Standort: / Meldung: "Jason Scott: Past (Digital) Lives"

Johannes Grenzfurthner

Von ästhetischen Vernarbungen und phänomenologischer Wollust.

26. 6. 2013 - 14:12

Jason Scott: Past (Digital) Lives

Mister Scott is a digital historian and filmmaker, and he can easily be called the figurehead of the digital archiving world. I asked him for some associations.

Jason runs (one of the most comprehensive collections of our digital past), shot a couple of excellent documentaries (e.g. BBS, Get Lamp) - and also works for the Internet Archive.

Jason, I chose some random things from my digital past, and would love to hear you ramble about them. Maybe anecdotes? Wisdom? Bullshit? Whatever comes to your mind!

- Shareware CD-ROMs.

If you would told me in the 1980s that shareware CD-ROMs would be the single most important treasury of bbs software and shareware, I would never have believed you. But the explosion of companies looking to make a quick buck in the 1990s by absorbing as much data as they could and then selling it to people at $20 a pop made it a reality. You've got software, images, audio, distributions of Linux, captures of news and information, and everything in between. We're still in the point of time when most of them work fine for reading, so I've been aggressively digitizing thousands of them to put online and bring a lot of this history back.

One unusual but enjoyable aspect is that in the quest to capture as much data as to sell, a lot of these companies went into rather obscure BBSes and locations and saved some pretty obscure things, much to the surprise of the now 40 and 50-year-old creators of them.

- The Apple Newton.

I never used an Apple Newton, because it came just at the cusp of my graduation from college, and I just was not in the money place to be looking at gadgets. Time has not been kind to the poor little guys, but it's obvious that it was the first salvo in what eventually took over everything. They thought it was going to be a stylus and handwriting recognition, but it turns out to be your hand and voice recognition.

- ANSI porn.

I'm for it.

You would initially have digitization of Playboy centerfolds and similar material to prove graphics benchmarks or to just liven up the office. By the 1960s and 70s, the use of ham radio and teletype as well as the growing modem uses for BBSes provided a unusual location for text-based pornography to make a stand. I've collected hundreds and hundreds of items created both in the 90s and 2000 and going back all the way to the 50s, showing that there's always room for text-based art of an erotic nature.

- 300 baud.

There were slower modem speeds, but 300 baud was the first widely accessible commercial speed for modems. It's slow as hell, so slow that some people could type faster than the modem could keep up. Seriously, people make jokes about 300 baud but they truly don't understand the horror until they see it happening in real time.

One minor point related to this is that when you look at older captures of systems in the 1970s and 1980s, you don't truly recognize what's going on until you play at that slow speed and realize the magic of that text reveal that came across the phone lines.

- Under construction.

With the advent of the website falling into the hands of the public, there was a perception that these websites were presentations, or short documents for you to experience. As a result, people saw something wrong with them not being completely finished. So these websites would often be portrayed as being under construction, awaiting just a few final flourishes to become complete. Naturally, we now know that all websites should be under construction at all times.

The art work to portray a website being under construction is a world of its own, one I've brought to museums and to the world and I'm proud for pointing out. But even greater love should go to the creators of these fun little highway signs on the Internet.

- Text adventures.

The concept of it sounds almost magical: you would told about a place somewhere in the computer, and then you write a sentence to tell the computer how to work in that world. And the computer would understand: and you would end up in the new place in the world! How could that be beat?

I made a documentary (GET LAMP) about text adventures, because at the end of the day, the advent of graphics and the Internet brought the Golden age of these programs to a close. But they were an amazing solution to the problem of what to do with these home computers that was compelling and couldn't be found anywhere else.

- SID.

I never had a Commodore 64, but the decades hence have given me a lot of respect for this crazy little sound chip.

- Dr. Sbaitso.

I missed the good doctor's reign. He showed up in a computer demo I saw which made me find out who he was.

- GeoCities.

With the destruction of GeoCities sites, I like to think people truly started to understand how terrible it was to just evacuate massive communities for the purposes of a bottom line.

- Roberta Williams.

The rumors about us are not true.

Jason at me, at HOPE 2010 in NYC.

Rachel Lovinger

(Jason and me at the HOPE Conference in NYC in 2010. I really like that guy.)