The Grill: Jason Scott

This guardian of digital history is archiving whatever he can get his hands on.

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In the case of "abandonware," there are three layers: duplicating it for your own use, duplicating it to sell it and duplicating it to distribute it widely. I have very little problem with the first, I flip out over the second, and I go back and forth on the third. That's why Textfiles.com has no ads.

You recently purchased a physical storage unit, dubbed the "Information Cube," to house historical software, magazines and the like. Yet in this digital age, access to physical data is limited. What's your plan for this cube? The hardest thing for someone to do with history is be there when it happens, so I'm trying to be the guy from the future who travels back to the past, grabbing journals and magazines. There's a lot of data that we don't know needs to be saved. The only reason this stuff isn't already in a museum is because museums haven't expanded for them yet -- but all indications are that they're going to.

My goal is to digitize [the contents] or give it to a more appropriate archive. Right now, it's relatively trivial for me [to store the materials]. And to get what I have online, I need the original hardware -- and even that is getting easier: It wasn't until February 2010 that a USB 5.25-in. floppy controller card came out. We never know what's going to come along.

In late 2009, you successfully used the online funding tool KickStarter to raise $20,000 to make digital history your full-time job. How do you intend to make your vocation self-sustaining beyond that initial investment? I've tried to be aware of what people were paying me to do, and I've tried to be careful not to be either wasteful or nonproductive -- but the problem is that a lot of my stuff was slow-simmering and is now coming to a boil. Once Get Lamp is a sold product, I expect it to support me for the next year or so.

Facebook, Wikipedia and even Apple's iPad have recently gotten some bad press for being centralized services under the control of a single entity. Where is all this headed? People think Facebook is an unstoppable juggernaut and we have to fight, because if we don't, it'll always be like this. But something better will come. It's really bad to flip out, as if this were life and death. At the same time that there was the Altair and the Atari 800 and the Apple II, we still had the Atari 2600 and the NES -- two completely closed systems that worked dependably. We lived with it, it was fine, and now they're gone and there are other things.

So yeah, Facebook is pretty terrible with privacy, and I'm bothered by the number of people who happily defend ease over freedom. But Facebook won't survive more than another five years in its current form. Look at MySpace or Friendster or Orkut. There's a lot of space in the ecosystem.

Is your tweeting as Sockington a parody of Twitter? The constantly updating format allows him to make cultural references that are clichés on Facebook or Twitter, but that comes from doing three jokes a day for three years.

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