A few weeks ago I blogged a very bad example of the type of e-mail I’m somewhat often sent along the lines of “please link to my article”. In case you missed it, the short version is, there’s a right way and a very wrong way to make such a request.
Well, I don’t know if Jason Feifer of Fast Company read that post or not, but he sent me a request and he did everything right. He included his name, the name of his publication (one I’m already aware of, so bonus points for that,) and pointed me to an article that is actually relevant to me, my job, and this blog.
So, congratulations Jason, I’m doing something that I rarely do on this blog, linking to an article that I was asked to link to.
The article is “The Predecessor To Google Books, Facebook Graph Search, And Rewind.me–In The Early 1900s” and is a very interesting read. Here’s an excerpt:
You want an idea to survive hundreds or thousands of years? Step one: Don’t write it on paper. Alexander Konta believed this deeply. Paper yellows and withers and crumbles; it is the printed form of Alzheimer’s. “Why not make [text] imperishable by photographing the written word after it has been printed in books and newspapers and preserve the plate in a fireproof vault?” he asked the New York Observer. It was a hell of an idea, considering he said that in 1911. A century later, that’s more or less how those words of his were preserved: They had been scanned and stored on Google Books.
Konta was just getting started.
He was a wealthy New York banker, and in 1911 founded a group called the Modern Historic Records Association. It billed itself as “the first society ever organized to provide a living history of the times,” and its goal was wildly ambitious: It wanted to marshal the power of the day’s technology–new, exciting machines that captured moving images and recorded voices–to document everything, or at least as much as they could, so that time wouldn’t erase their era as it had at least partially wiped out all of preceding human history.
Between then and now, so much of its vision has come true. Google Books, the Internet Archive, Rewind.Me–it’s the archive system he craved. He argued that cameras and recorders should bear witness to great moments–a wish granted by everything from C-Span toYouTube. “I spoke in my original letter of the historic value of a moving picture of Lincoln at Gettysburg,” Konta once told a reporter. “Would you not like to see him and listen to him on the Fourth of July? Would you not like to be able to bequeath these records to your children’s children? Would that not be far more impressive than the printed speech alone? And would not the speech be doubly guarded against being lost?”
It’s a great article and a wonderful bit of history I’m sure none of my readers were aware of. Please take the time to check it out.