24-Oct-2011
The Internet Archive
photos by jwz

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, too.

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.