interview on the Media Archaeology Lab for Infotecarios

I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by Natalie Baur for the Spanish-language Latin American libraries blog Infotecarios on the Media Archaeology Lab. Natalie translated all my answers into Spanish here and below are my original answers in English.


1) Briefly, what is the MAL and what kinds of work do you do there? Why/How is it an “archaeological” lab?

Founded in 2009 and currently part of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Department of English, the Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) houses obsolete media from the early twentieth century to the twenty-first century for hands-on research, teaching, and research creation. Insofar as nearly everything in the lab is still functioning and is meant to be turned on and used by teachers, researchers, and artists it is the largest of its kind North America. It is, however, very closely aligned with a few museums in the country such as the Living Computer Museum in Seattle, WA (run by Microsoft co-founded Paul Allen) and the Digital Den in Cambridge, MA whose collection is roughly the same size as the MAL’s. The MAL, however, is utterly unique in how it is a remarkable configurable conceptual object that, depending on how you approach it, houses items for research and teaching, items that actually generate research; is a site for artistic interventions, experiments, projects; is an archive for media objects; is an archive for original works of digital art/literature along with their original platforms. It belongs equally in literature departments, art departments, media studies departments, history of technology programs, computer science departments, libraries and archives.

In terms of the lab’s name, I’ve tried to align it less with archaeology and more with the field of media archaeology, as it’s called. Media archaeology can be a frustrating term because it’s not clear what its precise parameters are, or even what its driving philosophy is. That said, the version of media archaeology I’ve found particularly useful is one that does not seek to reveal the present as an inevitable consequence of the past but instead looks to describe it as one possibility generated out of a heterogeneous past. Also at the heart of this media archaeology is an on-going struggle to keep alive what Siegfried Zielinski calls “variantology” – the discovery of “individual variations” in the use or abuse of media, especially those variations that defy the ever-increasing trend toward “standardization and uniformity among the competing electronic and digital technologies.” Following Zielinski, I partly use the lab to uncover a non-linear and non-teleological series of media phenomena – or ruptures – as a way to avoid reinstating a model of media history that tends toward narratives of progress and generally ignores neglected, failed, or dead media.

2) Who is using the MAL and for what kind of work and/or projects? Have there been any specific projects that come to your mind that really have taken off in unexpected ways or made unique contributions to scholarship or librarianship? 

I continue to be happily amazed at the broad range of people the MAL appeals to. At the moment, we’re getting increasing interest from people who work in local tech-start-up communities – these are people who might have worked in the computing industry for the last ten, twenty or thirty years and either appreciate the hands-on access to history the MAL affords or they see it as a valuable tool for generating creativity or they may even see it as a powerful argument against planned obsolescence (again, all the computers in the lab – some of which are from the late 1970s – still work). Our work with developing unique metadata schemes to catalog the wide range of legacy hardware and software housed in the lab is also being used as a model for museums, archives, and collections in Canada, the US, and Europe; the fact that we begin with the uniqueness of each object and develop standards from the ground-up to describe these objects, rather than developing or adopting a general standard into which we must make each object fit, appeals most to those working in museums and archives. Finally, we’ve been surprised – but thrilled – at how successful our artist residencies have been. I started working with Mel Hogan in July 2013 on this notion of getting artists and writers into the lab, actually playing, hacking, tinkering, creating, responding to the materials housed in the lab as way to make it clear that hands-on access is at the heart of the MAL’s mission. Within two or three weeks of launching our residency series, which we are now calling MALpractices, we booked ourselves through Spring 2014 so that we had to then close the residencies until next fall. While we are unable to offer a stipend of any kind at the moment, we try to heavily promote the work that artists/writers produce in the MAL – for example, we offer them the opportunity to exhibit or perform in the MAL or at a local gallery and we are also starting a print-on-demand series called MALware which will document each residency through interviews with the artist/writer or essays on their work. We just finished a residency with Joel Swanson, a Denver-based artist who was inspired by the history of computer keyboards in the MAL and created a remarkable exhibit at Counterpath Gallery in Denver that looked into the symbolic or cultural meaning there might be in the presence or absence of certain keys.

3) As we continue into the Digital Age and the lifecycle from innovative to obsolete gets shorter, is MAL collecting contemporary media to add to the collection in addition to the collecting already obsolete media? What are some of the curatorial decisions that go into building the MAL collections?

At the moment, our curatorial decisions are determined almost entirely by space limitations as physical space at the University of Colorado at Boulder is particularly at a premium. As such, we try to only accept hardware/software that still functions, that either played a particularly important role in the history of personal computing or is a particularly compelling example of a technological dead-end – something that may not have been a commercial success but that clearly contains the seed of a brilliant idea. For example, we have a videogame console from 1983 called the Vectrex which was produced for only one year but which uses a light-pen and is, in many ways, far more user-friendly that the touchscreen devices we have today. That said, I find it very difficult to make clearcut curatorial decisions as I’m all too aware, from reading Michel Foucault and Jonathan Crary, how what’s included and excluded from our archive rewrites history and reframes the present in a very particular way. If it were possible, I’d make as few curatorial decisions as possible and leave it entirely up to visitors to imaginatively rewrite history.

4) Librarians and archivists are intensely interested in digital preservation issues. What are some of your thoughts on the relationships and partnerships that exist or could be possible between the academic work of digital humanities scholars and librarians, archivists and digital preservationists?

I hope you don’t mind me saying that I have mixed feelings about partnering with libraries and library-run archives. While some of the most ardent and loyal supporters of the MAL are from libraries and archives, at the same time the institutions themselves seem to take on a life of their own and they have, from my perspective, proven to be remarkably inflexible, bureaucratic, and resistant to change. By contrast, most of the MAL’s success comes from the fact that we’ve been largely invisible to the institution until this year and so the MAL has been able to unfold over time, as our thinking changes and evolves, and quickly and easily adapt to problems at hand without being accountable to anyone or to hierarchical structures, pre-determined “outcomes,” grant cycles, or set five-year plans. That said, I want to be clear that I have a strong allegiance to librarians and archivists themselves and I hope that in the near future the MAL will find a way to be an independent extension of a library archive in a way that incorporates the MAL’s holdings into the library catalog at the same time as it acts as an incubator for the library archive for cutting-edge practice-based research.

5) Logistics: who can access the MAL? Do you loan any resources? Are there any active partnerships or “partnership wish lists”?

Until about a week or two ago, when we received our first financial donation, the MAL had been operating with a budget of $0. This meant that there was no staff to manage visitors during regular operating hours; visitors to the lab had to make an appointment either with me or with one of the wonderful student volunteers I work with and either proposition was difficult, considering I have conventional university teaching and research responsibilities and the student volunteers have their own responsibilities. That said, we almost never turn anyone down for a visit – if someone, from the general public or from an institution, has wanted to visit the lab, we have found a way to make it possible. And now that we’ve received a couple generous donations, we’re planning to hold regular Open House hours (for anyone at all – from students and researchers to members of the public) in the MAL two days a week.

We certainly do loan resources – for example, we’ve been happy to lend out manuals from our extensive printed matter collection and floppies from our software collection. However, while it’s certainly not out of the question, we’ve been hesitant to lend any of our hardware as it’s already quite fragile and it’s extremely difficult to ensure that a computer from, say, the 1970s or 1980s will make it through the mail without suffering any damage. That said, if there were a set of best practices for shipping hardware back-and-forth across the country, I would strongly support the creation of a support network or a lending library that allows institutions like the MAL to borrow and loan out materials – perhaps a network that includes institutions such as the Living Computer Museum or the Digital Den I mentioned above.

6) What are your thoughts on or experiences with collecting multilingual and international media? Is the MAL actively doing any collecting of non-English language media produced in countries outside of the US? Does the MAL partner with any international centers in the same vein or collaborate with the global academic and library community? 

I would be thrilled to incorporate multilingual and international media into our collection. We do have a few computers from the UK, such as our Amiga 500 and our Sinclair ZX81 computert as well as a few oddities from Germany but sadly that is the extent of our non-English, international holdings. I would also very much welcome the opportunity to expand our network to the global community of archivists and librarians; right now, we have informal relationships with scholars and labs in Canada, the UK, and Germany who are working in Media Archaeology and we are in the process of applying for grants to formally turn these relationships into an international network. We would be thrilled to extend this network to Spanish-language scholars, labs, librarians, and archivists.

7) Feel free to add any other comments, insights, news, etc. that you think may be of internet to the Infotecarios audience.

Thank you for the invitation to say a bit more about the MAL – I would only like to add that opportunities such as this one to articulate the MAL’s mission and its underlying philosophy have helped me see, just in the last couple of months, that the lab is a powerful space that, overall, works against our overwhelmingly presentist and futurist culture that’s increasingly controlled, day and night, by the constant production and consumption of so-called ‘new’ computing devices that 1) insidiously work to, as Jonathan Crary puts it, disable collective memory through “the systematic erasure of the past as part of the fantasmatic construction of the present” and 2) whose operationality, we’re told, we need not understand. With its collection of still-functioning technical oddities, the MAL is full of exemplars of possible other worlds and resistance to our present world.

from Apple Basic to Hypercard, or, Translating Translating bpNichol

[reblogged from the Media Archaeology Lab]

As a result of a number of recent researcher visits to the MAL, the question we’ve been mulling over lately is whether, or how, works of digital literature can be said to have “manuscript versions.” Here is the background to this question: on 7 June 2012, I blogged about the 5.25″ floppies of bpNichol’s “First Screening” that had been donated to the lab by Canadian poet Lionel Kearns.

Happily, just a few weeks ago, the lab hosted a visiting researcher from Dalhousie University, Katherine Wooler, who is an English MA student and a graduate fellow with the Editing Modernism in Canada project; Wooler is working on a thesis in which she explores the differences in these versions of “First Screening.” I knew that the Javascript and Quicktime versions online were of course utterly different from the Apple Basic versions I had been looking at via an Apple II emulator. What I didn’t realize, until Wooler worked methodically in the lab for several days, is not only that the floppies donated by Kearns are earlier and incomplete versions of the Apple Basic published version that came out in 1984, but also that the lab’s Hypercard version, on 3.5″ floppy published by Red Deer Press in 1992, is even more starkly different. Wooler has written some tremendously illuminating paragraphs in her thesis, explaining the differences between these versions and trying out the term “beta-phase” instead of “manuscript” as a way of naming the earlier, incomplete, and unpublished versions of “First Screening”:

The Media Archaeology Lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder has two 5 ¼-inch floppies with incomplete versions of First Screening on them (along with the requisite Apple IIe for viewing them). These beta-phase versions of First Screening not only differ from each other and from the published version (which is available online as an emulation of the software running on an Apple IIe) in content, but also in metadata. The two disks contain different selections from the eventual First Screening line up and this variation in primary text content affects the underlying layers of text that are intrinsically tied to the properties of the software. For example, typing the CAT command for catalogue of disk contents brings up a list of programs on each disk and the amount of space occupied by each. While one disk indicates that the poems claim 013 sectors of space on the floppy, the other—which has more of the final selection of poems—requires 045 sectors of space for the First Screening program. Additionally, by entering the command GOSUB 500 on the latter disk brings the user to the dedication at the end of the poems, while executing the same command on the disk with less poems calls up the piece “Tidal Pool.” The message that greets readers when the disk is first booted up and prompts them to type the RUN command claims its own 002 sectors of space and appears as a program titled “Hello” when the CAT or LIST commands are executed. The metadata also confirms that these two floppies are not complete versions. A quick consult with the Apple IIe manual reveals that the lack of asterisk beside the list of programs recalled with the CAT command means that these programs are unlocked and open for edits from any user.

In 1992-93, J. B. Hohm attempted to replicate First Screening in Hypercard format using HyperTalk programming language and he published the finished translation on 3 ½-inch floppy disks. A greater range of machines could read this version of First Screening, yet, at the same time, a couple of statistics about one possible computer that could be used for viewing the work indicate the accelerated rate of media evolution that accompanied the increase in available options for personal computers: I popped Hohm’s re-creation of First Screening into a Macintosh Powerbook 160, which was released in 1992 and discontinued in 1994. Loading this translation of First Screening highlights how it is impossible for anyone working with Nichol’s concrete poetry to avoid the material nature of his work. In the section titled “Fonts and Bolding” in the introduction/menu section of the disk, Hohm makes special note of typography in the section titled, an element that is of paramount importance in most of Nichol’s print concrete as well. Options in the menu allow users the choice between viewing First Screening in bolded or un-bolded text, and users can also choose between three fonts: Chicago, Geneva, or Monaco. Hohm implies that users may have an even greater font selection depending on the model of computer they are using. He writes, “At the very minimum, your Macintosh should support Geneva, Chicago, and Monaco fonts.”

When First Screening was translated from Applesoft Basic to HyperTalk programming language it was published on a different size of floppy disk, it became viewable on a whole new range of personal computers, and the underlying layers of text behind the viewing text transformed. The programs on the disk that execute the poems are measured in new units, and the commands that call up metadata have changed. In fact, the viewer’s ability to communicate directly with the program through simple command lines is impeded by the presence of a user menu that requires the viewer to communicate with the program by selecting options with the cursor instead. The cursor function builds up the layers of text (in this case HyperTalk coding language) between the viewing text and the initial text that was input by the author. Now the placement of the cursor in the table of contents initiates a command sequence instead of the user perusing the location of individual poems with the LIST command and manually entering a GOSUB command to jump ahead to a specific poem in the sequence. Nichol was aware of the subtleties of these layers of text and how they were dependent upon their medium. A text file (provided by Jim Andrews and co.) of Nichol’s original First Screening created with Applesoft Basic reveals that Nichol imbedded a bonus poem in the programming language. Using the REM command as a prefix he created a poem about the biblical flood that includes word play such as “REM ark.” In the Basic language REM indicates a line of text in the code that will not be executed as part of the program and is only visible when the code is being read in its raw form. Like the HTML of today’s use of the forward slash and the asterisk, REM preceded lines within code that were essentially references for the programmer. In Nichol’s hidden poem, “ark” is the primary text, but “REM” couples with it to form a larger word that is a hybrid of command and content. Since REM is not a command in HyperTalk, Hohm must include this poem as a bonus feature that is purely content, thereby losing the play-on words and an integral part of the poem’s identity.

Below are photographs Wooler took of the Hypercard version of “First Screening” housed in the Media Archaeology Lab as well as the lab’s still functioning Macintosh Powerbook 160 from 1992.





opportunity for Digital Archivist at the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries

I’m thrilled the University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries has decided to hire a Digital Archivist, hopefully one who will work with the Media Archaeology Lab. Please apply or pass on this job description to any qualified individuals. The job posting is available below and here.


Digital Archivist
The University of Colorado Boulder Libraries invites applications from innovative and creative individuals for the position of Digital Archivist. This is a tenure-stream faculty position reporting to the Director of Archives & Special Collections (ASC). Duties for this critical position include leading efforts to preserve, describe, and provide access to born-digital archival and special collections materials; developing processes for archiving and preserving born-digital materials including email, Web sites, social media, and other digital primary materials acquired on a variety of current or legacy formats such as tape, floppy disks, hard drives, and mobile devices; acquiring and maintaining legacy hardware and software that may be necessary for providing access to digital materials; developing and documenting procedures (and building infrastructure) for the acquisition of born-digital collections and electronic records and for the routine migration of materials to maintain formatting compatibility with Libraries IT software and hardware; providing digital program development, guidance in best practices for data management, training and development for library personnel and campus departments as needed; and delivering born-digital content to external discovery and delivery mechanisms in collaboration with specialists in cataloging and metadata, information technology, and scholarly communications. The digital archivist will serve as an expert in assessing digital content storage needs and will implement appropriate tools and procedures to accomplish these aims. The successful candidate will assist with the research and implementation of information architecture, coding standards, and emerging technologies as well as participate in the development of controlled vocabulary, metadata structures, and crosswalk of metadata to ArchivesSpace.

The position includes significant responsibilities for research, creative work, and service in keeping with the tenure standards of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Please address each of these qualifications in your application materials:

  • Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from an ALA-accredited institution or equivalent advanced degree;
  • Strong knowledge of forensic technologies utilized by the archival or cultural heritage communities for harvesting, managing, and preserving born-digital archival and manuscript material;
  • Demonstrated problem solving skills;
  • Knowledge of legal and ethical issues affecting digital archival and special collections objects;
  • Knowledge of current trends, tools, and protocols in digital archiving and preservation;
  • Understanding of principles and techniques for archiving of websites, email, social media, and other online primary sources;
  • Familiarity with metadata standards relevant to the archival control of digital collection materials such as EAD, Dublin Core, MODS and PREMIS;
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and collaboratively;
  • Excellent organizational skills and ability to plan, coordinate, and implement complex projects;
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills;
  • Potential for research, scholarly work, and professional achievement.

Desirable qualifications

  • At least two years of relevant experience in an archival repository or similar cultural setting, including working with born digital materials;
  • Strong knowledge of XML and related technologies (especially XSLT, XSL-FO) and one or more relevant programming languages (Ruby, Python, Perl, etc.);
  • Familiarity with OAIS standards, TRAC principles, and best practices in assessment of needs and development of workflows in digital preservation strategies;
  • Familiarity with experimental media and/or digital humanities;
  • Demonstrated supervisory success.

Appointment and Salary:
The successful candidate will be appointed as a full-time (12 month), tenure-stream faculty member. Depending upon professional experience and demonstrated accomplishments in scholarly activity, creative work, and service, appointment may be made at the senior instructor or assistant professor level. Benefits include 22 working days of vacation; 10 paid holidays; liberal sick leave; excellent University group health care plans; group life insurance; a variety of retirement/annuity plans; and support for scholarly/professional activities. Tenured faculty members are eligible for sabbatical leave.

Application Process:
Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. It is recommended that applications be submitted by July 15, 2013 in order to receive full consideration. Application must be made online at, and must include a letter of application specifically addressing qualifications for the position; CV or resume; and names with postal addresses, email, and telephone numbers of three references. Questions may be directed to Dylan Wiersma, Search Coordinator, at Dylan.Wiersma@Colorado.EDU. The full position description can be viewed at

The candidates selected for this position must be able to meet eligibility requirements to work in the United States at the time the appointment is scheduled to begin.  The University of Colorado is an Equal Opportunity Employer committed to building a diverse workforce.  We encourage applications from women, racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans.   Alternative formats of this ad can be provided upon request for individuals with disabilities by contacting the ADA Coordinator at  In addition, the University of Colorado is committed to providing a safe and productive learning and living community.  To achieve that goal, we conduct background investigations for all final applicants being considered for employment.  Background investigations include reference checks, a criminal history record check, and, when appropriate, a financial and/or motor vehicle history

from “Web Stalker” to the Googlization of Literature

I’m nostalgic for a moment I never lived through – when we were concerned enough with monopolies over access to information online that not only did we call the competition between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator a “browser war,” but there were even competitions such as the Amsterdam-based “Browserday” to design new, innovative browsers.

Nowadays, while there are a few more choices for browsers and still many reasons to be concerned about how our experience of the Web is being framed for us, search engine algorithms are the new, more obvious information gatekeepers. In fact, the 21st century version of Internet Explorer’s monopoly is now so obvious that it’s nearly no longer noticeable, for when we search for data on the Web we are no longer “searching” – instead, we are “Googling.” And so, in line with what Siva Vaidhyanathan calls “The Googlization of Everything,” a new mode of writing is emerging that I call (in the postscript to my book Reading Writing Interfaces) “readingwriting”: the practice of writing through the network, which, as it tracks, indexes, and algorithmizes every click and every bit of text we enter into the network, constantly reads our writing and writes our reading. This strange blurring of, even feedback loop between, reading and writing, quite simply signals the end of literature as we’ve known it. It is the Googlization of literature. And readingwriters (such as Darren Wershler, Bill Kennedy, Tan Lin, and John Cayley/Daniel Howe) who experiment with/on Google are not simply pointing to its ubiquity; they are implicitly questioning how it works, how it generates the results it does, and so how it sells ourselves and our language back to us.

The impetus of this literary critique of Google is clearly aligned with that of early works of net art such as the “Web Stalker” from 1997 – an experimental web browser or piece of “speculative software” created by the art collective I/O/D (consisting of Simon Pope, Colin Green, and Matthew Fuller). “Web Stalker” essentially turns the web inside-out, presenting the viewer/navigator with the html code of a given page and all links leading to and from the page are presented to the viewer as a visualization. It is an artistic tool for drawing attention to the limits and possibilities of a particular reading/writing interface, the web browser. As co-creator Colin Green put it in a 1998 interview with Geert Lovink, “[b]rowsers made by the two best-known players frame most peoples’ experience of the web. This is a literal framing. Whatever happens within the window of Explorer, for instance, is the limit of possibility.” The foregoing is then followed up by Matthew Fuller’s clarification that “Web Stalker” “is not setting itself as a universal device, a proprietary switching system for the general intelligence, but a sensorium – a mode of sensing, knowing and doing on the web that makes its propensities – and as importantly, some at least of those ‘of the web’ that were hitherto hidden – clear.”

Since “Web Stalker” was created sixteen years ago, and runs only on Windows 95 and Mac Classic OS (which in turn usually requires an equally obsolete dialup connection), it’s fairly difficult to get it running and there are also very few high quality images available of it online. Thankfully, Matthew Fuller generously provided me with images which I’m making available here. If you have the technical know-how, you can still download “Web Stalker” here and get it to write a reading of the Web like you’ve never seen before…or at least, not seen since the late 90s.


webstalker2 webstalker3

In-Progress Catalog of the MAL’s Holdings

With heartfelt thanks to my research assistant Caitlin Purdy and to Kyle Bickoff, a graduate student here at CU Boulder, the Media Archaeology Lab now has a nearly complete catalog of all its holdings. The catalog is clearly still a work-in-progress and, other than the just the organizational challenges in the document itself, the next step for the MAL is a web-based, searchable catalog. Still, hopefully the list below at least gives researchers a sense of what they can find in the lab. We also haven’t quite worked out a system for documenting material from particular donors and integrating this information into the main body of the catalog – at the moment, items from our most recent donors (Timothy Sweeney and Robert Craig) are listed separately toward the end of the catalog.



Print Material
8-Bit Digital Sound Studio: User’s Guide. N.p.: Great Valley Products, Inc., 1992. Print.

Abernethy, Ken, T. Ray Nanney, and Hayden Porter. Exploring Macintosh: Concepts in Visually Oriented Computing. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1989. Print.

ALLC Bulletin 13.3 (1985). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 9.2 (1981). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 9.1 (1981). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 6.2 (1978). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 6.3 (1978). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 4.2 (1976). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 4.3 (1976). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 8.1 (1980). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 8.3 (1981). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 7.1 (1979). Print.

ALLC Bulletin 7.2 (1979). Print.

ALLC Journal 1.1 (1980). Print.

ALLC Journal 2.1 (1981). Print.

Apple II: DOS User’s Manual. Cupertino: Apple Computers, Inc., 1982. Print.

Apple II: Quick File II. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1982. Print.

Apple II Reference Manual. Cupertino: Apple Computer Inc, 1981. Print.

Apple II Utilities Guide. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1981. Print.

Applesoft BASIC Programmer’s Reference Manual. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1982. Print.

Berkowitz, Rob. Inside the Macintosh Communications Toolbox. Ed. Scott Smith and Becky Reece. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1991. Print.

De Jong, Marvin L. Apple II Assembly Language. Indianapolis: Howard W. Sams & Co, Inc, 1982. Print.

The Einstein MemoryTrainer User Guide. Los Angeles: The Einstein Corporation, 1983. Print.

Englebardt, Stanley L. The Worlds of Science: Cybernetics. New York: Pyramid, 1962. Print.

Finkel, LeRoy, and Jerald R. Brown. Apple Basic: Data File Programming. N.p.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1982. Print. Self Teaching Guide.

Frenzel, Louis E., Jr. Crash Course in Microcomputers. Indianapolis: Howard W. Sams & Co Inc, 1980. Print.

Gateley, Wilson Y., and Gary G. Bitter. Basic for Beginners. N.p.: McGraw Book Company, 1970. Print.

Grammer, Virginia Carter, and E. Paul. Goldenberg. The Terrapin Logo Language for the AppleII. Ed. Mark Eckenwiler and Peter Von Mertens. Cambridge: Terrapin, Inc., 1982. Print.

Inside Macintosh. Vol. VI. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1991. Print.

Inside Macintosh. Vol. V. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1986. Print.

Inside Macintosh. Vol. IV. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1985. Print.

Inside Macintosh. Vol. III. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1985. Print.

Inside Macintosh. Vol. II. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1985. Print.

Inside Macintosh. Vol. I. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1985. Print.

Introduction, Complier, Editor. Cary: SAS Institute Inc., 1993. Print. Vol. 1 of SAS/C Development System User’s Guide.

Jenngs, Edward M. Science and Literature. Garden City: Anchor, 1970. Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 4.2 (1989). Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 5.1 (1990). Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 2.3 (1987). Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 3.3 (1988). Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 3.2 (1988). Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 4.4 (1989). Print.

Literary & Linguistic Computing 4.1 (1989). Print.

Luebbert, William F. What’s Where in the Apple: A Complete Guide to the Apple Computer. Amherst: Micro Ink, 1982. Print.

Luedtke, Peter, and Rainer Luedtke. Your First Business Computer. Bedford: Digital Equipment Corporation, 1983. Print. The Desktop Computer Series.

Macintosh Manual. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1984. Print.

Micromodem Smartcom I: Owner’s Manual. Norcross: Hayes Microcomputer Products, 1983. Print.

Parikka, Jussi. What Is Media Archaeology? Cambridge: Polity, 2012. Print.

PC World 1.2 (1983). Print.

PC World 1.1 (1983). Print.

PC World 1.4 (1983). Print.

PC World 1.3 (1983). Print.

Perspectives in Computing 2.1 (1982). Print.

Perspectives in Computing 1.4 (1981). Print.

Perspectives in Computing 1.2 (1981). Print.

Perspectives in Computing 1.1 (1981). Print.

Ratliff, Wayne. dBASE II: Assembly Language Relational Database Management System. Culver City: Ratliff Software Production, Inc., 1982. Print.

Schneider, Ben Ross, Jr. Travels in Computerland. N.p.: Addison-Wesley, 1974. Print.

Smith, George W. Computers and Human Language. London: Oxford University, 1991. Print.

Smith, Jon M. Scientific Analysis on the Pocket Calculator. N.p.: John Wiley & Sons, 1975. Print.

Snell, Barbara M. Translating and the Computer. N.p.: North-Holland, 1979. Print.

Sobel, Robert. IBM: Colossus in Transition. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1981. Print.

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer: Beginner’s BASIC. N.p.: Texas Instruments, 1979. Print.

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A Computer: User’s Reference Guide. Texas Instruments Incorporated ed. N.p.: Texas Instruments, 1979. Print.

Texas Instruments TI-99/4 Home Computer: TI Extended BASIC. Dallas: Texas Instruments, 1981. Print.

Tindall, Peggy Cagle, and Michel Boillot. Transparency Masters to Accompany Developing Computer Skills Using Appleworks. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1991. Print.

Tucker, Allen B., Jr. Text Processing: Algorithms, Languages, and Applications. New York: Academic, 1979. Print.

Turkle, Sherry. The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984. Print.

Volume III. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1985. Print.

Wesson, Robert B. Perfect Calc User’s Guide. Berkeley: Perfect Software, Inc., 1982. Print.

Worley, Steven P. Essence: A Library of Algorithmic Textures for Imagine. N.p.: Apex Software, 1992. Print.

Zielinski, Siegfried. Deep Time of the Media. Cambridge: MIT, 2006. Print.

– – -, ed. Neapolitan Affairs: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies. London: Quay Brothers, 2011. Print. Vol. 49 of Variantology 5.

– – -. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences, and Technologies. Oberhausen: Printmanagement Plitt, 206. Print. Vol. 35 of Variantology.

– – -, ed. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies In the Arabic-Islamic World and Beyond. Oberhausen: Printmanagement Plitt, 2010. Print. Vol. 45 of Variantology 4.

– – -, ed. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences, Technologies In China and Elsewhere. Oberhausen: Printmanagement Plitt, 2008. Print. Vol. 37 of Variantology 3.

The Adams Family. Ocean Software Limited, 1992. Cassette. Commodore 64 Game

Agent USA. Jefferson City: Tom Snyder Productions, Inc. Inc., 1984. Cassette.

American Football. Argus Press Software Group, 1984. Cassette. Commodore 64 Game.

Applications Software. Dallas: Texas Instruments Inc., 1981. Cassette. System Unknown.

AwardWare. Plantation: Hi Tech Expressions, 1986. Floppy disc. System Unknown.

Beagle Bros Apple II Software. St. Clair Shores: Beagle Bros, 1992. Floppy disc. for Apple II Software

The Blues Brothers. Titus Software, 1991. Cassette. Commodore 64 Game

Castle Master. The Hit Squad, 1990. CD-ROM. Amiga Game

Certificate Maker. Springboard Stoftware, Inc., 1986. Floppy disc. For Apple II+, Apple IIe, Apple IIc.

Cluedo. Leisure Genius, 1984. Cassette. Commodore 64 Game.

Command Module. Dallas: Texas Instruments, 1979. Floppy disc.

Dollars and Sense. Inglewood: Monogram, 1983. Floppy disc. For Apple IIc

Electric Canyon This Land Is Your Land. Geneva: Polarware. Floppy Disk.. For Apple IIc

Electric Crayon ABCs. Geneva: Polarware, Inc. Floppy disc. For Apple IIc

EPYX Action. EPYX Inc., 1989. Cassette. Commodore 64 Game

Fleet System 2+. Needham: Professional Software, Inc., 1987. Floppy disc. For Commodore 64.

Interdictor Pilot. Supersoft, 1984. Cassette. System Unknown.

King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne. Sierra, 1987. Floppy Disk. For Amiga.

King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human. Sierra, 1987. Floppy Disk. For Amiga.

Macintosh XL MacWorks XL. Cupertino: Apple Computer, Inc., 1984. Floppy disc. For Macintosh.

Maps and Globes: Latitude and Longitude. Mahwah: Troll Associates. Floppy disc. System Unknown.

Max Headroom. Quickstiva. Cassette. Commodore 64 Game (only 1 of 2 disks present)

Megaworks. San Diego: Megahaus. Floppy disc. For Apple IIc and Apple IIe.

Mitchell, Philip. Sherlock. Melbourne House Publishers, 1984. CD-ROM. Commodore 64 Game

My Label Maker. Menlo Park: MySoftwareCo. Floppy disc. System Unknown.

The News Room. Minneapolis: Springboard Software, Inc., 1986. CD-ROM. For Apple II+, Apple IIe, Apple Iic

Police Quest 1. Sierra. 1992. Floppy Disk. For Amiga.

Police Quest 2. Sierra. 1992. Floppy Disk. For Amiga.

Police Quest 3. Sierra. 1993. Floppy Disk. For Amiga.

Pinpoint. Oakland: Pinpoint, 1985. Floppy Disk. For Apple IIc, Apple IIe.

The Story so Far Compilation Pack: Volume 4. Elite, 1989. Cassette. Commodore 64 Games

Time Out Desk Tools II. San Diego: Beagle Bros, Inc., 1988. Floppy disc. For Apple II.

Back Room Inventory
Smith Corona grey typewriter

Smith Corona blue typewriter

Wollensak 3M tape recorder model 2820; labeled “CU ENGLISH DEPARTMENT” and CU 91218

Panasonic portable CD player model SL-SX320 w/ headphones attached

Sony Radio Cassette Player model WM-FX197

1 Nintendo Entertainment System; Model Number: NES-001; FCC ID: BMC9BENINTENDOETS; Serial Number: N11551290

2 Nintendo Controllers ; Model Number: NES-004

1 Nintendo Zapper; Model Number: NES-005

26 Nintendo Games:

1943: The Battle of Midway, 1985                 

 Battletoads. 1985

Blastermaster, 1985

Blades of Steel, 1985

 Contra, 1985

 Double Dragon, 1985

 Double Dragon II: The Revenge, 1985

Dracula’s Curse, 1985

Dragon Warrior, 1985

 Duck Tales, 1985

Excitebike, 1985

 From Russia with Fun, 1985

Jackal, 1985

 Megaman 2, 1985

 Mega Man 3, 1985

Metroid, 1985

 Punch-out, 1985

 Skate or Die, 1985

 Super Dodge Ball, 1985

 Super Mario Bros: Duck Hunt. 1985

 Super Mario Bros. 2, 1985

Super Mario Bros. 3, 1985

The Simpsons: Bart vs. the Space Mutants, 1985

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1985

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, 1985

 Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, 1985

Front Room Inventory
1 Apple IIe Computer

1 AppleColor Composite Monitor; Model Number: A2M6020; Serial Number: S; FCC ID: BCG90QNA2M6020

1 Keyboard; Model Number: A2S2128; Serial Number: E02210ZAS2128; FCDD ID: BCG6DSA2S2128

1 Apple 5.25 Drive; Model Number: A9M0107; Serial Number: KGU9861

1 Mouse; Model Number: M0100; Serial Number: 0435A11E00185

1 KoalaPad+; FCC ID: CN475EPAD001

1 Macintosh Lisa

1 Monitor; Model Number: A6S0200; Serial Number: A4284080

1 Keyboard; Model Number: A6MB101; Serial Number: 1061595

1 Mouse; Model Number: M0100; Serial Number: G512M010001909

1 Box of Imation 2DD, 720KB

1 Apple IIc

1 Monitor; Model Number: G090H; Serial Number: T077678; FCC: BCG966MNTR2CG090H

1 Keyboard; Model Number: A2S4000; FCC ID: BCG9GRA2S4000; Serial Number: F609608A2S4000

1 Mouse; Serial Number: M528M010005151; Model Number: M0100

1 Disk IIc; Model Number: A2M4050; Serial Number: F301954; FCC ID: BC69Z6A2M4050

1 Macintosh Centris 610

1 Monitor (Macintosh 12” RGB Display); Family Number: M1296

1 Apple Desktop Bus Mouse; Family Number: G5431

1 Keyboard; Model Number: M2980; FCC ID: BCGM2980

1 Apple iMac G3

1 Apple USB Keyboard; Model Number: M2452; Serial Number: NK8470XUADL2

1 Apple USB Mouse; Model Number: M4848

1 iMac G4

1 Pro Keyboard; Model Number: M7803; Serial Number: M7803

1 Pair of speakers

1 Macintosh Portable; Model Number: M5120; FCC ID: BCGM5120

1 Macintosh PowerBook 165; Model Number: M4440; FCC ID: BCGM4440

1 Apple MacBook Air; Serial Number: W882609UY5G

1 Apple iBook G4; Model Number: A1054

1 Apple iBook G3; Family Number: M2453; Serial Number: UV949322H6Q

1 IBM Portable Personal Compuer (no ID numbers)

1 COMPAQ Portable III; Model Number: 2660; FCC ID: CNT75M2660; Serial Number: CNT75M2660

1 COMPAQ Portable; Model Number: 2670; FCC ID: CNT75M5401; Serial Number: 1848HN3H0355

1 NeXTcube

1 NeXT Computer; Part Number: 23.00; Model Number: N1000; Serial Number: AAK0004152;

1 NeXT Keyboard; Part Number: 193; Serial Number: AAF 1532557

1 NeXT MegaPixel Display Monitor; Model Number: N400OA; Part Number: 1403; Serial Number: AAA 7026704

1 NeXT Mouse; Model Number: N400A; Part Number: 193; Serial Number: AAF 1532557

1 IBM 5151

1 IBM Keyboard (No ID Numbers)

1 IBM Personal Computer Display; Model Number: 5151; Serial Number: 0889756; FCC ID: AN08ZA5151

1 IBM Personal Computer; Model Number: 5151; Serial Number: 0889756; FCC ID: AN08ZA5151

1 Commodore Amiga 500

1 Commodore Keyboard; Model Number: A500; Serial Number: CA1112119; FCC ID: BR98YV-B52

1 Amiga Monitor; FCC ID: AG19XA-1080

1 SMITH ENG. Vectrex

1 Vectrex; Model Number: 3000; Serial Number: 142309A

1 Vectrex Arcade System (No ID Numbers)

1 VectrexLIGHTPEN (No ID Numbers)

1 Commodore 64

1 Commodore C2N Cassette; Serial Number: 2951548; FCC ID: BR99VMC2N-A

1 Gemstick (No ID Numbers)

1 Commodore 64 Keyboard; Model Number 64; Serial Number: P00961638;FCC ID: P00961638

1 Commodore Monitor; Model Number: 1084S-P; Serial Number: 181231

1 Commodore Single Drive Floppy Disk; Model Number: 1541; Serial Number: BA1A73536; FCC ID:  BR98DD-1541


1 KAYPRO II Keyboard

Storage Room
7 Commodore Keyboards; Model Number 64; FCC ID: BR98YV-64

1-    Serial Number: P00571266

2-    Serial Number: P01201694

3-    Serial Number: P00194582

4-    Serial Number: P00523783

5-    Serial Number: P5069951

6-    Serial Number: P00667703

7-    Serial Number: P5206846 (damaged)

6 Commodore Single Drive Floppy Model 1541; FCC ID: BR978H1541

1-    Serial Number: BA1C15223

2-    Serial Number: BA1C37290

3-    Serial Number: AJ1A64384

4-    Serial Number: BB1015068

5-    Serial Number: AB1308436

6-    Serial Number: JA1066169

3 Commodore C2N Cassettes; FCC ID: BR99VMC2N-A

1-    Serial Number: 2644906

2-    Serial Number: 2244157

3-    Serial Number: 2201862

2 Commodore Datassettes; FCC ID: BR99VMC2N-A

4-    Serial Number: 372569

5-    Serial Number:1419210

1 Maxim Computer Cassette Unit; Model Number: PM-C16

5 Apple II Disk; FCC ID: BCG9GRDISKII; Model Number: A2M0003

1-    Serial Number: 2147209

2-    Serial Number: 1131734

3-    Serial Number: 813903

4-    Serial Number: 429981

5-    Serial Number: 484451

Donations from Timothy P. Sweeney
1 Startfight Joystick

2 paddle joysticks

2 ATARI electrical cords

1 Atari joystick and STICKSTAND

1 ATARI 400, 16K

Model?# G 16K 441 2137

Serial? # 175 AVO43273-16 10/23 L4 (text ripped off sticker)

1 ATARI 410 Program Recorder

Model# T33589

Serial # 44862

1 ATARI 1050 Disk Drive DOS 3 (with powercord)

Serial # 7VDFF 23960 494

1 ATARI 800 XL

Serial #166528


Ms. PAC-MAN, Atari Cartridge


EASTERN FRONT (1941): Computer Strategy Game, ATARI RX8039, Cartridge


PAC-MAN Computer Game, ATARI CXL4022, Cartridge

SUPER BREAKOUT Computer Games, ATARI CXL4006, Cartridge

Cribbage & Dominoes, for ATARI 400/800


Instruction Manual

Sky Writer, ATARI Cartridge

DELTA DRAWING Learning Program, for ATARI 400/800/ALL X LS


Advertising insert for Spinnaker Software

Owners Manual

KICKBACK, for ATARI 400/800


Instruction manual

Flight Landing Simulator, Main Street Publishing, for Atari

5.25″ floppy

Instruction sheet

Microsailing, Main Street Publishing, for Atari

5.25″ floppy

CardWare: Animated Birthday Greeting Disk And All Occasion Card Maker, Commodore ATARI Flip Disk. C64/128 and ATARI 400/800

1 5.25″ floppy

Productivity Software/Blank Floppies/Cassettes
AtariLab starter set with temperature module. a science series for Atari computers. developed by Dickinson College. Atari Inc., 1983.

Owners manual

AtariLab Interface

AtariLab Thermometer

AtariLab temperature module cartridge

SynTrend: Graphing, Statistical Analysis & Forecasting, Atari

published by Synapse, copyright 1983

Owers manual

2 5.25″ floppies

SynFile+: The Ultimate Filing System, Atari

published by Synapse, copyright 1983

Owers manual

1 5.25″ floppies

SynCalc: Advanced Electronic Spreadsheet

published by Synapse, copyright 1983

Owers manual

2 5.25″ floppies

1 Blank Cassette, “Channel Master”

1 5.25″ Floppy, labelled “ATARI DOS 2.05 Single Density Working Disk”, DataTech 1D, Single Side/Double Density

1 5.25″ Floppy, labelled “DOS 3.0″, DataTech 1D, Single Side/Double Density

1 5.25” Floppy, labelled “Homemade PGMS”, DataTech 1D, Single Side/Double Density

SUITCASE Font and Desk Acessory Liberation (for Apple Macintosh)

1 3.25″ floppy

Copyright 1987 Software Supply

ATARI Disk Operating System Reference Manual, DOS 3, Atari Inc., 1983.

ATARI Service Contract: Low Cost Protection For Your Atari Home Computer, Atari Inc., 1983.

An Introduction to the ATARI Disk Operating System, DOS 3. Atari Inc., 1983.

ATARI 1050 Disk Drive Owner’s Guide, Atari Inc., 1983.

ATARI 1050 Disk Drive: An Introduction to the ATARI Disk Operating System, Atari Inc., 1983.



ATARI BASIC Reference Guide. Atari Inc., 1983.

[photocopied manual in white binder] ATARI BASIC. by Bob Albrecht, Le Roy Finkel, and Jerald R. Brown. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1979.

THE BIG BROTHER THESAURUS. Deneba Software, 1988. no floppy.

FileMaker 4: Setting the Data Management Standard. Nashoba Systems. For Apple Macintosh. 1983.

HyperCard Quick Reference Guide. Apple Computer.

HyperCard: Installation and new features. 1998, Apple Computer.

Write Now 4: POWER Word Processing For the Macintosh. 1993, WordStar International.

HyperCard 2.0 Script Language Guide. 1989, Apple Computer.

Ashton-Tate Learning Full Impact. Owners Manual. 1990, Ashton-Tate Corporation.

MAC PAC ’88 $110 in rebate coupons on these leading products. Envelope with coupons enclosed.

The ATARI 800XL Home Computer Owners Guide. 1983, Atari Inc.

Scram Computer Program: A Nuclear Power Plant Simulation. Atari 400/800. (no cartridge)

10 Start Programs, from Family Computing. By Joey Lattimer. For Apple, Atari, Commodore 64 and VIC-20, TI, TIMEX, and TRS-80. 1983.

Family Computing: The Lure of Fantasy and Adventure Games. 1:2 (October 1983).

Family Computing: Preschool Computing: What’s Too Young? 1:3 (November 1983).

Family Computing: A Guide to Word Processing by Peter McWilliams. 1:4 (December 1983).

Family Computing: Computing Fun in the Sun. 2:1 (January 1984).

Family Computing: Computing and Careers. 2:4 (April 1984).

Family Computing: More Power for the Home. 3:11 (November 1985).

The Best of Family Computing Programs by Joey Latimer. 1985.  Scholastic Inc.

Family Computing: Improve Your Job: Put Your Computer To Work at Home. 4:2 (February 1986).

Family Computing: Earn Money With Your Computer. 4:5 (May 1986).

Family Computing: Buyer’s Guide to Computers. 4:6 (June 1986).

Family Computing: Writing With Computers Part 1: How to Find the Right Word Processor for Your Needs. 4:8 (August 1986).

GPX Atari Program Exchange. Software Catalog Spring Edition 1982. User-Written Software for ATARI Home Computer Systems.

GPX Atari Program Exchange. Software Catalog Summer Edition 1982. User-Written Software for ATARI Home Computer Systems.

GPX Atari Program Exchange. Software Catalog Fall Edition 1982. User-Written Software for ATARI Home Computer Systems.

GPX Atari Program Exchange. Software Catalog Winter Edition 1982-1983. User-Written Software for ATARI Home Computer Systems.

Antic: The ATARI Resource. Communications special issue. 1:2 (June 1982).

Antic: The ATARI Resource. Printers special issue. 1:3 (August 1982).

ATARI SPECIAL ADDITIONS. Volume 1 Winter 1982. Catalog of Additional Products for your Atari Home Computer.

The ATARI Connection. 2:1 (Spring 1982). A New World of Information.

The ATARI Connection. 2:4 (Winter 1982). How to Introduce Your Child to a Home Computer.

The ATARI Connection Spring 1983. Debut: Atari 1200XL Home Computer

 Donations from Robert Craig
1 Zenith Monitor for use with the Osborne computer

Model # ZVM-121

Chasis: 12MB15X

Service # ZVM-121   I5T?? (text unclear because ink is bleeding/fading)

Serial # 4045726

1 Osborne I with attached keyboard and power cable.

Date of purchase: 12/3/1082

Serial No. NA003113

Osborne I User’s Reference Guide (Print)

Pub. 2/22/1982

Osborne User’s Guide – Applications and Programming (Print)

Copyright 1983

Media Master Plus Application – 5.5in Floppy

This two program package includes

Disk-to-disk format conversion software

ZP/EM 8-bit Emulation for MS-DOS

Booklet for Microlink computer program for the Osborne

Guidebook for “dBase II Assembly Language – Database Management System Version 23b”

Manual Revision 1.C 12


For use on the Osborne I

3 Binders

JRT Pascal User’s Guide

185 pages detailing common problems and their solutions for the JRT implementation of the Pascal programming language.

FOG Volumes III and IV

The First Osborne Group’s Monthly CP/M publications, from Vol III No. 8 (May 1984) to Vol IV No. 12 (September 1985)

FOG Volumes V and VI (and parts of VII)

The First Osborne Group’s Monthly CP/M publications, from Vol V No. 1 (October 1985) to Vol VII No.6 (March 1988)

Various Pamphlets/Guidebooks on

82 Space Raiders

Instructions for “Eliza” – Osborne I Version

Ozzy-Man User Instructions

Retail Advertisement/Order form for Portable Software, Inc’s Games, Applications, and             Hardware Accessories

Key-Wiz ver 1.01

Gramatik Manual

The Double Density Upgrade for the Osborne one Computer “S/N AA50016um”

The 80 Column Upgrade “S/N BB06912”

Installation Procedure for Osborne Fan Assembly

EXMON external monitor adapter Instructions

Various Hardware for the Osborne I

Replacement back panel/handle attachement

Two screwdrivers – 1 Phillips, 1 specialty hexagonal shape

Two unknown Transistor-like replacement pieces, both 16 prong.  Condition and use unknown

One converter, RCA to 20 prong system – possibly for use to convert video outputs

One 24 pronged replacement device

One Two pronged connector replacement piece

1 box of assorted 5.5 in Floppy disks (Some homemade, some purchased)

SS/SD Disk R/O Version 11

FOG – Starter.001

FOG – Starter.002

CPM.010 #1 of 2

CPM.010 #2 of 2

DU Disk Utility, Modem Program, Wash Utility


Addict Pack Disks 1-4

Portable Software Family Pack

Eliza Version 3.0 Microsoft BASIC-80 Version

Robot Gladiators

DBASE II Tutor Disks 1-6



DBASE II Sample Data files

JRT Pascal Ver 3.0 Disks 1-3

Key-Wiz Sort-Wiz

Osborne CP/M System

Osborne CP/M Utility

Osborne Wordstar/Mailmerge

Osborne Micro Link



MLA 2013 Special Session: Reading the Invisible and Unwanted in Old & New Media

[February 2013: I’ve posted an extended version of my MLA 2013 paper here.]

Below is the description for the MLA ’13 special session panel that Paul Benzon, Mark Sample, Zach Whalen, and I will present on in January. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue together issues related to Media Archaeology.


Media studies is growing increasingly visible within the broader disciplines of literary and cultural studies, with several critical approaches bringing valuable shape and context to the field. Prominent among these approaches is a turn away from media studies’ longstanding fixation upon the new or the innovative as the most urgent and deserving site of study. Drawing on methodologies as diverse as book history, media archaeology, and videogame studies, this work on earlier media technologies has forged provocative connections between past and present contexts that hinge upon disjuncture and nonlinearity as often as upon continuity and teleology. At the same time, an increased attention to the material particulars of inscription, storage, circulation, and reception has developed the field beyond an early focus on narrative and representation.

New media scholars now look beyond screen-based media, to a broader range of technologies and sites of inquiry. This panel seeks to consider unseen, lost, or unwanted histories of writing/media. Each of the panelists focuses on a particular technology that is not only invisible to the broad history of media technology, but also relies upon loss and invisibility for its very functionality. In keeping with this dual valence, our emphasis on loss and invisibility is intended to raise questions aimed at our specific objects of analysis, but also at the deeper historical and disciplinary questions that these objects speak to: how does our understanding of media technology change when we draw attention to objects and processes that are designed to be invisible, out of view, concealed within the machine, or otherwise beyond the realm of unaided human perception? What happens when we examine the technological, social, and ideological assumptions bound up with that invisibility? How does privileging invisibility shed new light on materiality, authorship, interface, and other central critical questions within media studies?

The vexing relationship between invisibility and transparency is addressed head-on in Lori Emerson’s paper, “Apple Macintosh and the Ideology of the User-Friendly.” Emerson suggests that the “user-friendly” graphical user interface (GUI) that was introduced via the Apple Macintosh in 1984 was–and still is–driven by an ideology that celebrates an invisible interface instead of offering users transparent access to the framing mechanisms of the interface as well as the underlying flow of information. Emerson asserts this particular philosophy of the user-friendly was a response to earlier models of home computers which were less interested in providing ready-made tools through an invisible interface and more invested in educating users and providing them with the means for tool-building. Thus, the Apple Macintosh model of the GUI is clearly related to contemporary interfaces that utterly disguise the ways in which they delimit not only our access to information but also what and how we read/write.

A desire to renew critical attention on the most taken-for-granted aspect of computer writing and reading is at the heart of Zach Whalen’s paper, “OCR and the Vestigial Aesthetics of Machine Vision.” Whalen examines the origins of the technology that allows machines to read and process alphanumeric characters. While graceful typography is said to work best when it is not noticed–in other words, when hidden in plain sight–early OCR fonts had to become less hidden in order to make their text available for machine processing. Whalen focuses on the OCR-A font and the contributions of OCR engineer Jacob Rabinow, who argued on behalf of ugly machine-readable type that (although historically and technically contingent) its intrinsically artificial geometry could become its own aesthetic signifier.

The condensation and invisibility of textual information is taken up by Paul Benzon in his paper, “Lost in Plain Sight: Microdot Technology and the Compression of Reading.” Benzon uses the analog technology of the microdot, in which an image of a standard page of text is reduced to the size of a period, as a framework to consider questions of textual and visual materiality in new media. Benzon’s discussion focuses on the work of microdot inventor Emanuel Goldberg, who in the fifties worked alongside and in competition with the engineer Vannevar Bush, a seminal figure for new media studies. Benzon transforms the disregarded history of textual storage present in Goldberg’s work into a counter-narrative to the more hegemonic ideology of hypertext that has dominated new media studies.

Turning to an entirely invisible process that we can only know by its product, Mark Sample considers the meaning of machine-generated randomness in electronic literature and videogames in his paper, “An Account of Randomness in Literary Computing.” While new media critics have looked at randomness as a narrative or literary device, Sample explores the nature of randomness at the machine level, exposing the process itself by which random numbers are generated. Sample shows how early attempts at mechanical random number generation grew out of the Cold War, and then how later writers and game designers relied on software commands like RND (in BASIC), which seemingly simplified the generation of random numbers, but which in fact were rooted in–and constrained by–the particular hardware of the machine itself.

These four papers share a common impulse, which is to imagine alternate or supplementary media histories that intervene into existing scholarly discussions. By focusing on these forgotten and unseen dimensions, we seek to complicate and enrich the ways in which literary scholars understand the role of technologies of textual production within contemporary practices of reading and writing. With timed talks of 12 minutes each, the session sets aside a considerable amount of time for discussion. This panel will build on a growing conversation among MLA members interested in theoretically inflected yet materially specific work on media technologies, and it will also appeal to a broad cross-section of the MLA membership, including textual scholars, digital humanists, literary historians, electronic literature critics, and science and technology theorists.

Recovering Paul Zelevanksy’s literary game “SWALLOWS” (Apple //e, 1985-86)

In 1986 – a year after creating a literary videogame called “SWALLOWS” for Apple //e and Apple //+ – writer Paul Zelevansky published the second volume of his by-now rare artist book trilogy THE CASE FOR THE BURIAL OF ANCESTORS: Book Two, Genealogy. Book Two is supposedly the third edition (which is also a fiction since there was only one edition) of a fictional translation of an equally fictional ancient text that is itself a translation of an oral account of the “Hegemonians” from the 12th-13th BCE that was “attributed to a score of mystics, religionists and scholars, none of whom has ever stepped forward.” (ix) The text focuses particularly on the stories of four priests, each of whom is identified throughout the book with a different typeface which Zelevansky claims makes it possible “to build a reading of the text around a typographical sequence.” (xi) Also included in Book Two is a sheet of 16 stamps – a miniature, layered collage of letters and found objects – as Zelevansky puts it in the “Preface to the Third Edition,” “each stamp has a particular part to play in the narrative. It is left to the Reader to attach them, where indicated, in the spaces provided throughout the text.” (xii) And, finally, enclosed in an envelope on the inside of the back cover, the book also comes with “SWALLOWS,” a 5.25″ floppy disk that is a videogame forming the first of three parts in the book. Programmed in Forth-79 for the Apple IIe or II+ (Forth was a popular programming language for home computers with limited memory), “SWALLOWS” was also integrated into the first section of Book Two through a short text/image version.

Since learning about Zelevansky’s work, I have been working through and writing on “SWALLOWS” as a very early, and important, instance of media poetics. And given what a remarkable work it is, and in an effort to contribute to the effort to preserve our digital past, I have made available the original file for “SWALLOWS” that you can run via an Apple // emulator. The existence of this file is entirely due to the work of Matthew Kirschenbaum and the generosity of Paul Zelevanksy. Matthew Kirschenbaum in fact recently made an argument in The Chronicle for the importance of digital preservation by detailing how he accessed “SWALLOWS” via an Apple // emulator and then provided Zelevanksy with the original .dsk file from which he then created a new version of “SWALLOWS” (with audio and video clips mixed in) called “G R E A T . B L A N K N E S S.”

Below are the directions to download the .dsk file and then run it on an emulator. Enjoy!

  1. download an Apple //e emulator. I found Virtual ][ works well.
  2. download an Apple // system ROM image. This zip file also works well.
  3. download the .dsk file for “SWALLOWS” (via Dropbox) and open the file using your Apple //e emulator