I’ve written about Textfiles.com before, as part of my “Paleo E-books” series. (Boy, if I’d known that “Paleo” would take on an entirely new meaning within a few years, I’d have called it something different.) Another TeleRead contributor had praise for the site as well.
An archive of digital flotsam and jetsam from the BBS era and the early Internet, Textfiles.com is a great place to root through years of history in search of interesting or hilarious material. I’m honestly surprised more people aren’t mining it and sharing the stuff on Facebook the way it used to be passed around from node to node on FidoNet.
But speaking of rooting through years of history, Textfiles.com’s proprietor Jason Scott has been doing some of that himself. Slashdot recently carried a call for volunteers to help him pack up a room full of old user manuals, some dating all the way back to the 1930s, before they could all be thrown away.
Fortunately, the Slashdot Effect worked to good effect in this case. Scott was able to get the help he needed (as well as donations to cover the cost of all the extra boxes he ended up needing), and ended up packing and carting away 1,500 boxes full of manuals. More reports and photos of the operation can be found on Scott’s blog, ascii.textfiles.com.
They probably won’t end up on Textfiles.com, though. In one of his blog posts, Scott notes that he works at the Internet Archive, and via them, “the scanning and hosting of said scans would definitely happen – maybe I’ll do a crowd-funding or action for it.” (He has harsher words for people who suggested using Google’s destructive linear book scanner, though.)
It’s great to hear that Scott was able to get the help he needed. User manuals that old are an important part of our technological and cultural heritage. Hopefully they will soon end up scanned and hosted in a form that users everywhere can access.
I liked your use of the old term “flotsam and jetsam”. Like so many terms that are gradually fading away, this one has a nautical background. Flotsam refers to items that float off a sinking ship, while jetsam means things that the crew intentionally tosses off. Things that sink are known as lagan. So when the crew throws off their sea-chests, hoping to recover them, that is jetsam. When a coil of rope floats off the deck, that is flotsam. When the cargo of engine blocks crashes over the side of the capsizing ship and sinks to the bottom, that is lagan.
Thanks for the link to textfiles.com. The old camera manuals are cool beyond belief.
I was aware of the provenance of the term. It was appropriate, which was why I used it. Some of the Textfiles.com files were released intentionally—the jetsam—while others just sort of grew unintentionally out of network conversations and such until they somehow also ended up floating around like the stuff that was “meant” to be there. 🙂
Believe me, Chris, I wasn’t questioning your use, I was complimenting it. I gave the definitions because a lot of readers may not know where the term came from and might find it interesting. These old sailor terms are a special field of interest of mine. They seem to be fading away or shifting in meaning, so I like to point out their derivations. You know, a lot of people nowadays think the phrase “basic block and tackle work” refers to football somehow.