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21 hours ago · 2 min read 0
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on Apr 13, 2016 · 2 min read

I love this guy. Jason Scott calls himself the "Internet Historian". I got to know of him through various talks from conventions I watched on youtube or vimeo. He's kind of weird and likes to dress himself in weird things. But more important is, what he does - he works at Archive.org, where he is (among other things) involved in, preserving websites that are about to shut down. The intention of it being to save the internet of the past. Because nowadays the face of the internet manifest in thousands of websites we visit every day is changing so fast, it is easy to forget how everything looked 10 or 5 or even 2 years ago. In that regard, I consider his work to be incredibly important. He and his team called "Archive Team" helped to make backups of thousands of websites that were about to shutdown and subsequently destroy a lot of data.

In his talks he often shows us little funny or weird, or touching examples of 'old internet' that some corporations didn't give a shit about. A famous example being geocities.org, one of the first free website hosting communities of the internet. Millions of people used it to create their first website. Most of them being weird and - yes! - incredibly ugly. But for millions of people geocities was their little corner of showing some aspects of themselves to the world. When Yahoo bought the website and realized they don't want it anymore, they simply decided to shut it down. They decided to delete the digital personal belongings of millions of people. Because that is an absolutely shitty move, Archive Team stepped in and downloaded all of it. Today you can see it on archive.org in all its glory.

Most things Jason Scott talks about, are not the beautiful, cool or great things, we normally consider worthy of being saved. But as he points out, the most mundane things of life are often of great interest to historians when trying to understand how people of ancient times would go by, day in and day out.

His talks are filled with gold nuggets of strange stuff. I highly recommend them.

If you are interested, here are a few of them.

  1. Defcon 19 - Archive Team - this one is a good introduction with nice examples of weird internet culture.
  2. You're Stealing it WRONG! - my personal favourite, although it has an awefull audio glitch that makes it hard to listen to. It's about people within the early software-cracking scene, pissing each other off. It has a long introduction which is needed for people not that familiar with all the copyright-and-software of the last 20-30 years.

If you search for his talks an youtube or vimeo, you'll find lot's of talks. A few jewels I want to mention here.

  1. The David Niven Jazz Collection. A guy named David Niven (1921 - 1991) had a great collection of old Jazz Records and started to record them on Cassettes for his children/grandchildren. He introduced every song with some trivia about the artists or instruments. Unfortunately his family didn't really appreciate the ~650 tapes he recorded - maybe because they quickly fell asleep while listening to his voice. They ended up on Archive.org where they belong. Even though his voice is very soothing, it is a great way to learn about the music of the last century.

  2. Attention K-Mart Shoppers! Mark Davis worked in a K-Mart supermarket during hte 80s and 90s. The music played over the radio was prerecorded onto tape cassettes with friendly advertisements in between every song. There was a new cassette every month and Mark decided to keep them. They also ended up on Archive.org and since then more than 300.000 people have listened to the first tape - October 1989.

So try it yourself, watch some talks of Jason Scott or just listen to the weird past.


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