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Archive to Hold History Of the Dot-Com Era

But of course there are also the ones who want every keystroke of that time immortalized, the ones that think their story is like none other. For them, Kirsch is like a therapist. "I know people will send all kinds of weird stuff," he says.

Information will be verified and real names will be given. "The names are attached to these companies," says Kirsch. "This is not the mythic Harvard case study."

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The Download Archive

Kirsch has wanted to do an electronic archive for many years, even before the Internet boom. He tried to set up a similar archive in the early '90s, for electronic-vehicle creators, but it didn't take off.

Now, he points out, the technology to create such a repository is better, and the people donating memories and information are techno-literate and more likely to use the site. It would be great, he says, to eventually train engineers and scientists to continuously keep records of projects all along for other online archives.

"It's a new way of doing history," Kirsch says.

Right now, says Kirsch, there's no for-profit angle to the site, although he's toying with the idea of putting up an optional pay-as-you-go button. He says he'll measure the success of the project by the value of the information and the duration of that usefulness.

From his research so far, Kirsch thinks that people are only beginning to understand the scale of what was built and lost, and what can be learned from the moment.

"It's only history when we can sit down and talk about it with some distance," Kirsch says.

Shannon Henry's e-mail address is henrys@washpost.com.

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