The Internet Archive

Earlier this week, Jason Scott was kind enough to give me a tour of The Internet Archive. They do amazing, important work, and I've been a huge fan for many years, but I hadn't visited before.

Their San Francisco presence is housed in a former Christian Science church, lending it a certain gravitas. Their enormous conference room not only has racks of drives sitting at the back, but also has a working pipe organ! (Make your own series of tubes joke here.)

Inexplicably, they are also constructing a terracotta army of avatars of their long-term employees. I assume these are to protect Brewster in the afterlife.

The racks of drives are just kind of scattered all over the place, climate control provided opening windows. Each blinkenlight is a 2TB drive. They have mirrors all over the world, so I gather it's a "use the cheapest thing possible and have a zillion backups" kind of scenario.

The book-scanning operation is pretty sweet. There's an angled backplate with a correspondingly-angled piece of glass that hinges down over it to hold the pages flat, and a pair of Canon 5D Mk 2 cameras pointing at each page. Apparently once you get into the rhythm of it, you can scan an entire book in 8 minutes. Volunteers and interns: cheaper than robots!

Random libraries (and individuals) around the world ship them crates of books, they scan them, and ship them back.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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6 Responses:

  1. Colby Russell says:

    Earlier this week, Jason Scott was kind enough to give me a tour

    Worlds are colliding. That's how I felt reading the comments in Today in Computational Necromancy:

    Jason Scott says:

    Hey, jwz. Big fan

    […]
    jwz says:

    Hey there! I am a big fan of your work!

  2. Jubal says:

    The Boston Public Library happens to have an Internet Archive room wherein books are digitized using that custom setup. I stumbled past it last year while wandering about the library's zillion rooms. I poked about, and had a fun conversation with the dude watching over the room that day. Cockles were generously warmed. I admire IA's work.

    • theszak says:

      Where is the room?... which building?, what floor?

      >"The Boston Public Library happens to have an Internet Archive room..."

      • Jubal says:

        May be: "BPL Digital Scanning Lab and Imaging Studio, Johnson Building, Floor 2"

        (I grubbed that from a Google search. I'm not a Boston native, so YMMV; I'd suggest emailing the IA people or calling the BPL directly for exact info.)

  3. Grey Hodge says:

    I want one of those phones for an intercom so badly it's sickening. I'm torn between that and the submarine handsets they used in BSG...

  4. Jenni bot says:

    I'm going to talk to my grandparents about doing this with their extensive library of art history, english literature, world languages, and atlases published during improbable quirks of political geography.