Category Archives: Cool items

Happy Pi(e) Day

In honor of the esteemed mathematical constant, we invite you to celebrate Pi Day with us!

If you’re a math geek, we have you covered:

If your mathematical knowledge could use a little refresher, maybe try this one instead:
Sir Cumference and the dragon of pi : a math adventure.

You could listen to multiple people recite the first 50 digits of pi in various styles, including to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (my personal favorite), in the voice of Bullwinkle, as an infomercial, in Latin, while laughing, in Morse Code, and while eating actual pie.

If you’re just obsessive, here’s

Have insomnia? Listen to the first 1,000 digits of pi for 9.5 minutes straight… problem solved!

But most importantly, if you want to celebrate by eating pie we can help you make one! Winner of the Best Title Award definitely goes to Pies and tarts with schmecks appeal by the inimitable Edna Staebler. A close second goes to Tarts with Tops On by Tamasin Day-Lewis. But take your pick from amongst a wide array of pie cookbooks to find the right one for you.

And most importantly, we wish you infinite pi(e).

A Public Peek into 1923

Commercial radio broadcasting began in the 1920s, bringing entertainment, news and music into people’s homes. Now, instead of needing to play a 78rpm disc on your phonograph, you could just tune in to listen to popular songs.

And in 1923 that means you would have been listening to one of the many versions of “Yes! We Have No Bananas” written by Frank Silver and Irving Cohn.  

You could listen to the Billy Jones version (play below), the Billy Murray version, a Yiddish version, or an Italian version, among others.

Yes! We Have No Bananas by Billy Jones from the 78rpm collection

Then you could have moved on to dancing the Charleston, popularized by the song of the same name from the 1923 musical “Runnin’ Wild.”   And with the explosion of recordings by African American musicians, you could also enjoy “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” by Bessie Smith and “Dipper Mouth Blues” by Louis Armstrong.

Autogyro (1934)

In the news of the day you saw the first flight of an autogyro (the precursor to the helicopter).

Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Championship title against Tommy Gibbons and Luis Firpo.

And Howard Carter’s team finally entered the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen, as covered in books, sheet music and song

But why are we focusing on 1923? Because for the first time in 20 years, new works are entering the public domain in the United States (read more: 1, 2, 3). And those works were all published in, you guessed it, 1923.

Settle in with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a Butterfinger, or a refreshing Popsicle (all invented in 1923!) while you watch Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten CommandmentsThe White Sister starring Lillian Gish, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame starring Lon Chaney. Or any one of 50 other films available on archive.org from that year.

After your movie marathon, you can turn to your “new” reading materials to learn about sewing the latest women’s fashions, try an old recipe from a cook book (we recommend the Marshmallow Loaf), learn about theatrical lighting, construct yourself a bungalow (um, check the lastest building codes first), grab some sheet music, read up on Benito Mussolini, and learn “How You Can Keep Fit” from Rudolph Valentino (!).

Finally, settle in to read some Robert Frost, Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, or Kahlil Gibran. And while you’re here, take a look at the 20,000 other texts we have available from 1923. 

We look forward to introducing you to 1924 NEXT January!

30 Days of Stuff

Jason Scott, free-range archivist, reporting in as 2017 draws to a close.

As part of our end-of-year fundraising drive, I thought it might be fun to tweet highlighted parts of the vast stacks of content that the Internet Archive makes available for free to millions. A lot of folks know about our Wayback Machine and its 20+ years of website history, but there’s petabytes of media and works available to see throughout the site. I called it “30 Days of Stuff”, and for the last 30 days I’ve been pointing out great items at the Archive, once a day.

You won’t have to swim upstream through my tweets; here on the last day, I’ve compiled the highlighted items in this entry. Enjoy these jewels in the Archive’s collection, a small sample of the wide range of items we provide.

Books and Texts

  • The Latch Key of my Bookhouse was one of the first books scanned by the Internet Archive in its book scanner tests, and it’s a 1921 directory of Children’s Literature that is filled with really nice illustrations that came out great.
  • As part of our ever-growing set of Defense Technical Information Center collection, we have The Role of the Citizens Band Radio Service and Travelers Information Stations In Civil Preparedness Emergencies Final Report, a 1978 overview of CB Radio and what role it might play in civil emergencies. Many thousands of taxpayer-funded educational and defense items are mirrored in this collection.
  • Also in the DTIC collection is The Battalion Commander’s Handbook 1980, which besides the crazy front page of stamps, approvals and sign-offs, is basically a manager’s handbook written from the point of view of the US Army.
  • There are hundreds of tractor manuals at the Archive. Hundreds! Of all types, languages (a lot of them Russian) and level of information. Tractors are one of those tools that can last generations and keeping the maintenance on them in the field can make a huge difference in livelihood.
  • A lovely 1904 catalog for plums called The Maynard Plum Catalogue was scanned in with one of our partner organizations and it’s a breathless and inspiring declaration of the future wonder of the plums this wizard of plum-growing, Luther Burbank, was bringing to the world.
  • Xerox Corporation released “A Metamorphosis of Creative Copying” in 1964, which seems to function as both promotion for Xerox and a weird gift to give to your kids to color in.
  • In 2014, a short zine called The Tao of Bitcoin was released, telling people the dream of $10,000 bitcoin would be real.
  • The 1888 chapbook Goody Two-Shoes has lovely illustrations, and a fine short story.
  • Working with a lovely couple who brought in a 1942 black-owned-businesses directory, I scanned the pages by hand and put them up into this item.
  • Inside that directory was an ad for a school of whistling that said it taught using the methods of Agnes Woodward, and a quick scan of the Archive’s stacks showed that we had an entire copy of her book Whistling as an Art!
  • The medical treatise Sleep and Its Derangements, from 1869, is William A. Hammond, MD’s overview of sleep, and what can go wrong. Scanned from the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, it’s one of many thousands of books we’ve scanned with partners.
  • Let Hartman Feather Your Nest could be described as “A furniture catalog” in the same way the Sistine Chapel could be described as “a place of worship”. The catalog is a thundering, fist-pounding declaration of the superiority of the Hartman enterprise and the quality and breadth of furniture and service that will arrive at your door and be backed up to the far reaches of time.

Magazines

  • Photoplay considered itself the magazine for the motion picture industry in the first part of the 20th century, and this multi-volume compilation of photos, articles and advertisements is a truly lovely overview.
  • There’s over 140 issues of the classic Maximum RockNRoll zine, truly the king of music zines for a very long time. On its newsprint pages are howls and screeches of all manner of punk, rock and the needs of musicians.
  • A magazine created by the Walt Disney Company to trumpet various parts of Disneyland and its attractions was called Vacationland, and this Fall 1965 issue covers all sorts of stuff about the park’s first decade.

Movies

  • Rescued from a warehouse years ago, a collection of Hollywood movie “B-Roll”, unused secondary scenes often filmed by different crew, has been digitized. My personal favorite is [Western Film Scenes], which is circa 1950s footage of a Western Town, all of it utterly fake but feeling weirdly real, to be used in a western. Don’t miss everyone standing around looking right at you and looking like they agree quite energetically with you!
  • No compilation could be complete without the legendary Duck and Cover, a cartoon/PSA that explained the simple ways to avoid injury in a nuclear blast. Just lie down! It’ll be fine. Please note: This Probably Won’t Work. But the song is very catchy.
  • The very weird Electric Film Format Acid Test from 1990 has a semi-interested model holding up a color bar plate in a wide, wide variety of film and video formats. Filmed just a few blocks away from the Internet Archive’s current headquarters.
  • I snuck in a 1992 interview with the Archive’s founder, Brewster Kahle, back when he was 33 and working at WAIS, a company or two before the Archive and where he is asked about his thoughts on information and gathering of data. It’s quite interesting to hear the consistency of thought.
  • The Office of War Information worked with Disney to create “Dental Health“, a film to show to troops about proper dental care. It’s a combination of straightforward animation and industrial film-making worth enjoying.

Audio

  • We have a collection of hours of the radio show The Shadow from 1938-1939, starring  Orson Welles at 23, at the height of his performance powers, playing the dual main role.
  • For Christmas Eve, we pointed to “Christmas Chopsticks”, a 1953 78rpm record of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” performed to the tune of the classic piano piece “Chopsticks”; one of tens of thousands of 78rpm records the Archive has been adding this year.
  • On Christmas, a user of the Archive uploaded two obscure albums he’d purchased on eBay – remnants of the S. S. Kresge Company, which became K-Mart, and which were played over the PA system for shoppers. He got his hands on Albums #261 and #294.
  • Earlier in the month before the user uploaded those Christmas albums, I linked to a different holiday collection of K-Mart items, a 1974 Reel-to-Reel that started with a K-Mart jingle and went full holiday from there.
  • Before he was a (retired) talk show host, and before he was a stand-up comedian, David Letterman worked and trained in radio. Happily, we have recordings of Dave Letterman, DJ, from when he was 22, at Ball State University.
  • Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber has been hosting his weekly pop music recycling radio show, “Crap from the Past”, for over 25 years, and he’s been uploading and cataloging his show to the Archive for well over 10 of those years, including all the way back to the beginning of his show. The full Crap From The Past archive is up and is hundreds of hours of fun.
  • The truly weird “Conquer the Video Craze” is a 1982 record album with straightforward descriptions of how to beat games like Centipede, Defender, Stargate, Dig Dug, and more. This album has been sampled from by multiple DJs to bring that extra spice to a track.
  • Over 3,000 shows at the DNA Lounge are at the archive, including “Bootie: Gamer Night“, which combines mash-up tracks and video games. Bootie has been playing at DNA Lounge for years, and puts the audio from one song with the singing from another, and… it’s quite addicting, like games. This night was for the nearby Game Developers’ Conference being held the same week.

Software

  • In 2011, as part of a “retrocomputing” competition, we saw the release of “Paku-Paku”, a pac-clone program which ran in an obscure early PC-Compatible graphics mode that was very colorful and very small (160×100) and was built perfectly for it. You can play the game in your browser by clicking here.
  • Psion Chess is a game for the Macintosh that can play both you and itself with pretty high levels of skill and really sharp and crisp black and white graphics.  It makes a really great screensaver in self-playing mode.

People often overuse a phrase like “Barely scratched the surface”, but I assure you there are millions of amazing items in the archive, and it’s been a pleasure to bring some to light. While the 30 Days of Stuff was a fun way to stretch out a month of fundraising with stuff to see every day, we’re here 24/7 to bring you all these items, and welcome you finding jewels, gems and clunkers throughout our hard drives whenever you want.

Thanks for another year!

The Internet Arcade becomes an Archive Reality

A couple years back, we introduced the Internet Arcade, which enabled people around the world to play a number of Arcade titles from the last 40 years in their browsers, instantly. We’ve also had collections of console games, and a general library of tens of thousands of software programs which has also proven very popular.

The work continues to expand the emulated systems and refresh what titles are available, but a project we’ve had going on the side for a while just came to fruition.

Among the organizations that turned out to benefit from having our browser-based emulations was X-Arcade, manufacturers of high-quality joysticks and control panels for use with computers and software. Meant to have the original Arcade feel, a few examples of these controllers were gifted to the Archive and we’ve used them pretty extensively in demonstration days and special events.

Last year, X-Arcade announced an old-school full-sized arcade machine case for sale, and generously offered to send one to the Archive as well. We contacted an excellent artist, Mar Williams of Sudux.com, who has done excellent art for the DEFCON hacking conference and many other events, and she put together custom Internet Archive-themed arcade side art for the machine. Here’s what she came up with:

ia-mockup

The machine has made its way through shipping and moving companies and arrived at the Internet Archive’s 300 Funston Avenue headquarters in great shape, along with all the electronics and parts to make it go soon.

It’s one thing to see a mockup, and another to see the actual machine in your lobby:

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Over the next few weeks, the system will be set up to run with the Internet Archive systems and provide a really nice demonstration station for the many guests and visitors we see. It really jazzes up the place!

In the meantime, we’re now providing you with links to download the artwork files, in case you want to use them yourself.

Thanks again to X-Arcade for the lovely addition to our lobby, and to Mar Williams for such fantastic art!

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Truck and Back Again: The Internet Archive Truck Takes a Detour

When one of our employees came out of his home over the weekend, he saw an empty parking space. Granted, in San Francisco, that’s a pretty precious thing, but since this empty parking space had held the Internet Archive Truck for the previous two days, he was not feeling particularly lucky.

A staff conversation then ensued, the city was called to see if the truck had been towed, and after a short time, it became obvious that no, somebody had stolen the Truck.

This in itself is not news: thousands of vehicles are stolen in the Bay Area every year. But what makes this unusual was the nature of the vehicle stolen… the Truck is a pretty unique looking vehicle.

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Once the report was filed with the police and a few more checks were made to ensure that the truck was absolutely, positively missing and presumed stolen, the truck’s theft was announced on Twitter, which garnered tens of thousands of views and the news being spread very far. Thanks to everyone who got the word out.

What was not expected, besides the initial theft, was that a lot of people wondered why the Internet Archive, essentially a website, would have a truck. So, here’s a little bit about why.

Besides the providing of older websites, books, movies, music, software and other materials to millions of visitors a day, the Internet Archive also has buildings for physical storage located in Richmond, just outside the limits of San Francisco. In these buildings, we hold copies of books we’ve scanned, audio recordings, software boxes, films, and a variety of other materials that we are either turning digital or holding for the future. It turns out you can’t be a 100% online experience – physical life just gets in the way. We also have multiple data centers and the need to transport equipment between them.

Therefore, we’ve had a hard-working vehicle for getting these materials around: a 2003 GMC Savana Cutaway G3500, often parked out front of the Archive’s 300 Funston Avenue address and making up to several trips a week between our various locations.

In a touch of whimsy, the truck has had a unique paint job for most of its life with the Archive. Notably, this isn’t even the first mural it had on its sides; here is a shot with the previous mural:

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We’re not sure of the motivation in stealing this rather unique and noticeable vehicle, and there seems to be some evidence it was driven around the city for a while after it was taken. But yesterday, we were contacted by the San Francisco Police Department with really great news:

The Truck has been recovered!

Left abandoned by the side of the road, the truck was found and is about to be returned to the Archive, and with good luck, back and in service helping us prepare and transport materials related to our mission: to bring the world’s knowledge to everyone.

Again, thanks to everyone who sounded out the original call for the truck’s return, and to the SFPD for getting a hold of the truck so quickly after it was gone.

The Internet Archive Telethon Pt. 3

See also Parts 1 and 2.

We dreamed up the idea of an Internet Archive Telethon, and due to the work of employees, volunteers, and performers, we put together an (almost) 24-hour show. We had an amazing time doing it.

But what were the results?

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In total, including the 2-1 matching grant we had going on, we raised $131,134 across the 24 hour telethon period. Many donations were $50 or $100, with some lower and a few higher. Watching the funding trends that were in effect from the previous year and this month, there was roughly $30,000 expected to be made if we hadn’t done anything unusual beyond the fundraising banner and the usual contacting of folks to donate. So that means, unscientifically, that the Internet Archive Telethon caused a 400 percent increase in donations, which makes it a wild success!

A shout-out to Doug Kaye of IT Conversations, who donated $10,000 to the event towards the end, as well as Kevin Savetz, who contributed $1,500 in the name of the vintage computing history he and others have been uploading. Limor Fried of Adafruit donated $500, and many, many others contributed other amounts throughout the day and night.

Not only was money raised, but awareness was raised: people were being told about the show and were checking out the Internet Archive for the first time. We got a chance to see everyone excited and happy at the end of the year about this place we work in, and to talk about what brings us there. And the performance acts, all volunteering time and effort, provided us with amazing entertainment and spectacle. It was a resounding success on many other levels as well.

Will it happen again next year? Who knows. What we do know is how incredibly wonderful the experience was, even through all the hard work and intense effort, and how great it is that a mission like the Archive’s can inspire so much.

Thank you so much for being a part of this.

There are so many people to thank for this event. We’ll start with Eddie Codel for livestreaming equipment and Jasmine/Chris/Alex at Support Class for their on-screen reactive graphics – you all made us seem much more professional. On the internal side of Internet Archive employees, June Goldsmith handled administration concerns with the hosting of the event and worked out logistics. The front office (Katherine, Laurel and Michelle) made the calls and the reaching out for security, scheduling and logistics. Michelle invited many of our acts and made logistical arrangements for their media, as well as recruited and organized our team of non-staff volunteers. Wendy Hanamura provided advice, booking, and contacts for multiple acts, as well as being onsite for portions of the event.  A lot of employees and volunteers came onsite to help run the Cortex, including Sam, Davide, Jake, Kevin, Laurel, Trevor, Jackie, Carolyn, and Jeff. Rachel Lovinger was a tireless producer for the majority of the cortex’s existence. Carolyn did the Telethon landing page graphics and web design. Will Fitzgerald provided coding for the banner linkage as well as a major assist to near-realtime automatic updating of telethon fundraising totals. Ralf, Tracey, Tim, Trevor, and Brewster and others helped during the Great Network Confusion of December 2015, getting the entire network infrastructure whipped into shape. And, of course, our many acts, including Conspiracy of Beards, Diva Marisa Lendhart, Craig Baldwin, Andy Isaacson, Chris Gray, Justin Hall, Lauren Taylor, Jeff Kaplan, Odd Salon, Gary Gach, Trevor von Stein, the Balkan Brass Band, Alexis Rossi and Dwalu Khasu, Rick and Megan Prelinger, John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, John Law.

We are no doubt missing many more people who contributed to the Telethon both behind and in front of the camera –  it’s a testimony to how many hands came forward to lift this dream up into reality. Thanks to everyone who was a part of it.

A Treasure Trove of Adventure and Uploading

The Internet Archive opens its doors and drives towards a goal of Universal Access to Knowledge, and encourages contributions and uploads from our audience on a global scale. In some cases, like our Netlabels section, the contributors are often the creators as well, publishing open-licensed music at the Archive. Others, however, are doing their part to make sure near-forgotten works find a new life online.

RM_Ballantyne_The_Pirate_City_0006 Shining among these contributing curators is one Nick Hodson of Athelstane e-books, who over the course of years uploaded hundreds (more that 400, in fact) of late 19th century stories of adventure. These books, created by a wide range of authors and publishing houses, contain all manner of plot, drama and intrigue, as well as some top-quality illustration work of the time.

With titles like Twice Lost (1876), The Island Home or The Adventures of Six Young Crusoes (1851), The Voyages of the Ranger and Crusader and What Befell Their Passengers and Crews (1872) and Cutlass and Cudgel (1890), these writings range from epic stories to tales for young readers, a gamut worth traveling in itself.

Additionally, historical work has been done to give context to the books, including biographies of the authors and publishing houses. Explanations of the process of converting the items have been included as well, revealing that Hodson and his colleagues would set up voice synthesizers reading the text, to catch any errors not found other ways.

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It’s good enough to bring to the spotlight this collection of literature, and to point out that as a library, it’s a handsome snapshot of a writing style of the past. But beyond that is the fact that the Archive’s digital storehouses are most welcoming to contributors who accompany the files with the descriptions and reasons behind their being added to the collections.

When a reader finds these stories, now over a century and a half in the past, they do so looking for the descriptions, titles and other information attached to them by the uploader. The reward comes in the view counts and reviews from a happy audience stumbling on a trove of writing that references lives long past.

The Internet Archive’s upload facility awaits quality contributions of culture and history from throughout the world, and continual improvements in search, browsing and on-line reading mean the reward for your efforts will be an ever-growing and grateful audience.

Here’s to the adventures on the high seas, and the adventures of contributors to the Internet Archive, past and future!

Mirroring the Stone Oakvalley Music Collection

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The Internet Archive has begun mirroring a fantastic collection of music called the “Stone Oakvalley Music Collection”. When you visit one of their websites, the archive.org mirror is one of the choices for download. Going forward, the Archive will offer a full backup of the entire site (over a terabyte) for permanent storage.

Why the Stone Oakvalley Collection is important

Manufactured from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, the Commodore 64 computer was a revolutionary piece of hardware and a critical introduction to programming for generations. It also had, within its design, a very well-regarded sound chip: the 6581/8580 SID (Sound Interface Device), whose unique properties in wave generation and effects gave a special sound in the hands of the right developers and musicians.

MOS_Technologies_6581

 

This successful piece of hardware was manufactured in the millions across the life of the C64, and in the late 1980s, the introduction of the Commodore Amiga computer brought to life an improved chipset for generating sound; the 8364, or PAULA. With a range of improvements to what sounds and music could come out of this chip, the Amiga soared with capabilities that took years to match in other machines.

paula8364The Archive hosts many examples of music generated by these chips: our C64 Games Archive has videos in the hundreds of games played on a Commodore 64, and searching for terms like “Amiga Music”, “Chiptunes” and “C64 Music” will yield a good amount of sound to enjoy.

But nothing comes close to the Stone Oakvalley Collection in terms of breadth, dedication, and craft in ensuring the unique sound of these chips can be enjoyed in the future.

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The process, which is documented here, involved setting up a large amount of Commodore hardware connected to servers which would reboot the machines, over and over, playing thousands of pieces of music in different configurations, and automatically cataloging and saving the resulting waveforms. Considerations for modifications of the chipset over the years, of stereo versus mono recordings, and verification of the resulting 400,000 files have provided the highest quality of snapshots of this period.

Browsing the Collection

Currently, there are two websites for Stone Oakvalley’s collection – one based around the C64, and the other based around the Amiga.  Impeccable work has been done to catalog the music, so if there are songs or games you remember, they are likely to be saved on the site (and powered from Archive.org’s servers). Otherwise, browse the stacks of the sites and enjoy a soundscape of computer history.

The Internet Archive strives to provide universal access to the world’s knowledge. Through mirroring, hosting and gathering of data, our mission allows millions to gain ad-free, fast access to information and materials. Be sure to check our many collections on our main site.

Millions of historic images posted to Flickr

by Robert Miller, Global Director of Books, Internet Archive

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“Reading a book from the inside out!”. Well not quite, but a new way to read our eBooks has just been launched. Check out this great BBC article:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28976849

Here is the fabulous Flickr commons collection:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages

BBC articleAnd here is our welcome to Flickr’s Common Post:
http://blog.flickr.net/en/2014/08/29/welcome-the-internet-archive-to-the-commons/

What is it and how did it get done?
A Yahoo research fellow at Georgetown University, Kalev Leetaru, extracted over 14 million images from 2 million Internet Archive public domain eBooks that span over 500 years of content.  Because we have OCR’d the books, we have now been able to attach about 500 words before and after each image. This means you can now see, click and read about each image in the collection. Think full-text search of images!

How many images are there?
As of today, 2.6 million of the 14 million images have been uploaded to Flickr Commons. Soon we will be able to add continuously to this collection from the over 1,000+ new eBooks we scan each day. Dr. Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library says, “This way of discovering and reading a book will help transform our medical heritage collection as it goes up online. This is a big step forward and will bring digitized book collections to new audiences.”

What is fun to do with this collection?
Trying typing in the word “telephone’ and enjoy what images appear? Curious about how death has been characterized over 500 years of images – type in “mordis”. Feeling good about health care – type in medicine and prepare to be amazed. Remember, all of these images are in the public domain!

Future plans?
We will be working with our wonderful friends at Flickr and our great Library partners to make this collection even more interesting –  more images, more sub-collections and some very interesting ideas of how to use some image recognition tools to help us learn more about, well, anything!

Questions about this collection, projects or things to come?
Email me at robert@archive.org