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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, Mission Xanadu (the mission, introduced within the 1960s, which gave us the concept that of hypertext) and Pc Lib/Dream Machines (a 1974 creation to computer systems which stays a perfect, quirky learn). The person is visionary within the truest sense of the time period. But it surely 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 through 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 solely) involving electronics and computer systems, they record a large chew of our technological legacy and are rife with evocative duration design; although 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 you probably have the slightest hobby within the devices of yore and the way they have been advertised. Even simply skimming the primary few dozen pieces, I stumbled throughout items of authentic historical past comparable to a 1984 Apple presskit with the unique Macintosh press free up and an explainer concerning the new pc’s innovative interface. I latterly wrote about the truth that failed shopping-mall fixture Brookstone began out as a mail-order purveyor of distinctiveness equipment however hasn’t observed 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 vital Ampex as soon as used to be.

I plan to spend a part of my weekend luxuriating on this stuff, and be expecting to have bother pulling myself away. Although I handiest simply now heard concerning the mission (by the use of my buddy Martha Spizziri), Motherboard printed Ernie Smith’s high quality 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 price saving or even celebrating.

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