite childhood books about computers. And now you can enjoy it too! Read the rest
Some poor devil has to scan in thousands of handwritten documents
over the next four years—it's no wonder bags of cocaine are being intercepted
by foreign customs on the way there.
Groucho Gandhi writes, "'Crackpot Historian' Adam Gorightly (the current Keeper of the Sacred Chao) saved the archives of Discordian co-founder Greg "Malaclypse the Younger" Hill from the literal dustbin of history by swooping up the Hill archives as they were about to be tossed in the dumpster. Srsly!
"Why is this important? Greg Hill (thru Discordianism) created the first proto-zine, The Principia Discordia, and the precursor to the Creative Commons licensing scheme, first known as KopyLeft, All Rites Reversed. Now Adam Gorightly is taking the Discordian Archives and releasing them."
We've written often about Carl Malamud, the rogue archivist who has devoted his life to making the world's laws, standards, and publicly owned information into free, accessible, beautiful online documents. Now, I'm pleased to help him launch an ambitious, vital Kickstarter project aimed at raising at least $100,000 to turn the world's public safety codes into thoroughly linked, high-quality HTML documents (presently, many of the 28,040 public safety codes that Carl and public.resource.org have put online exist as scanned bitmaps that can't be searched or linked). The project involves a careful re-typing of all that scanned material and re-tracing of images and formatting them as vector-based SVG files.
Carl and his colleagues have fought in the courts for their right to publish the law that we, the people, are expected to follow. They have passed on lucrative careers in the private sector to devote themselves to public interest, public spirited work that makes the sourcecode for the world's governments available at our fingertips. The work they are doing unlocks untold billions in value -- from being able to ensure that your weekend DIY rewiring project meets code and won't burn down your house, all the way up to giving workers in deadly factories in Bangladesh access to the laws that are supposed to be honored in their workplaces.
$115 gets you a copy of their giant, amazing book of global safety standards, but there are interesting and awesome premiums at price-ranges from $10 (public acknowledgement on the Wall of Safety) to $475 (the Big Box of Propaganda!). I've put in my $115 -- not for the book, but as a way to thank Carl and co for the amazing work they do, and as a means of funding more of it. I hope you'll give, too.
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Tony sez, "In 2012, under threat from fundamentalist rebels, a team of archivists, librarians, and couriers evacuated an irreplaceable trove of manuscripts from Timbuktu at great personal risk. The manuscripts have been saved from immediate destruction, but the danger is not over. A massive archival effort is needed to protect this immense global heritage from loss.
That's why we launched an Indie-go-go campaign."
Libraries in Exile is sponsored by T160K, an international initiative forged in the evacuation of these treasures from Timbuktu and dedicated to protecting and preserving them until they can be returned to their home. It is the center of a growing global family who have pledged to this urgent effort.
Funds contributed to this project will be used to purchase moisture traps, archival boxes, and the additional footlockers required to safely store these manuscripts, as well as to cover the significant labor effort required to unbox and re-pack the manuscripts for preservation.
Timbuktu Libraries in Exile
In Mother Jones, the story behind "Letters to Newtown." This project was instigated by Boardwalk Empire prop-master, freelance illustrator, and Newtown resident Ross MacDonald, and it serves to digitally archive some of the half million cards, letters, and drawings sent to the town of Newtown, CT after the Sandy Hook school shooting.
Jacques Hebert of Mother Jones, the magazine putting this all together with Tumblr, explains, "These messages of love, hope, and sadness have been on display in Newtown Town Hall, and have been viewed by many residents. To broaden access to these cards and preserve them as memories of what Newtown residents and the nation experienced on that tragic day, Mother Jones in partnership with Tumblr is launching the 'Letters to Newtown' project."
"The project will aim to digitally preserve these cards (the town of Newtown can't afford to store them any longer and many will be turned into ash for a future memorial site) by photographing them and uploading them to a special Tumblr for the world to see."
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UC Santa Cruz launched the Grateful Dead Archive Online last Friday with tens of thousands of items. But it wouldn't be a Grateful Dead archive if all you could do was look at stuff, so you can also:
• Add your own photos and stories - you can even tell us a story over voicemail.
• Use the map to search for things related to a particular Dead show and venue - like photos, backstage passes, and envelopes that fans sent in to request tickets, and tapes from performances hosted at archive.org.
• Read Dick Latvala's original notebook from 1978 describing and commenting on fan tapes
• See Jerry and Bob with a tiger - and send us a comment if you can identify the two other folks in the photo! Our team has done a lot of work to get as many names on these things as possible, but did I mention the "tens of thousands of items" thing? It's a big job, and we appreciate your patience as we work to get comments posted and metadata updated.
We've logged visits from 97 countries so far (Hello there in Moldova, Montenegro, and Malaysia!), and as of yesterday the average visit lasted four minutes and twenty seconds, which we can't help but interpret as a good omen. The messages we're getting from the community have been full of warmth and love - of course! - and we're pleased as punch to be able to open up this collection to such a great (grateful?) bunch of fans, scholars, and researchers. We look forward to growing it with them and creating a fun and useful tool for understanding the Grateful Dead phenomenon and all the broader waves of American culture in the past 50 years it has impacted.
Posted by Katie Fortney of University of California Santa Cruz Library.
A reader writes,
The Canadian government is slowly doing away with Canada's ability to access its own history.
Library and Archives Canada's collection is being decentralized and scattered across the country, often to private institutions, which will limit access, making research difficult or next impossible. It should be noted that Daniel Caron, the new National Archivist hired in 2009, doesn't even have a background in library nor archives but, a background in economics.
"The changes and cuts are being justified by reference to digitization. A generous estimate is only 4% of the LAC collection has been digitized to date -- a poor record that will be made worse by the cuts announced on April 30, 2012, which reduced digitization staff by 50%."
Save Library & Archives Canada
Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez,
On March 15,
Boing Boing kindly allowed me to use this
august forum to serve notice on 7 government officials and 10 of the CEOs of the $1-billion/year industry of
standards people. The issue was privately-developed public safety standards that were incorporated into U.S. law, but
only available by paying big bucks. We asked the government and the standards people to send us their comments by
May 1 as to why the law shouldn't be available for all to read.
There have been no such comments received, so today
we're making available for public inspection 317 legally-mandated
documents, most of why have been previously unavailable on the net. To properly document
this open source release, Tim O'Reilly, Jennifer Pahlka, and the 2012 Code for America fellows joined me in an Internet
Although Public.Resource.Org received no comments from the standards people, this doesn't mean they haven't
circled the wagons. Tuesday [today], the Department of Commerce
is hosting the CEOs of the biggest standards
bodies in a big standards summit. We asked to participate as did a number of other public interest groups, but we didn't make
Although all these Standards Development Organizations are non-profits, they do quite well for themselves.
In fact, the 5 nonprofit CEOs attending this meeting (which is conveniently not webcast and isn't taking questions or comments
from the net), the average salary is $633,061. The standards people claim they need the money, but I don't think they need
nearly as much as they're making and, in any case, you can't have a democracy if the citizens don't know what the law is.
I hope everybody can take a few minutes to look at these standards and make your voice known here on Boing Boing or directly
to your government. (This isn't just a U.S. issue, by the way, and we're now preparing a release of public safety standards
for other countries.)
If you're interested in other links, you might consider:
* One Man's Quest to Make Information Free (Bloomberg Business)
* Making Laws More Public (On the Media)
* Why building codes should be open
Free archive of for-pay laws
An update to the saga of Marty's dad's collection of handmade wild west whisky bottles
: they've been acquired
by the Autry National Center
. They'll be part of a 2013 special exhibition on the wild west in pop culture. Yee-haw!
Spider Robinson writes concerning a petition to rescue the 100,000 items from the musical archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that are in danger of being purged: "To waste the precious musical treasure the CBC has painfully accumulated and indexed for us would be a self-inflicted cultural lobotomy, akin to burning down the Alexandrian Library to make room for a trailer park. It’s our national iPod, and we spent a bundle of money and decades of hard work to load it. Don’t let some imbecile erase it. Keeping its battery charged is a trivial expense. I really think this is an important cause, and I'd like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It's free and takes just a few seconds of your time."
The stated plan is to digitalize some recordings, but the timeline for disposal in one fashion or another does not allow anywhere near an adequate appraisal of the provenance or cultural worth of each artifact. Many of these recordings were rare to begin with and are impossible to acquire in any format today. Thousands were donated by erudite collectors and hosts. Album covers and liner notes will disappear.
(For more information, see: http://cbcradiotwoandme.blogspot.com/2012/01/coming-to-garage-sale-near-you-cbcs.html and http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/planning+record/6135746/story.html.)
Save CBC Music Archives