Deatomization: Behind the Scenes

It’s been a while since I’ve updated. I have tons of magazines and books that have been prepped but haven’t been uploaded, so don’t worry- more content is in the pipeline!

What brings me online today is that my workflow is being disrupted tomorrow, May 18th, 2015 when Dropbox drops support for Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5 (and, by extension, PowerPC Macs).

It may come as only a minor surprise that someone who endeavours to digitize old Mac magazines would have an old machine as a workhorse. Indeed, many people both online and offline have inquired as to how the process I use works. So I figure I’d write up how the process has worked until now.


One thing to get out of the way right off the bat- this process is destructive to the books/magazines. To get the results I want, I went all in- digital or nothing. As such, the magazines are literally chopped up and scanned, and someday the source pages will be recycled as they are basically paper trash.

So, what do I use?

A blade cutter is required for precision and bulk cuts. I had initially thought an X-Acto knife would work, but it’s too hard to cut through magazines in one go. I bought this Paper Cutter on Amazon (it was $170 with shipping when I bought it, now down to about $110). It’s big and bulky- find a table to put it on.


The cutter has the ability to line up the magazine on a grid, clamp it down, and slice the edge off all in one go. It takes a few tries to get the width just perfect, you’ll find a happy medium between maximum page size and minimal errors (pages still stuck together).

An automatic feed scanner is extremely necessary to move scans in bulk. You can’t realistically scan every page front and back on a flatbed scanner. The scanner I went with was the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M, which cost $420 in 2012.


With that said, there is a newer version, the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 which is both PC and Mac compatible (the S1500M is a Mac-model only, software-wise), 20% faster, and Wi-Fi/USB3 compatible. It is a total replacement for the S1500M if you find yourself interested. It’s also a fancy black.


Obviously a machine is needed to process the scans. Up until now, my workhorse has been a machine that’s near and dear to me – the Apple Power Macintosh G5 Quad-Core. I had the pleasure of having my best friend since Middle School end up at the same college I went to, and as two Mac fanatics, we were dying to get a new Mac ASAP, and the G5 was Apple’s latest and greatest announcement. When Steve Jobs said in 2003 that a 3GHz G5 was coming, we agreed to both pull the trigger on new machines.


Of course, that never happened. Years past, and our old G4s were getting less and less capable. So he pulled the trigger on the top of the line G5 in November 2005 (personally, I held out until April 2007 for the 3GHz Mac Pro- a machine that still gets daily use to this day). I bought this machine from him years later to serve as a Mac OS X 10.4 machine to run Classic- but it’s ability with Dropbox and scanning made it more then just a toy. With an OWC 120GB SSD and a 1TB Hard Drive, the machine handled all the scanning needs since 2012.

Now while the G5 was plenty powerful, I preferred to use a more modern Windows laptop to process the files with Adobe Acrobat Pro 11 (which was not available for PowerPC Macs). Process means a few things, which I set up as an Acrobat Action to do the following:

1. Deskew (this solves most alignment issues)

2. OCR text (this usually delivers perfect pages- but sometimes requires a one-off non-OCR scan to fix glitches)

3. Save out the file, start the process again.

And to be fair, a modern Intel laptop was faster than the G5 for that PDF processing. Acrobat is now to version… well, it’s the version after 11. Which is apparently either 15 or DC, cause that makes sense…


The only other major pieces of software are PDF Split and Merge (which you can see above the fold, used to quickly check the page order in case of layout problems) and a way to get files from the G5 to the Windows laptop, which was Dropbox, until tomorrow when now the G5 will return to being a Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger Classic machine. Not a bad way to live out life, though.

Oh, distribution. That’s an interesting thing. I had initially uploaded files to an Amazon S3 bucket- but I got spooked after the bandwidth of serving out 100MB files 12 at a time to the Internet at large. I’ve moved over to Mega, which seems good enough.

That’s, I think, a pretty full look at my process of Deatomization. I don’t claim to be the best- there are much better people who digitize the new magazines every month, or are so dedicated to scan every page on a flatbed, etc. But I’m happy with what I crank out. I hope everyone enjoys what’s been published so far.

And if you’ve made it this far, then one more present.

If you are a voracious reader, you may remember the January 1999 issue of MacAddict discussed a virus that snuck onto the CD of the December 1998 issue.


But did you know that there was a separate printout that accompanied the CD and magazine when they had discovered that fact? Well, fear not, for that MacAddict mea culpa was preserved for all time digitally. Enjoy the one-page warning of a virus that’s almost old enough to vote.

MacAddict 199901 Virus Alert – ~100kb

3 thoughts on “Deatomization: Behind the Scenes

  1. Thanks for the insight into your workflow. I remember that AutoPlay virus! At the time I thought nothing of it since I didn’t have AutoPlay switched on (which I always thought was like asking to be annoyed).

  2. Thank you so much for your work! I’m really enjoying looking back at these. Would it be possible to get a reupload of the missing issues from 2001 and older?

    1. My apologies, Mega has been good but not great for file hosting. I’m going to look into moving the files elsewhere to better provide them. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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