2019 Post-Mortem

Hello, it’s 2020, and time for my annual look back at the computer history work that I did in the past year. I find it helpful to make a periodic checkpoint, and the start of the new year is a good time to do it.

The bulk of the year’s work happened at the scanner. I scanned a massive amount of computer history documents and uploaded them to Internet Archive. This material included source code: the source code Leafer Madness, an unfinished game for Atari 8-bit computers (along with its development notebook); Atari Karateka Development Disks; and the Daisy Dot II printing application.

I scanned 24 issues of Semaphore Signal, an Apple Lisa/Macintosh publication that was published from June 17, 1983 through May 31, 1985; and 37 issues of Pragma and Pragma's Product Profiles, two publications devoted to the Pick Operating System. (The remaining issues of those three publications are in a larger format that requires a different scanner. I’ve already started on these in 2020 so the online collections will be complete.) I scanned Auerbach Microworld volume 1 and volume 2, a behemoth 1986 index of computer applications, systems software, microcomputers, and peripherals. The most popular single item that scanned was the beautiful Fall 1989 NeXT Software and Peripherals catalog.

I discovered and scanned several new old dissertations and theses involving 8-bit computers, including Transversion System - An Apple II to Commodore 64 File Transfer/Conversion System, Assembly Language Debugging Hardware/Software For The Commodore 64 Computer, and Microcomputer I/O For A Real Time Automatic Equalizer using a Commodore 64. (My mini-book summarizing 20 Atari computer-related theses stalled completely in 2019. I hope to finish it in 2020.)

Other unique finds that I scanned included the 1984 Atari Telephone Directory, the Atari Office Supply Catalog and Office Administration Handbook, and Atari 800 - send your student to school with a secret weapon, a rare catalog of educational software for the Atari 800 computer.

It’s one thing for me to find and scan computer history things, but what if we could create an organization to create a repeatable, fundable process to scan tech history material and get them into Internet Archive? That’s what Jason Scott and I are doing with a new project called Scantastix. Scantastix is a highly-curated set of scanning projects meant to fast-track documents into digital form at Internet Archive. It is crowd-funded. Soon after launching the project in 2018, the Scantastix project scanned and uploaded 4900 pages of material (comprising 83 items, including many rare Apple II software manuals.)

In 2019 I mostly took a break from from doing interviews for the Antic podcast. I was feeling burned out, not enjoying the process as much as I used to. As a result, I published seven interviews on the podcast. Most of those came at the end of the year as I was emerging from a self-imposed break. I’m looking forward to getting back to interviews in 2020. I am keenly aware that the people I want to interview are getting older — and with that comes forgetting things, health problems, and dying. I need to get back to these interviews while there is still time. My goal for 2020 is to publish at least 20 interviews.

In addition to the podcast interviews, I got to interview Steve Meretsky about interactive fiction at GitHub headquarters, and participate in a panel at Portland Retro Gaming Expo, titled “Atari 800 series computers: 40 years” with Joe Decuir and David Crane! I was thrilled to be able to participate in both events. I was also invited to write a blog post for Internet Archive highlighting some of the Atari computer history resources that I’ve uploaded over the years — sharing these resources with people who might not be aware of the tech history trove that is Internet Archive.

Last year I wrote about a “particular archiving project...that is really big and really important for microcomputer history.” That project depends on the help of one person who has been battling ongoing health issues. It is still very much at the front of my mind, and *crosses fingers* will move ahead this year.

(Oh, and I’m continuing to play all of Infocom’s text adventures with @Carrington for the Eaten By A Grue podcast (10 games left to go!) The project with Rob McMullen to add new levels to Jumpman has been waiting for him to upgrade his Omnivore project. It should also see progress in 2020.)

I’m looking forward to a productive 2020. Let’s do this thing!

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