Rescued documentation issues
hachti at hachti.de
Sun Oct 25 20:21:18 CDT 2009
I assume that physical storage capacity limitations are a well known
problem to lots of people on this list.
I further assume that many of you know situations where they "take
everything", "find everything", "buy everything", "rescue everything",
or alike. It starts with some information about <anything interesting>
sitting <somewhere> at the cost of <price>. The variables differ
greatly. In many cases you will cry out "Cool! Don't throw anything
away! I'll take all of it!". Of course, all available bits and pieces
are at least worth a look. But...
This posting is about the "unwanted documentation" you often get with
stuff you acquire. I would like to start a discussion on this as I don't
always know what to do with it. A clean concept could probably help me
and others to maximize preservation of valuable historic information
with respect to use of individual storage capacities.
The following are three example cases from my "collection career":
1. Honeywell H316
I bought the H316 from someone in Switzerland, on eBay. It came quite
complete, with all docs. And some vague oral information about the
former application. And a lot of binders documenting the original system
the machine was used in. Everything specially made for the application
(controlling flight monitor displays in an airport). Everything in
Italian. And no actual piece of it left. Still have them.
2. pdp8/l rescue, a few years ago
I found my three pdp8/l computers rusting in a garage, not far from
here. They were part of an "Olympia Multiplex-80" system used in a bank
(someone added one of my pictures of one of the machines to the
wikipedia article about pdp8). There were two Ampex 7 track tape drives.
And some interfaces to the rest of the Multiplex-80 system. And
documentation for much of it. The tape drives were gone too far, so I
threw them away (no, there was no realistic chance to restore them: It
would have been a complete rebuild! They consisted of rust, rust, and
rust). The controllers were also gone very far. So I kept only some
pieces of those. Documentation for the tape drive and the whole system
is still there.
3. Some Honeywell
This last example is not finished yet. And it is the reason for writing
Yesterday I drove up to Denmark. There I met a guy who had sitting
around some Honeywell and associated gear that he did not want anymore.
What I got were two Level 6 computers and an Ampex Megastore solid state
disk for the H316. One megabyte of core memory... That alone was enough
to take the trip.
And there are two large boxes with paper. I looked throug them, most of
them seems to be Accuray (the guy and stuff came from there)
documentation for some kind of industrial control system (paper mill,
I've been told). Tons of Accuray X16 software listings. Some original
Honeywell stuff. Accuray documentation for Accuray software.
And docs for a hard disk (fixed head?) disk drive that doesn't exist
anymore. All in all, the paper directly related to the stuff that
dropped in is less than 25% of the lot.
I currently have all of it. Some sitting here upstairs, some in the car,
and some in the staircase (the house door is open, it's getting cold).
Documentation belonging to collected hardware or software will always be
kept. This doesn't need to be discussed.
But the rest.... I call it the "other papers".
What the hell should one do with this kind of stuff?
The "other papers" fall into one of at least three categories:
a) Documents generated in equipment's lifetime, closely related to the
actual object they come with. Like Service logs, communication with the
manufacturer (offers, invoices etc.), personal notes, memory dumps of
something that has been used with the system.
b) Documentation for stuff and devices (i.e. products) I don't have
c) Documentation for individual applications like a paper mill or the
airport information system that don't exist anymore.
d) Category a stuff that belongs to stuff that did not came with it and
which can safely be assumed to have been scrapped long time ago
My current practice is to keep category a documents for historic value.
They usually don't take much space and are fun to read. Sometimes useful
Category b documents are kept if they belong to something I want to have
or where I can imagine that I could get it in the future (examples:
pdp8/i, straight-8, Honeywell DDP-516).
I don't see a reason to keep category c and d documents. I already threw
away some of those when they were simply photocopies of (assumed to be)
available or completely boring manuals. And I already feel bad about
that... So I am drowning in stuff that I don't really want to keep but
something holds me from just discarding it. At one point I thought about
bulk-scanning those before discarding. That would save the information -
and my space. But I currently cannot afford a scanner that can do the
job in hours/days instead of months.
Al Kossow is doing a great job with bitsavers. I appreciate the approach
to share vintage documentation and software in the way he does. I also
added a few bits and docs I rescued and scanned.
Most stuff on bitsavers is copyrighted in some way. For much of it, the
copyright owner can be assumed as not being interested in enforcing the
copyright because the information has lost its market value long time
ago - or the company simply doesn't exist anymore.
But what about stuff marked as confidential? I've got some Honeywell
Level 6 manuals (some of them seem to be on bitsavers already), most of
them are marked as confidential. Some of them have written
"confidential" on every single page... Is it ok to simply publish that
And what about category c documents? Shouldn't they be silently
discarded? That would be the "correct" handling as one cannot be sure if
parts of the described system are still somewhere in production use. The
circumstances under which those docs go their way to collectors' hands
are usually of a more or less obscure and inofficial nature...
I like to read your opinions on that. Or proposals. I'd very much
appreciate a vital discussion.
More information about the cctalk