© 1997,1999 Peter Karlsson. Originally published (in Swedish) in Relik issue 5 (June 1997), revised and published in ABC-Bladet issue 3/1997. Translated into English and German and further revised and published in Go64/Commodore World issue 12/1999.
The market for new software for the Commodore 64, and other eight-bit computers, isn't what it used to be. Sure, programs are still developed, by devoted companies like CMD and others, but the majority of the programs that are available are quite old and aren't sold any longer. Fortunately, there are many places on the Internet where people collect old software for our veteran computers, like Arnold for C64 games, but what about the documentation?
By Peter Karlsson
Preserving copies of the software is quite simple, you just need to copy the disk (or tape or cartridge, or whatever kind of medium it was originally stored on), but preserving documentation requires a bit more effort. The manuals are most often on paper, and paper isn't something that you easily can shuffle onto a hard disk. Also, paper tends to wear out over time, to completely disappear in the end, and it is not as simple as to copy it over to a fresh disk when the old one is near the end of its life-time.
So, what can be done about it? We could transfer the manuals to an electronic form, something that you can save on your hard-disk. This digital copy can then be downloaded and perhaps printed by those that have found the old software.
The problem is to reach out to others in a good, coordinated fashion once you have transfered the documents to an electronic format. Fortunately for us, such efforts exists, thanks to volunteering Internet users.
The first project of this kind that I heard of when it comes to the Commodore 64, and also the most well-known, is Project 64, founded in 1995 by Cris Berneburg in the USA. He started to collect English language Commodore 64 related documentations ranging from books to game manuals. Project 64 is currently being integrated into Dean Thompson's Project Commodore, expanding the project to carry documentation for all of Commodore's computers, not only the Commodore 64.
Project 64 and Project Commodore only handle documentations in English, but there are many other languages in which software for the Commodore computers were available. After giving it some consideration, I was convinced by Cris Berneburg to start up International Project 64 in March of 1997, covering the non-English part. In March of 1999, IP64 was reformed into iDOC=, International Documentation Project for Commodore Eight-Bit Computers (I intentionally chose a very long name so that people would stick to the abbreviation), broadening its scope to other Commodore eight-bitters, and to non text-only documentations as well. To date, iDOC= carries 57 documents in text-only form, in five different languages. Seven documents are available in non text-only form (mostly HTML with illustrations), one of which is not included in the above count.
Other computers are not left out in the cold, either. There is a sister project of Project 64 and iDOC= called Project 81, which carries Sinclair ZX81 (Timex-1000) documentation. The page hasn't been updated since 1997, and there seems not to be a great interest in that project, however. For the Sinclair Spectrum (Timex-2000), there is Spectrum Game Instructions, a part of Planet Sinclair. For the Apple II there are the Apple II archives, documenting a lot of games, among other things, and a friend of mine has scanned the documentation he got with his Apple at AppleII-iskt.
If you have any old documentation that is not yet preserved in an electronic format, don't hesitate to scan it in and send it to a suitable project. Especially interesting is the non-English part of the world, since there are quite a number of hardware and software products produced for the Commodore machines outside of the English speaking territories. There are a number of such products that have never reached these areas.
Web sites mentioned in the article:
This article in Deutsch (German), Svenska (Swedish).
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