Reclaim Video Laserdisc and VHS Haul

I have been quiet on the Reclaim Video front with everything going on with the Fall semester start-up, so before they become a distant memory I wanted to mention a couple of nice hauls of  Laserdiscs and VHS tapes we got in the last couple of months. Back in late August I took a trip to the Fat Kat Records location in Ruther Glen, Virginia to stock up on laserdiscs, and that I did. 

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There are a lot of gems, I particularly enjoyed the Japanese import of Blue Steel (1990), which I proceeded to watch the next day, its cool to re-visit early Kathryn Bigelow after seeing her career develop as a filmmaker, althoughI think I most enjoy  her early films like Near Dark (1987) and Point Break (1991)—but what a career.

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I also picked up some VHS tapes on this trip to Fat Kat, and I was happy about that:

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I wanna do a Quest for Fire/Waterworld double-feature at some point 🙂 I even got a cassette tape:

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And a book:

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But the real score was a few weeks ago when I found a lot of 300+ VHS tapes on Craig’s List. Full blown lots like this are harder and harder to find, and this one was a total gem. Meredith went to Maryland on her way back from the Nationals game and after hearing about Reclaim Video the Ingram family donated the whole lot for free, including  ton of empty VHS cases. This is a particular collection, I will get more pictures and add them to the ones below, but here is a small taste.

The back seat of Meredith’s car after pickup

6 Boxes of 80s VHS Tapes

Some VHS tapes from the Ingram Haul, love Turk 182, The Star Chamber, The Bad News Bears and Rambo, and even Night Hawks! (a personal favorite—we now have that one on laserdisc and VHS).

You had be at Mad Max

We still have to inventory it all, but our collection to a major jump with the addition of all these titles, and I have to think we approaching the 1000 mark for VHS tapes alone. I’ll need to confirm as much, but I have to think this haul pushed us over that number. Meredith also got the perfect card for the Ingrams, and now they have a lifetime membership to Reclaim Video 🙂

Thanks you card for the Ingrams for their generosity and support of Reclaim Video!

Thank you letter to the Ingrams

And beyond that haul, I got a 4-VHS set on Ebay featuring Streets of Fire (1984), the rock musical from the 80s you might not have ever seen. I was inspired by Paul Bond’s post on the film and his awesome GIFs—it’s a truly bizarre film.

4 Tapes

Willem Defoe at his very best

One final note, we have a second part-time employee at Reclaim Video that started a bit ago, so it’s becoming more official everyday. I am pretty hands-off on the day-to-day (understatement), but I understand people actually rent videos on occasion 🙂 And the big news is that there may be hope of telepresence via an iPad robot by as early as December, one can dream. I love Reclaim Video, and I don’t nearly blog about it nearly enough.

Tripod

After my last post I started searching round for timelines and details about early web hosting companies like Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. and I found a pretty neat timeline from The History of the Web site. Of particular interest was not only that tripod.com pre-dated Geocities.com by a couple of months (Tripod.com was registered on September 29, 1994 and Geocities in November). But Tripod was not up and running until 1995 framing itself as a hosting service specifically for college students to create a space for themselves online:

Tripod

The domain name for Tripod is registered, pre-dating most other free web hosting services like Geocities and Angelfire. Tripod’s explicit goal is to give college students a way of setting up a spot for themselves on the web, though it would eventually come to be known as an easy-to-use service for free web homepages.

Nothing new under the web’s sun. Reclaim roots! I was now intrigued, and I wanted to get a better look at Tripod back in the day, and the Wayback Machine has a mint screenshot from December 21, 1996.

Tripod.com on Dec. 21, 1996

I took the screenshot using the Full Page Screen Capture extension in Chrome, and I’m liking it. I think the whole page is interesting because of the dead space in the bottom right, and the links all the way down on the left are telling. I also like the Fidelity Investments banner ad. At the end of 1996 the service claims to have 150,000 users, a number that seems almost quaint two years for a web-based tech company. I also like the branding with AOL as a “Members’ Choice” site. So much goodness here, so going to add this as another possible site for the OWLTEH exhibit. Are these posts jumpstarting your 90s memory? If so, post a link using this form to a site from the 90s with your description to be considered for the Exhibit happening in Coventry in exactly two weeks. 

Prof. Dr. Style

Lauren Heywood, Daniel Villar-Onrubio, and I are working on the exhibit for the Learning on the Open Web conference (OWLTEH) in exactly two weeks. One aspect of the exhibit will be framed examples of the 90s learning web. This will entail framed posters of websites from back in the day along with a placard crediting the person whom submitted the site and as well as their description. It’s been cool to see the submissions we have gotten thus far, and feel free to add your own examples of 90s web sites that have anything remotely to do with learning (which means a whole lot of them). 

So, when I was originally think about this exhibit I harken back to personal homepages on the academic tilde spaces that were a prevalent part of the academic web. Professors would create a fairly simple website with links to research, papers, professional organizations, and so on. .Net artist Olia Lialina termed this genre of websites the Prof. Dr. style, and has written extensively about the aesthetic here. Im blown away at the level she gets into in terms of browser copatibility, blink tags, web safe colors and more. I’m submitting the website featured above of German professor Werner Römisch as an example of such a site which will include the following text on the placard which quotes Lialina at length:

.Net artist Olia Lialina wrote extensively about early web design, and she classified a whole set of personal sites from the early 90s as “Prof.Dr” websites (http://contemporary-home-computing.org/prof-dr-style/).  As she notes:

“Prof.Dr” is a codeword, a tricky search request. I am aware of the fact that there are users outside of academia as well who always designed their sites in pure markup or redesigned according to 1993 standards recently. Still I suggest to use this name based on a scientific title as a tribute to the history, and reminder that all around the internet the very first pages were build at universities. To cement this term, within this article I’ll use only pages of senior academics holding a doctoral title.

The site highlights the minimalist, static design of the early web as well as reflecting a commonplace in the 1990s for universities to provide web space on a web server hosted by the university before the relative popularity and affordability of shared hosting in the early 2000s. The accounts were commonly referred to in the U.S. as  one’s “Tilde space” (~) and provided a small amount of storage and the ability to upload media and  HTML files via FTP.

I like of Lialina underscores the vital role of universities in building and shaping the early look and feel of the early web. I was also wondering what services Europeans used that was akin to 90s shared hosting where sites like Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. would give you free web space much like universities. I’d love to get a sense from anyone in the UK who used hosted services for web pages in the 90s.

What’s I was talking with Lauren yesterday, and we started to make real progress on the layout. We are thinking 10-15 printed website with blurbs distributed around the entire conference (on hanging racks or easels), with a central pre-fabricated wall with an over view and rationale. It’s kind of cool to build an impromptu exhibit like this, and given the goal is modest in that it just wants to highlight the long history of the web aesthetically. I’m also working on re-creating a 90s desktop and laptop experience in the lobby of the venue, and I’ve been on Ebay looking for OG hardware which is always fun! Anyway, I have more to say on these sites, but I’ll save that for my next post.

Trying to Contain my Excitement (and workload) for OWLTEH

via GIPHY

In just under three weeks the free, one-day event Learning on/with the Open Web (OWLTEH) will be happening in Coventry. It should prove a lot of fun, and you can get a sense of some of the talks happening here (that site nicely highlighting the value of the TRU Writer SPLOT). I am planning on doing a workshop with Lauren Heywood and Daniel Villar-Rubio on SPLOTs as well as convening a presentation/panel with Anne-Marie Scott and Tony Hirst in which we talk a bit about the open web for teaching and learning at the level of the infrastructure. I pushed out an abstract here, but this is still a work in progress:

The emergence of an abstracted, containerized infrastructure for the open web poses all sorts of questions about the future. Focusing on everything from the shift from RSS to APIs, the rise of containers, and the talk of “serverless” stack, this panel will attempt to explain these developments and make sense of what open web infrastructure could look for higher education in the near future.

Probably needs some work, but that’s the least of my worries. I am in the middle of trying to get a Windows 95 boot emulated on a mid-90s computer and even creating a local area network to reproduce sites from circa 1995. We’ll see how that goes, and also I am in need of some 90s websites if you have an idea or two submit them here for the Teaching and Learning on the 90s Web Exhibit, submissions here please 🙂

I’m gonna have a busy weekend, I am in over my head! 

Reclaim Today: Tape Action Outside!

Last night I finally got back on the Reclaim Today train. The show has been on hiatus during September given the new semester was in full swing, but Reclaim Hosting is starting to come up for air and we all know the show must go on!

I’m pretty excited about this episode cause it connects a couple of things we’ve done over the last few years, with this blog being a touchstone. Back in May I got the following email from John Grahame:

Dear Professor Groom,
 

On your bavatuesdays “Total Recall” blog from Feb 28, 2015 <https://bavatuesdays.com/total-recall-panasonic-omnivision-vcr/> you post a jpeg of a 1981 Montgomery Ward ad for Panasonic VCRs. The bottom VCR separates the tuner and the VCR to enable the user to “Tape action outside!” I bought one of those (for about $1,050!) in 1981. I still have it and it still works. Looks nice, too. Do you have any idea if there is anyone out there who would be interested in preserving items like these? I guess I’m thinking in terms of a museum of technology of something like that. I’m 70 years old now and am feeling the need to find ways for certain things I own to have a future.

Thanks,  

Do I have any idea of someone who would be interested? You bet! The post from this here old blog, THE BAVA, was from 2015 and was part of my documentation of the UMW Console exhibit we created at UMW. It highlighted my purchase of an early 80s Panasonic Omnivision VHS player—which was the player my family had while I was growing up. It was (and still is) an awesome learning machine. In many ways it was an anchor of the 80s exhibit in my mind because it brought me back to the video 80s that were so formative. So, John’s email had me right away, and the image he is referring to with the dual unit from a Montgomery Ward catalogue was part of that post:

This was mobile video in 1981! Turns out this machine is a 1980s Panasonic Omnivision with Tuner and Recorder—and the tagline “Tape Action Outside!” provides a sense of the arrival of mass consumer portable video from the early 80s. When John shared the original manual and receipt it felt that much more real, technology with a very personal history.

$1300 in 1982 for this technology

I immediately responded to John with interest and we soon after got on a call wherein I explained Reclaim Video as an extension of the idea we started with the UMW Console in 2015. He was thrilled to contribute, and at this very moment the Panasonic Omnivision PV-4510  is en route to Fredericksburg to discover its new home in Reclaim Video. It’s due to arrive today, so hopefully pictures will follow.

But even better than the machine were John’s stories of exploring video in the early 70s throughout the 1980s. He started exploring video while a student at UMass in 1970 with Sony’s Portapak. I was not familiar with the Portapak and I looked it up after talking with John back in Spring, and it was a relatively inexpensive setup at $1500 in 1967 for this kind of technology (I was way off in the episode thinking I saw the price point at $120 or so, but it sounded as wrong as it was—so never trust me).

Image of Sony's portable video unit "Portapak" from 1967

Sony’s portable video unit “Portapak” from 1967

The Portapak is interesting because as John noted, UMass had ten of them lying around, and given no one was using them he was able to hold onto it for two years and basically turn his mass communication papers into video papers. What’s more, from the Wikipedia article, the advent of this tecchnology during the political turmoil fo the late 60s meant it was being used by artists and activists alike to capture that moment:

The introduction of the Portapak had a great influence on the development of video artguerrilla television, and activism. Video collectives such as TVTV and the Videofreex utilized Portapak technology to document countercultural movements apart from the Big Three television networks. The Portapak was also a crucial technology for the Raindance Foundation, a collective consisting of artists, academics, and scientists, motivated by the potential of the Portapak and video to develop alternative forms of communication.[4] Because of its relative affordability and immediate playback capability, the Portapak provided artists, experimenters, and social commentators the ability to make and distribute videos apart from well-funded production companies.

It’s interesting to think that the introduction of video to a mass market was as far back as the 1960s, and John’s career as a video producer ranges from the 70s through the 80s when he got to work with Francis Ford Coppola on One From the Heart (1982). While often remembered as the film that sunk Zoetrope Studios financially,  it is also remembered as a pioneering exploration of using video to create a film. Here’s a bit of context from the Previsualization Wikipedia article:

The most comprehensive and revolutionary use of new technology to plan movie sequences came from Francis Ford Coppola, who in making his 1982 musical feature One From the Heart, developed the process he called “electronic cinema”. Through electronic cinema Coppola sought to provide the filmmaker with on-set composing tools that would function as an extension of his thought processes.[1] For the first time, an animatic would be the basis for an entire feature film. The process began with actors performing a dramatic “radio-style” voice recording of the entire script. Storyboard artists then drew more than 1800 individual storyboard frames.[1] These drawings were then recorded onto analog videodisks and edited according to the voice recordings.[8] Once production began, video taken from the video tap of the 35 mm camera(s) shooting the actual movie was used to gradually replace storyboarded stills to give the director a more complete vision of the film’s progress.[8]

Instead of working with the actors on set, Coppola directed while viewing video monitors in the “Silverfish” (nickname) Airstream trailer, outfitted with then state-of-the-art video editing equipment.[9] Video feeds from the five stages at the Hollywood General Studios were fed into the trailer, which also included an off-line editing system, switcher, disk-based still store, and Ultimatte keyers. The setup allowed live and/or taped scenes to be composited with both full size and miniature sets.[8]

John relates his experience filming Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski on the streets of Las Vegas without permits on the streets of Las Vegas in video. How cool is that, and here is an image of John (the man with the camera) and Coppola during the shoot:

John Grahame with Francis Ford Coppola while shooting One from the Heart in video

These connections blew my mind, and I knew I wanted to have John on an episode of Reclaim Today once we started it cause this kind of insight to the long history of video during the 60s, 70s, and 80s was a big part of why I was so excited about Reclaim Video, and here is that history being recounted by one who worked intimately within it. What’s more, it provided another moment to reflect on that bit at the end of the documentary Heart of Darkness wherein Coppola has a pretty brilliant of vision of what the advent of cheap, ubiquitous access to video could do for movies as an art form.

The long history of video just became that much more interesting to me, thanks John!

Reclaim Roadshow hits the Skid

It’s been quite day, week, month…the like of a Reclaimer is always intense! Between shoring up a wave of new schools with Domain of One’s Own as Fall arrived (welcome University of Brighton, CSU San Bernardino, Skidmore College, Wesleyan University, Bates College, and Drew University) as well as our more recent WordPress Multisite schools (hello Trinity Western College and University of New England!) we’ve been head’s down busy. What’s more, the new semester pushed our shared hosting services for universities and colleges everywhere into high gear. So, what did we do? We decided to add another event: the Reclaim Roadshow!

The idea of doing regional user-groups is something Justin Webb (we are getting the band back together!) suggested. We ran the Workshop of One’s Own twice last year and that was fun, but it was primarily focused on admin training and deep-dive into managing Domain of One’s Own. What we haven’t been doing (besides the Domains17 conference) is getting folks together to share how they are using Domains and show-off some of their work. We start discussing a possibility in the Spring, but after Ben Harwood talked to Lauren and I about a training session it quickly transformed into a two-day training/user-group event in beautiful Saratoga Spring, NY thanks to the good folks at Skidmore College. The event will be broken up into two-days, the first day will be admin  training and targeted instructional usage of Domains and the second will be a user-group conference driven my folks in the community sharing their experience, approach, projects, etc. 

2012/366/96 I Found the Bus!

We don’t have a Reclaim Bus yet, but I have to believe that cannot be far behind. So, if you are in the Upstate New York area (or willing to travel from around the Northeast) we would love to see you at the Reclaim Roadshow at Skidmore College on November 8 and 9th.

Reclaim Hosting: the VHS Days

Image of Reclaim Hosting's new homepage A Rotating Easter Egg is just one of the many features of Reclaim Hosting’s New VHS-Inspired Site Design

It’s official, Reclaim Hosting‘s website got an overhaul, and in addition to featuring Bryan Mather‘s updated VHS-inspired designs it also highlights several new services and products we are offering. Before I go into detail, I have to note that this re-design is entirely Lauren Brumfield‘s brainchild. She did the lion’s share of the site re-design as a professional development project that once we caught wind of it quickly became slated for a Fall launch. That speaks volumes to Lauren’s work ethic and impeccable sense of design, and I’m blown away by what she has accomplished. So, all hail Lauren!

Repo Man Migrations

The site does retain much of the art we used previously. For example, the Migrations page still features the glowing green car inspired by Repo Man (1984), and in many ways in the age of VHS at Reclaim Hosting the visual is more appropriate than ever 🙂

And the VHS Aesthetic is no where more apparent than in the new headers for many of the products. For example, we had soft released the new VHS icons for the Personal, Professional, and Org plans, but the labelled VHS tape in the header really ties the room together.

Managed Hosting at Reclaim

We’ve also added more managed services beyond WordPress MultiSite, including Virtual Private Servers and the soon to be released Commons in a Box offering. And as I mentioned yesterday, we are now offering shared and dedicated hosting for Pressbooks for all you waiting for the open textbook rapture. In fact, providing more managed shared hosting services like this is a direction we are hoping to explore in even more depth in the coming months.

Pressbooks screenshot

We are also now offering Professional Services, which folks can sign-up for if they need a hacked site(s) cleaned up, site monitoring, custom software installed/configured, and priority support and consultation. It is something folks have asked us about repeatedly, like Pressbooks, and for those running accounts that are mission critical, have a history of getting hacked, or just need to go above and beyond this may be a good option.

Reclaim getting all Professional

Finally, Lauren reach out to folks who we currently support, and you will see a number of pull quotes—like those below—punctuating various pages of the site.

Remain a big fan of of that human technology Lora Taub-Pervizpour!

No, YOU are superb, LaNeta! And your taste in academic hosting companies is flawless.

Did Tom Woodward say something positive about someone? A blog grows in Brooklyn!

It’s cool to read what the folks who work with us have to say, and when I look at the new site there is no small element of pride and excitement at how well-rounded and fully-featured our services have become, and I don’t think our personalized support and attention to detail have gotten lost in the mix. We continue to grow intentionally and scale for human growth and that, dear reader, has made all the difference!

Built to Spill: Further Forays into Managed Application Hosting

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Where will you spend eternity?

A post shared by Jim Groom (@jim.groom) on

Later today Reclaim Hosting will be unveiling a makeover of our website that Lauren Brumfield executed quite deftly. I’ll let her discuss the particulars given we’re also rolling out a couple of new products and services alongside the redesign, and I did want to take a moment to talk about our continued exploration of new possibilities. Providing managed hosting for specific applications is something we’ve already ventured into at Reclaim Hosting with WordPress Multisite, and given how well that has gone we’re at it again with managed hosting for Pressbooks (NB: link will be live shortly). We have gotten several requests to run this application on our shared hosting servers, and while we have tried to do this for folks, the dependencies for features like exporting books to formats such as PDF, EPUB, etc. make it difficult to provide a consistent environment across our fleet of shared hosting servers.

That said, when good folks like Chris Lott come knocking and asking if we can do anything we figure it’s time to take a deeper look and see if we can offer Pressbooks as a managed application. A couple of weeks later it turns out we can provide a service that is cost effective and gets you most of what PressbooksEDU packages offer. For $125 per month you get an account with 100GB of storage, the option to automatically install Pressbooks, preinstalled dependencies and export formats, 30 days of backups, and pre-packaged plugins and themes provided by BC Campus.

As a result of having moved to Digital Ocean, we already have a number of shared hosting server in rotation through Digital Ocean that we can scale seamlessly if need be. So this semester we setup a shared hosting server in Digital Ocean’s Toronto data center dedicated to Pressbooks, namely Built to Spill. The server has all the requisite dependencies and what’s slick about it is that Tim Owens made it possible to automate the setup at the point of sign-up, so by the time you get into your cPanel account Pressbooks can be all setup and ready to go.

The server’s namesake marks a trend of recent server names such as Fugazi, Pavement, Bikini Kill, and Unwound–recognizing the post-punk bands of the 1990s that became one of the more successful stalwarts of independent music over the coming decades was this Boise, Idaho-based band that formed way back in 1992 Even after signing with Warner Brothers in 1995. Listening to their albums it is noticeable that band did not give up much creatively upon signing, and they went on to release 6 studio albums with Warner before parting ways last year.  The band’s magnum opus Perfect from Now On (1997) and the more polished follow-up Keep it Like a Secret (1999) are probably their best known albums, and they range from deep philosophical musings on the unfathomable nature of time in “Randy Describes Eternity”:

To creative, angst-driven John Hughes-movie themed gems like “Carry the Zero”:

Doug Martsch has been the only consistent member of the band since 1992, and he planned on changing the line-up with every album they recorded. And while that did not pan out, the band ha changed members regularly since the early 90s, keeping it a fairly dynamic, “self-cleaning” experiment in alt-rock that is still going strong. I discovered Martsch’s unique vocals and peripatetic guitar riffs when he collaborated with Calvin Johnson and Steve Fisk to form the Halo Benders, and their 1994 album God Don’t Make No Junk remains one of my very favorite of the 90s. I’ve remained a fan of Martsch tireless work ever since. So it’s official, Reclaim is going to be perfect from now on 🙂

Blogging at Scale with Google Sheets

When you go directly from several weeks of work travel into the beginning of the semester rush at Reclaim Hosting, the bava.blog necessarily gets neglected. But that changes now!

Back on August 22nd Tim and I sat down with John Stewart to talk about his ingenius work to use Google Sheets to enable near on 1000 students in University of Oklahoma’s biggest lecture classroom to blog at scale. Pretty brilliant to use Google Sheets as a kind of  WordPress Multisite stand-in wherein Google manages scaling the infrastructure for you. In this, the 8th episode of Reclaim Today, we discuss this experiment in detail, and I was really enthusiastic because it felt like a really creative and useful way to imagine getting a class using a simple form to blog up and running with very little financial overhead. Fast cheap, and out-of-control: edtech at its best.

You can read the first and second of the three post series John promised, and the video was recorded on location at Reclaim Video and comes in at a very manageable 23 minutes with a couple of the best looking ed-techs this side of proprietary. Here is the synopsis in case you need a more objective reason to watch:

Jim and Tim sit down with John Stewart of the University of Oklahoma to discuss a recent solution he blogged about in which he’s using Google Spreadsheets and APIs to drive a fast and scalable blogging infrastructure to support a course with 1,000 students.

And if you come away with nothing else, it should be mad kudos for John Stewart for a really creative, relatively light-weight  solution to a potentially expensive and resource intensive problem, the term innovation gets thrown around way too loosely but it makes resonates for me in this case.

The Life and Death of the Blog

On the heels of a transatlantic journey I sat down with Tim Owens to discuss the fate of academic blogging in the wake of Harvard University’s  announcement of their shuttering their blogging system. This is our seventh episode of Reclaim Today, so we are start to track some mileage with this. The discussion was far-ranging, and I really do enjoy chatting with Tim about this stuff, but I think my “hot take” was that the shutting down of Harvard Blogs is less about the death of academic blogging platforms as it is the passage of the idea of blogging from the margin to the center. The idea that fueled the vision of the blog in the early aughts has come to how we expect the web to work now:reverse chronological, stream-driven, news-based, etc. And with WordPress driving 30% of websites, I think there is more than enough data to support this claim.

But some of the interesting questions Harvard’s statement about the closing of the system brings up a range of topics around archiving this work, the role of academic blogs in forging digital identities, questions of ownership and copyright, etc. We covered a bunch of these and more, and it made for yet another top quality production from the amazing folks at Reclaim Hosting, namely me.