Rescued documentation issues

Philipp Hachtmann hachti at hachti.de
Mon Oct 26 15:32:33 CDT 2009


> This is a tough one. What I'm finding is there is very little detailed 
> documentation
> that has been archived on how systems were built, along with the 
> applications that
> ran them for exactly the reasons you give. The best you find are 
> overviews in
> the trade publications of the time.
Hm, overviews could be of greater historic interest. I used google and 
it seems that my docs belong to a paper making machine control system. 
And it seems that those are still around somewhere.

What you get from technicians in most cases is not what gives you the 
"big picture" of a system rather than drowns you in detail.
For the paper thing, I have binders and binders and binders full of 
flowchart diagrams, listings, more diagrams, ECOs, memos etc.
But I have not yet found the machine's design documents or something 
that gives me an overview.

> Are historians going to be interested in artifacts to this level of detail?
My (little) experience would say: Not really.

> Which does bring up the point of what ultimately will happen to a personal
> collection of such documentation.
Yes. What is a pile of paper worth? If it's sitting somewhere at 
someone's shelf, it's inaccessible. And when that one once 
deceases/loses interest, it again endangered by recycling facilities.

Oh, a powerful document scanner seems to be a must-have! That would make 
things much easier.

> 
> As a rule of thumb, I would save documents that describe how the system was
> put together, maybe project schedules and progress reports, and only 
> overview
> documents when the system was in operation, maybe a few hundred pages at 
> the
> most unless it is a VERY large system.
Ok. That's a word.

> Think about of what use this documentation would be to someone in the 
> future,
> historians, people working on simulations, or restorations, for example.
That's difficult: I assume that my view could be to limited to see all 
implications. So it is possible that I or <someone else> just discards 
stuff that others would have killed for.

See the Kiel PDP10 docs I mentioned: They were on their way to the 
dumpster, decision made by an academic person working as scientific 
director. He did not consider the stuff worth keeping. Was he right?
Erik Brens walked along in the right moment, taking it all, finding 
people who are willing to pay $$ for it. So the (historic) value can be 
considerd a difficult to measure thing.


Regards,

Philipp



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