Jason Scott has made the source available for every one of Infocom's classic and genre-defining text adventure games (previously) for the Apple ][+ and its successors, posting it to Github under the historicalsource account. Read the rest
Sharon Ringel and Angela Woodall have published a comprehensive, in-depth look at the state of news archiving in the digital age, working under the auspices of the Tow Center at the Columbia Journalism Review; it's an excellent, well-researched report and paints an alarming picture of the erosion of the institutional memories of news organizations. Read the rest
Olive ("Open Library of Images for Virtualized Execution") is an experimental service from Carnegie Mellon University that stores images of old processors, as well as the old operating systems that ran on top of them, along with software packages for those old OSes; this allows users to access old data from obsolete systems inside simulations of the computers that originally ran that data, using the original operating systems and applications. Read the rest
XML pioneer and early blogger Tim Bray went looking through Google for some posts he knew about from 2006 and 2008 and found that Google couldn't retrieve either of them, not even if he searched for lengthy strings that were exact matches for text from the articles; he concluded that "from a business point of view, it’s hard to make a case for Google indexing everything, no matter how old and how obscure," and so we could not longer rely on "Google’s global infrastructure as my own personal search index for my own personal publications."
In 2010, Twitter gave the LoC a copy of every tweet sent since the first one in 2006, and the Library embarked on a program to archive every public tweet sent on the service -- but that will stop after Dec 31. Read the rest
Benji Edwards's guide to preserving vintage electronics is a fascinating look into all the ways that even solid-state gear can go off in long-term storage: a lot of stuff (batteries, capacitors and even rubber) can leak viscous, electronics-destroying liquids; plastics break down in UV light; mold and corrosion eat your gear from within; spiders, crickets and roaches make their nests in old gear; and of course, dust gets everywhere. Read the rest
Legendary comedian Phyllis Diller used a "gag file" to organize her jokes. The steel cabinet held more than 50,000 index cards, each with one joke on it. She filed them by subject, in alphabetical order. In 2003, Diller donated the archive to the Smithsonian and they need help transcribing them into a digital database. From the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History:
Digital volunteers will be able to browse through all of the joke cards, transcribe any cards that make them chuckle, and review cards transcribed by other volunteers. Anyone can volunteer to help us transcribe Phyllis Diller's jokes, or any other project across the Smithsonian. Thanks to the efforts of volunteers like you, researchers and fans around the world will soon be able to explore, share, and enjoy the jokes of Phyllis Diller.
From CBC Radio:
"On my honeymoon I put on a peekaboo blouse. My husband peeked and booed."
Diller's style was self-deprecating. She made jokes about her appearance, about a (fictional) sexless marriage, about her miserable cooking (which in real life was actually very good.) She knew she was playing a character and it made her wealthy, but it doesn't mean the jokes she gave to the Smithsonian still work today.
I asked (Smithsonian Transcription Center's) Meghan Ferriter if any of the volunteers are cringing at the subject matter.
"Well, there actually are a number of jokes that really represent the historical context and cultural values and other forms of social relationships at the time. Some of our volunteers have surfaced them, and really have the opportunity to engage with, kind of critically reflecting on why that was acceptable humour at the time, why that made people amused."
Maciej Cegłowski's (previously) speech at the Library of Congress, "Deep-Fried Data," describes the way that data begs to be analyzed and how machine learning is like a deep-fat fryer -- a fryer makes anything you put in it "kind of" delicious, and machine learning "kind of" finds insights in your data-set. Read the rest
For the first time in 28 years, the Library of Congress is about to get a new Librarian, a person with enormous influence over the Internet and American life. Read the rest