Blogs on the recently shuttered forums Microcontroller Central, Scope Junction, and The Connecting Edge prompted me to write this blog.
I graduated engineering in 1975 and began my career in electronics two years later. Since that time, I began accumulating data books, data sheets, user manuals, and marketing bumf. There were some documents I recall throwing out and replacing with newer ones, but at some point the pack rat in me decided that there was often stuff provided in early data sheets that was omitted from newer ones and that I should keep them. Over time, my collection grew to be many linear feet of books (six bookcases and two filing cabinets), which I even shipped with me across the Atlantic when I emigrated from South Africa to Canada.
Click the picture below to start the slideshow:
Some data book covers are iconic, like the blue and white from National.
Over several years, my wife agitated for me to clear some space in the basement. However, my resistance to getting rid of the books was reinforced by the fact that I would occasionally see an appeal on a forum for data on some old and obsolete device, and it seemed to me that I was the only person in the world who had it (or was at least prepared to acknowledge that I had it). I was also aware that in the "Design Ideas" sections of the magazines EDN and Electronic Design, there were several ideas that were re-inventing the wheel, which made me more convinced that the data must be preserved or we would lose track of how thing were done.
Think of how many kids can estimate distance and relate that to a realistic number, or -- even more practically -- think whether the change returned to them when paying for something is in the right ball park. I tried to offer my books to computer museums, MIT (who were interested until they realized that they weren't old and valuable), Google, and other repositories like Bitsavers, but with no takers. So I eventually decided that I would scan everything into my computer (this was after I had converted all my 60s/70s music on LPs to MP3 files, but that is a story for another day).
I decided to use OCR (optical character recognition) technology and save to PDF files so that my archive would be searchable. I reasoned that it would be impossible to scan every page by flipping and holding it on the scanner and that I would need some automation. To that end, I acquired an HP Scanjet 5590 with a document feeder and double-sided scan capability. To use the document feeder, I decided to cut the spine off every book using a utility knife and started out.
I learned a few things along the way, especially after I sliced the tip off my left index finger twice, the second time cutting off the unhealed first injury! I clamped the book very near the spine using an aluminium bar and C clamps. I would then make sure my left hand was well out of the way while using the knife. On thick books I would first break them into sub-books. I have since discovered that butchers and wood carvers use a chain mail glove. Knowing this earlier would have saved me two trips to the emergency room.
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