Rescued documentation issues

Philipp Hachtmann hachti at
Sun Oct 25 20:21:18 CDT 2009

Hello Al,
hello everybody!

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 
this posting.
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 
(anymore/not yet)

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 
as well.
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.

Best wishes,


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