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textfiles.com is a web site run by Jason Scott dedicated to preserving the digital documents that contain the history of the BBS world and various subcultures. The site categorises and stores thousands of ASCII files. It focuses on text files from the 1980s, but also contains some older files and some that were created well into the 1990s.
The site went online in 1998. According to Scott, the site had approximately 150,000 unique visitors per month as of 2004.[dated info] An updated file count was last posted on July 1, 2005; at that time, the number of files archived by the site was 58,227.
The text files in the archive cover a wide range of topics, including anarchy, art, carding, computers, drugs, Freemasonry, games, hacking, phreaking, politics, piracy, sex and UFOs. Many ezines are also included in the archive. One of the oldest archives is the first decade (1923–1935) of Short Talk Bulletin, the monthly periodical of the Masonic Service Association.
The site provides a "glimpse into the history of writers and artists bound by the 128 characters that the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) allowed them." The authors of the philes are often anonymous or identified only by BBS pseudonyms. They have been collected from an assortment of different sources, mostly BBSs.
textfiles.com also houses a number of sub-projects with their own hostnames. artscene.textfiles.com has a repository of computer art including crack intros, ANSI and ASCII art and other related documents; audio.textfiles.com has an archive of audio files, including prank calls, recorded telephone conferences with BBS owners and hacker radio shows; cd.textfiles.com contains an archive of 1990s shareware discs; web.textfiles.com contains files created after the Internet went into mainstream use, approximately 1995; bbslist.textfiles.com aims to be a comprehensive list of all historical BBSes; timeline.textfiles.com is meant to list all important events in the history of BBSes. There are other sub-sites, and the set changes over time.
Most of the textfiles.com projects are "completionist" in outlook, attempting to gather as much information as possible within the decided scope. The goal is to preserve as much as possible for future generations. In the BBS List FAQ, Jason Scott describes his work on the project as "an almost single-minded devotion to saving the past."
According to Jason Scott, the site has frequently been threatened with legal action. Its legality is questionable, because most of the material that it hosts archives of are presumably copyrighted by their original creators. Its legal status depends on interpretation of fair use provisions in copyright law. Scott argues that the records of the BBS era would be lost, were it not for his and others' preservation work. As of 2004, most of the files in the archive are not expected to legally pass into the public domain for decades (since most files originated in the US, where copyright is for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years), and the continued public availability of the archives could be considered electronic civil disobedience if not fair use.
- Sources consulted
- Jason Scott. http://www.textfiles.com/statement.html - Statement. Retrieved 2004-11-17.
- Jason Scott. http://www.textfiles.com - textfiles.com first page. Retrieved 2004-11-17.
- Jason Scott. http://ascii.textfiles.com - ASCII — jason scott's weblog. 2004-11-17.
- Jason Scott (November 16, 2004). http://ascii.textfiles.com/archives/000061.html - "Use of our client's trademark to identify enema equipment in erotic fiction is likely to cause confusion". Retrieved 2004-11-19.
- Jason Scott. http://bbslist.textfiles.com/support/faq.html - BBS List FAQ. 2004-11-17.
- Joe Asbrook Nickell.  - Return of the Living BBS. Wired News. Retrieved 2008-03-27.