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Ted Nelson’s old junk mail is a treasure trove for tech nerds

Devotees of computing historical past know Ted Nelson for, amongst different issues, Venture Xanadu (the venture, introduced within the 1960s, which gave us the concept that of hypertext) and Pc Lib/Dream Machines (a 1974 advent to computer systems which stays a perfect, quirky learn). The person is visionary within the truest sense of the time period. Nevertheless it additionally seems that he spent years doing one thing which sounds mind-numbingly mundane: saving huge amounts of unsolicited mail, which he introduced upon himself by means of filling out requests for info in magazines.

6,857 pieces from Nelson’s assortment are to be had at the Web Archive, and it seems they’re no longer mundane in any respect. Most commonly (however no longer fully) involving electronics and computer systems, they record a large chew of our technological legacy and are rife with evocative length design; despite the fact that all you do is scroll during the tiny thumbnails of brochure covers, they’re nice amusing.

- Ted Nelson’s old junk mail is a treasure trove for tech nerds
[Photo: courtesy of Ted Nelson]

However do dig in when you’ve got the slightest passion within the units of yore and the way they had been advertised. Even simply skimming the primary few dozen pieces, I stumbled throughout items of authentic historical past equivalent to a 1984 Apple presskit with the unique Macintosh press unencumber and an explainer in regards to the new pc’s modern interface. I lately wrote about the truth that failed shopping-mall fixture Brookstone began out as a mail-order purveyor of strong point gear however hasn’t noticed a real Brookstone catalog from the early days like the only Nelson preserved. Ampex’s Silicon Valley signage simply got here down; the Nelson assortment has antique fliers which display how essential Ampex as soon as was once.

I plan to spend a part of my weekend luxuriating on this stuff, and be expecting to have bother pulling myself away. Regardless that I simplest simply now heard in regards to the venture (by the use of my good friend Martha Spizziri), Motherboard printed Ernie Smith’s tremendous article about it final 12 months, with quotes from Jason Scott and Kevin Savetz—two champions of virtual preservation—about why those theoretically disposable fabrics are value saving or even celebrating.

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