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We are barely halfway done (textfiles.com)
487 points by pmorici on Aug 18, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments



It's sad to see a company go out of business, but I applaud the owners of Manuals Plus [1] for making such a large donation to the Internet Archive.

To provide some more context about what the actual contents of the archive includes, a description is on their about page [2]:

"Manuals Plus buys and sells Electronic Test & Measurement Equipment Manuals. We stock over 400,000 manuals at our Westminster, Maryland location. Our inventory consists of Operator, Service, Calibration, and Programming manuals."

[1] http://www.manualsplus.com/

[2] http://www.manualsplus.com/About.php


The fate of the manuals are not known to be heading to the Internet Archive just yet. It's quite likely they'll end up there though. At least for digitalizing and scanning them in.

I however join you in applauding Manuals Plus in letting these go. It must be hard for them.


The way I understand it, the company behind the manualsplus.com service (Ridge Equipment Company, Inc.) isn't going out of business. The issue is they needed to move to a new location and it didn't make economic sense for them to continue with the manuals part of their business when considering the cost of outfitting the new facility for their storage and moving the material.


If that's the case, they should be getting a nice tax deduction for the donation, right?


.. which might be more than they would have gotten for them in an auction. Clever.


Likely not, the ones they are throwing in the dumpster are making a statement about the estimated value of the rest of them.


We stock over 400,000 manuals

The original estimate[1] was only(!) 25k, so that explains the need to order more boxes.

[1] http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4683


Part of the difference could be number of manuals versus number of different manuals. The original blog post talked about there being multiple cookies of some manuals.

Part of it could also be ronding up for advertising a number they do not know exactly. A firm like this may not have kept perfect tally of their stock ("hey guys! It's January again. The guy from accounting needs to know what we have. It's counting time!")


A big part of it was that they were definitely further up a year or two ago and have been trying to fire sale out manuals as they go. The website has been updated infrequently so the number is not as large anymore.


Jason Scott is really one of the heros of our time. His dedication to preserving history is seriously amazing. I really hope to meet him one day.


Jason Scott is doing an incredible public service here. Presuming this gets scanned and released to the public, it will over time result in many pieces of recycled electronics, inspired engineers, and derivative art.


> Presuming this gets scanned and released to the public

What is the copyright status of these manuals? I hope they don't bump into any legal problem though and they can release scans.


Some of the oldest ones are probably in the public domain, but I guess the others are still copyrighted; nevertheless, I trust the Internet Archive will have that figured out as they have collected plenty of other copyrighted material before this.


Archives have some pretty broad exceptions to copyright infringement laws.

[0] http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#108


The Internet Archive hosts all of the MAME ROMs, many of which are still copyrighted:

https://archive.org/details/MAME_0_161_ROMs



What an amazing effort. In case someone local wants to join in:

The warehouse is located in Finksburg, MD, about 30 miles northwest of Baltimore.

[taken from the original post of the issue: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4683]


I and many others spent basically all day there yesterday. It's fun to look through all of these manuals. It takes a lot of concentration picking out the unique copies and leaving the many copies behind. Especially HP.. arg so, so many revisions of the same manual.


Thank you for your effort.


If this weren't happening so far away, I'd be there to help. Historical preservation, especially of niche documents like electronics manuals, will become increasingly important over time as historical equipment needs to be maintained, patents need to be refuted with prior art, etc.


He's getting great service from Uline, the packaging material supplier. 4-hour delivery on pallet loads of boxes.


Well that's because he paid $4,000 for it.


I paid $560 for the courier service Uline provided. The rest was the cost of the 1,200 boxes, regardless of shipping method (Roughly $3,400)


you can get a view of what's going on by looking through the images at https://www.flickr.com/photos/textfiles/sets/721576572772417... there's also microfiche.


I've never heard of this company before now. I've needed a manual for my Leader LBO-514A oscilloscope, and it turns out they have one. I guess Jason has it now!


I needed a manual for a piece of consumer electronics but they didn't have the manual. The manufacturer did though when I contacted them. I thought about giving the copy to this company but I felt no desire to help some business out like that, but for the IA, heck yeah, I might have to send it off to them.


Oh wow, I thought this was in SF, and then I realized one of the guys in the picture is Maze, a guy who helps run a hackerspace here in Baltimore. I had no idea this was happening! And not only do I have to work, I injured my neck and back, so I can't lift anything. And no car. Crap. I hope more local people find out about this, though!


If you know people in the area, can't you make a few calls to see if anyone else can help?


FYI: if you can get there, you might be able to help by assembling the bankers' boxes, which doesn't require too much lifting or bending. (I was there yesterday for a few hours: some people assemble the boxes, others take the boxes and fill them, and then we stack them.)


I wish I could be there to help. But I can't, so I made another donation.

Jason and the other volunteers, my thanks! You guys are heroes.


Jason, You continue to make me feel awesome about humanity. Say hello to socks for me.


I think, we all should tip to buy a vacuum book scanner for Mr Scott, if he shall decide to digitize manuals. You won't believe how useful this library will be for the folks in the field.


From a previous post: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4695

> Hey, go ask Google. I think people don’t understand what Google is and how much it particularly cares about doing “The Right Thing” (not much), and the next person to mention the Linear Book Scanner (a prototype that destroys books), well, they’re going to get a hug and my distracting words of love.


It would probably be better to donate such a thing to the Internet Archive and get to use it for this project. This guy is renting storage space for the manuals out of his own pocket, it's unlikely he has space for industrial scanning equipment at home.


Jason Scott works for the Internet Archive, as well as doing his own archiving and documentary work.


> Jason Scott works for the Internet Archive, as well as doing his own archiving and documentary work.

Yes, I know.

The GP comment suggested giving an expensive, large industrial scanner to "Mr. Scott", which I interpreted as giving it to him personally. My point was simply that it would be more appropriate to give it to the Internet Archive.


I just thought that this particular mission was initiative of Mr Scott himself, not the Internet Archive as business entity.


Let the future remember the past clearer than we ever could.


Thinking outside the box here, would it not be more effective contacting some of the companies still operating (eg, HP, Intel, Philips etc) to see if they have some of the operating manuals already scanned, and available publicly?


You're right that it is not worth bothering with the manuals already online and available. But clearly they are so short of time they cannot spare the time to do such searches, and can only just grab them all.


Those are not the original physical artefacts though. Digitisation is immensely important for access of content, but it's not preservation.


Wait Columbus? That's not drastically far..


For context:

This is the third post in a series. The author (Jason Scott) is trying to save ~25,000 manuals, instruction booklets, and engineering notes (largely electronics related, created over the last 80 years). This is a large project, the company which owns the manuals currently is going out of business, and all the manuals will be thrown away very soon (re: tomorrow).

First post: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4711 Second post: http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/4683


It is infeasible (IMHO) to deal with all physical manuals ever in this way, unless you are literally a Manuals Library that is supported by the county or whatever.

I think the only way to go forward is to digitize the shit out of everything.


I've noticed that a lot of headlines on HN are intentionally vague, to pique reader's interest. I'm not sure what being intentionally vague for an entire article is supposed to accomplish.

What is it that is barely halfway done?


> I'm not sure what being intentionally vague for an entire article is supposed to accomplish.

This isn't an article, though. It's someone's personal blog and the continuation of something else; the assumption is that you've read the other ones.

He's talking about the process of saving a huge amount (25k?) of paper manuals from someone who was going to throw them out.


Which is no longer a useful assumption when pages can be independently displayed and linked, and then disseminated. I had to look at these comments to even understand that my guess was somewhat true.


Well also to comply with https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

> please use the original title, unless it is misleading or linkbait.


Isn't this title misleading? I thought it would be about real time operating systems.


Ok, we'll take "In Realtime" out of the title here.


And this is a perfect example of a time when using the original title is stupid. There's absolutely no good reason to insist on original titles for their own sake, when the original title is meaningless, lacks context, or is otherwise inadequate - none of which are necessarily the same thing as "misleading or linkbait".


The stupidity we want to avoid on HN is subsecond internet reflexiveness, which is what you get when putting pre-processed information directly into the reader like a mother bird dropping pre-chewed worms into baby birds' mouths.

Here we want reflective reactions, not reflexive ones. For that, it's good if the reader has to work a little. We're not talking about anything hard—anybody willing to work the tiniest amount, such as clicking two links instead of one, or one instead of zero, could, for instance, trivially figure out the OP.

It's good for the front page to have a mild timing-attack effect on the brain. The slight pause that induces is an opening for more reflective thought to enter. Maybe it won't, but if the door snaps shut in a second, it certainly won't.

The anger that flares up when an internet thing doesn't immediately present itself for a sugar hit is, in my opinion, the reaction of an addict. We all have this. It's necessary to catch it and inhibit it in order for the subtler reactions, like curiosity, to emerge. If you don't want to do that, plenty of other places on the internet will oblige.


We're not talking about anything hard—anybody willing to work the tiniest amount, such as clicking two links instead of one, or one instead of zero, could, for instance, trivially figure out the OP.

What you're talking about in this specific instance is a title which is almost totally devoid of any context which would explain why a potential reader should click on it. Unless you recognize the domain and knew what about the ongoing story, there is little reason to click on this link, and that's shame, as this is an important story.

It isn't about how much work anything is or isn't... it's about the value of people's time, and how the make decisions about how to invest it. I know I can't read every single story submitted to HN, and I doubt many (if any) people can. We all have to glance at the headlines and make a decision "do I spend the time to dig into this or not?"

I'm certainly not saying that titles should be a free-for-all, but I maintain that overly rigid adherence to an "original titles only" policy is misguided. Maybe "stupid" is an overly strong word, and I apologize for using unnecessarily harsh language. But I feel pretty strongly about this, because it seems blindingly obvious to me that this policy, as it's applied, is sub-optimal.

Anyway, here's a thought: IF it's that important to preserve the original title, then add a second field with space for a brief comment supplied by the submitter. Not something like Slashdot mind you, but some way for the user to (optionally) add some extra descriptive verbiage to help clarify ambiguous or context-free titles.


> Anyway, here's a thought: IF it's that important to preserve the original title, then add a second field with space for a brief comment supplied by the submitter. Not something like Slashdot mind you, but some way for the user to (optionally) add some extra descriptive verbiage to help clarify ambiguous or context-free titles.

People editorialise titles. Your suggested box would almost ask for editorialising.

People can leave a comment for anything they submit.


People editorialise titles. Your suggested box would almost ask for editorialising.

Yes, exactly! And that's a Good Thing in the cases I'm talking about. Let's quit throwing the word editorialising around like it's a pejorative. Editorialising serves a purpose and is actually needed quite often.


> Editorialising serves a purpose

Mostly it serves for the editorializer to put their own spin on the topic. That's the opposite of what we want here. We want readers to make up their own minds.


That's the opposite of what we want here. We want readers to make up their own minds.

But they need enough information to make up their minds. That's what I'm trying to say here. Editorialising is NOT some universally bad thing, nor is it synonymous with "spin". If a title is something useless like "Some interesting results" then it absolutely should be editorialised, or annotated to show that it's "interesting results" in quantum mechanics, vs., content marketing, or cat-picture hosting.

All I'm saying is, not all original titles are good, and some edits serve a valuable purpose and should be allowed.


But they need enough information to make up their minds.

"I had to follow a hyperlink to get the information I wanted" is a pretty amusing first world problem.


That isn't the issue at all. The issue is choosing which links to invest the time to follow, and which ones to ignore. Or do you read every link you find on HN? If so, I imagine you're one of a very select crowd who actually have the time to do that.


I don't read every link. I just use the information available (distance from the top, the age, what I can infer from the headline, the domain, the number of comments, the nature of the comments). It's an imperfect system, but in general I find its imperfection to be more tolerable than both the complaints about it and the downsides of any suggested "improvement".


I'd rather have no titles and an accurate tag cloud.


It's basically clickbait as written. Does that make me "lazy" for not clicking on every link that says "you won't believe what happens next!"?


No.

By the way, on HN, please don't make things look like a quote when they're not (I didn't use the word "lazy"). I know it seems minor but it's important for respectful debate.


The logic is to prevent sensational titles. By forcing the title to be the page's heading, it limits posters ability to target the hn audience with a snappy, BuzzFeed-like, heading.


So instead, authors of the article can target any audience with snappy, BuzzFeed-like headings, and the HN poster can either copy it or rewrite it, and they'll get complaints either way...


It also eliminates the posters ability to provide the hn audience with a useful title.

I very much prefer a "snappy, BuzzFeed-like" heading that tells me what the article is about over a meaningless phrase without context.


The logic is to prevent sensational titles.

I think we all understand that. I think we also all understand that there are times when blind adherence to that rule is bloody stupid.


It'd be kinda cool to hack the (fairly stupid) rule with titles like '…' or 'An interesting result.'


Or Title'); DROP TABLE Articles;--


Unfortunately, HN only allows the original title, which results in crappy titles that weren't designed for the context of a social news site so often leaves readers clueless.


> HN only allows the original title

Read the HN guidelines and you'll see that that's not true.


The extra context comes from two places

- the domain, textfiles.org is an incredibly well known domain, so things from there are likely to be interesting and not linkbait

- clicking the link and reading the article, this is guaranteed to answer your question


- the domain, textfiles.org, is for sale. To purchase, call BuyDomains.com.

- clicking the link and reading the article did not help, so I went to the comments for context.

I got lucky on this one. I've never heard of textfiles, so I was going to question whether or not it's really "well-known", and I got a good laugh when I went to the site you recommended and found a domain for sale :)


wow, just wow. huge work indeed




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