Saving the past inside an Internet archived library
June 27, 2011
by Mark Ollig

“Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

This quote, by Jimmy Wales, who founded Wikipedia in 2001, has stayed tucked away in the back of my mind ever since I first read it.

While Wikipedia continues to evolve as the Internet’s ever-growing online encyclopedia, there is another online information depository we should consider.

This one was started five years before Wikipedia.

Every day it collects, organizes, catalogs, and preserves the informational content people contribute to it.

This online Internet storage library is called the Internet Archive.

One could think of the Internet Archive as a sort of digital time capsule a person can open up at any time.

The Internet Archive began in 1996 and is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by donations.

San Francisco is the physical location of the data storage servers, which hold and maintain all the archived digital information.

The Internet Archive has already collected – and is preserving – an incredible wealth of information.

The amount of informational data stored in the Internet Archive’s fourth generation Petabox storage system as of December 2010 is a mind-bogglingly 5.8 petabytes.

It is accumulating new data at a rate of about 20 terabytes per month.

Working to preserve and store digital records for future generations, the Internet Archive offers historians, scholars, academic students, researchers, and, more or less, anyone, access to thousands of digitally-saved historical collections.

These collections contain videos, photographs, books and assorted text files, music and supplementary audio files, software collections, educational references, and numerous archived Internet web pages.

As a child during the 1960s, if you watched the cartoon program called “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” you will no doubt recall the short segment with Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

These two cartoon characters would use a time machine to personally experience and participate in famous historical events.

This fictional time machine was called the WABAC Machine, spoken as, “Wayback Machine.”

The show’s creator chose WABAC in a depiction to the then powerful UNIVAC number crunching mainframe computer.

This cartoon program was a clever way to entertainingly teach children some history.

To watch the memorable Mr. Peabody and Sherman episode where they set the WABAC machine to the year 1519, and go to meet the famous navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, visit http://tinyurl.com/6am7y9a.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine contains more than 150 billion archived web pages it has collected and stored since 1996.

To use the Wayback Machine, just type in the desired http web address (URL), press the “Take Me Back” button and select the archive date you wish to view the web page from.

Using the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine,” I viewed the Whitehouse.gov website as it appeared on Dec. 27, 1996.

While viewing various websites from the 1990s, I was reminded how orderly, easy-to-read, and uncluttered a web page looked back then.

No pop-up ads or convoluted and overcrowding graphics.

I also viewed some CNN web pages from September 11, 2001.

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine offered seven CNN web pages from that historic day.

The 4 p.m. EDT archived CNN web page from Sept. 11, 2001, displays the bold headline “AMERICA UNDER ATTACK.” Above this headline was a dramatic photo of the two World Trade Center towers on fire.

I saved this CNN page on a Photobucket file. To view it, go to http://tinyurl.com/3zl7jzb.

Another Internet Archive collection contains video of major world news television stations reporting live, while events unfolded during the attacks on September 11, 2001. They can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/yqqvyn.

The Moving Images video collection of the Internet Archive contains an assortment of television’s early years, including local city programming, national news programs, educational shows and documentaries, popular western series, commercials, and cartoons.

Many mid-20th century black-and-white public instructional films from the US Civil Defense Administration are preserved, including the famous video made during the age of Soviet Union nuclear testing called “Duck and Cover.”

The Internet Archive sub-collections also hold many computer-themed television programs from the 1980s, including popular shows yours truly watched like Computer Chronicle’s and “Net Café.”

The Internet Archive is preserving these and many other historical videos for future generations.

Another sub-collection called Community Video is available to the public for viewing and uploading videos.

Currently, there are almost 153,000 individually uploaded videos here, including the one I uploaded showing Eugene McCarthy visiting Minnesota State University Mankato (Mankato State College), during a presidential campaign stop Dec. 2, 1971.

This video shows a CBS news reporter interviewing my brother, who attended this college and had seen McCarthy speak.

I am using the Internet Archive site in order to preserve this video for present (and future) family members to view.

The Internet Archive states “The Internet Archive is working to prevent the Internet - a new medium with major historical significance - and other “born-digital” materials from disappearing into the past.”

Start your exploration of history (and contribute some of yours) at the Internet Archive by going to http://www.archive.org.

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