While watching the latest developments in media entertainment, one cannot help but also sometimes pine nostalgic; for past programming enjoyed during our youth but also that talked about fondly by our parents and grandparents. That is the beauty of Internet Archive https://archive.org – a digital journey into all things classic television, radio, movies and more. Digital media observer Kim Komando shines a spotlight on the resource gem in her online column today.
Originally founded in 1996 in San Francisco as a non-profit digital library with a mission of providing “universal access to all knowledge” while advocating for a free and open Internet, Internet Archive.com contains 10 billion petabytes of information (that is, 1,000 terabytes or 1,000,000 gigabytes). That includes one million books in the public domain available free for downloading (in fact, in 2007, the site was officially designated as a library by the State of California). In other words, there’s a heck of a lot of stuff here. But is it good?
It is, in a word, golden. As, where else can you so many mass media defining moments, performances and innovators? From silent films from Charlie Chaplin, a Vaudevillian originator of precise physical comedy to an amazing archive of vintage radio programming where visuals sprang from the theater of the mind of its listeners. There’s live, variety programming such as “(Dean) Martin and (Jerry) Lewis” where comedy melded with crooning and serial programming such as the original “Dragnet” and “Gunsmoke” series (the latter airing a Herculean 480 episodes in its 9 year radio run (before moving to television for another 20).
As intriguing as anything in the TV section of the site’s “Wayback” area are the classic commercials that allow an eye-opening look back at visual persuasion and “shilling” including for cigarettes prior to their being banned from the medium; advertisements that are hard to watch but equally hard to look away from for historical reference.
And, as fun as anything are the early animation reels that harken back to a time when cartoons were only available before movies or on Saturday morning television (both no more). You’ll see Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Betty Boop and more; many most of us did not see when they originated but would later enjoy in other contexts.
Indeed, while everything must evolve and change in order to move forward, comfort can forever be found and lessons learned by also looking back; in particular to special moments that touched or intrigued and left indelible impressions.