Saving 25,000 Electronics Manuals And Could Use Help

Textfiles.com is the largest repository of BBS archives and digital writings in the world, and admin [Jason Scott] has a nearly single-minded devotion to saving the documents of and relating to our electronic age. Now, he’s in a bit of a pickle. He found 25,000 manuals for all kinds of electronic items. The collection goes back to the 30s, [Jason] wants to save them, and the current owner of the collection needs the space. Have you ever noticed how terrible books are to move?

Included in this collection just outside Baltimore, MD are thousands of manuals for various pieces of equipment going back to the 1930s. There are Tektronix manuals, HP manuals, and instructions and schematics for equipment that hasn’t been made in a very, very long time. [Jason] put up a Flickr gallery of the library in all its glory. There’s bound to be some very interesting stuff in there.

Of course the acquisition of tens of thousands of out of print manuals will never go smoothly. [Jason] needs to start emptying out the shelves on Monday. The current plan is to go through all the manuals, remove the duplicates, and shuffle them over to a storage unit about a mile away until they can be dealt with properly. If you’re around Baltimore, or more specifically Finksburg, MD, [Jason] could use a few hands to clear out this archive on Monday.

27 thoughts on “Saving 25,000 Electronics Manuals And Could Use Help

        1. Google’s scanning process is to cut off the binding of the books and sheet feed them through the scanners. While that’s mostly fine for the vast majority of the crappy books out there, the principle of “destroying a book to save it” is uncomfortable.

          1. The manuals will produce many times more value as digital copies. It’s not like people collect physical copies of these for monetary value, it’s the information they contain.

          2. It looks like a fair number of those manuals are temporarily bound (binders, etc), so taking those ones apart shouldn’t cause any damage.

            Also, moderators please ignore the “Report comment” click I did on Job’s comment, it was a miss-click when trying to reply.

  1. I have time and will, but not exactly nearby. I living in Belgium. =o(
    I have seen some book scanning hack on the site.
    It could be great to have a full autonomous machine that scan a pile of documents. Anybody would be able to check remotetly the process.
    Wich you luck !

  2. He probably doesn’t need help scanning everything, as he’s one of the curators of The Internet Archive and he has a fleet of volunteers (and the devices required) to scan everything. Just check his previous blog posts, for example this one: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4099

    I’m so curious what will come out of this, it would be a shame to see that one go down the drain. I hope there’s some computer-related stuff in there as well, everything he showed so far are datasheets for components or technical equipment (which is, of course, important as well but not so interesting for me personally)

  3. North Carolina and penniless here, or I’d at least offer to throw my two flatbed scanners into the mix… I’d even offer to ship the lighter of the two but (a) it’s a parallel-only Canoscan and (b) I don’t even have $11ish for a Medium Flat Rate box to send it in :( sorry, Jason! (I’ll gladly send it if you can use it and cover postage, though…)

  4. Well, I’m just a few miles away in Hampstead but I’m trying to wrap up a contract job and also move to Tucson within a month. I do have four underemployed teenagers, possibly some friends of theirs would pitch in?

  5. Wish I could help out but I’m too far away. My first books on electronics were about radio electronics involving vacuum tubes. Mind you, we’d had IC’s for many years at that point.

  6. It saddens me when something like this happens.

    There used to be an old shop nearby that sold countless Commodore related stuff. They had a vast number of diskettes, many original but mostly copies of programs obtained from BBS’s over the years. A lot of unique programs and games that never saw commercial attention.

    I didn’t take much interest in the shop itself since I’m an Atari man. One day I dropped by to say hello and the shop was shuttered and the inside bare.

    Hit the net only to find the owner and his wife got fed up with the market and sold what they could on the internet and trashed the rest. Thousands of diskettes lost forever. This was the early “wild west” days just before broadband and torrents exploded so it never occured to them to copy the disk images to HDD.

    1. Some of the first writing I did was for the old QuestData magazine/newsletter for the 1802 back in the late 1970’s. I had published a small number of articles and had one in the queue when Quest folded. Apparently, someone local heard they were unexpectedly closing and took his kid with him to raid the dumpster. They got boxes of stuff.

      Fast forward to 2013. I get an e-mail from the kid (who, of course, is no longer a kid). He was digging through the boxes and found my unpublished manuscript and wanted to know if I would like to have it back. He mailed me the package back. What a blast from the past.

      If you go to the Computer History Museum, they have an interesting video about how so much of the digital information has already become unreadable without great effort to build tape or card readers and convert between formats. I’ve often thought of starting a non-profit to define an archival paper format that would be easy for anyone to scan so you could dump really important stuff to paper and be sure it could be read in the future.

    2. A friend of mine was saving Commodore stuff. Disks, manuals, etc. with the eventual goal of putting it all online. Lots of people were sending him their programs, games, books, etc.

      Then one day we found out he’d had a heart attack and died. His parents and siblings (he was single) didn’t know about any of his online communication so we didn’t find out until someone local tried to go see him after we’d not heard from him for a while.

      Of course, the family just saw boxes and boxes of stuff to clear out and tossed it all in the trash. I know he’d have been very dissapointed.

  7. Contact the National Electronics Museum located near BWI Airport. They may have an interest / resources to assist in the short term or longer term. I contacted an acquaintance who is on the board of directors there as well.

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