Complaining about the loss of Blackbox

Dominik Wujastyk dom at
Wed Mar 29 10:42:03 UTC 1995

Dear Colleagues,

You may be aware that the computer site "",
created and maintained by Tom Ridgeway, was suddenly unplugged at the
end of last year.  At the same time, Tom's contract with the University
of Washington, as head of the Humanities and Computing Centre (HACC),
was summarily terminated.

Tom was formerly a South Asianist (Gujarati, I believe), but moved
sideways into humanities computing.  As a result, he retained a
particular expertise in matters relating to computer facilities for
South Asian studies, and the Blackbox computer was a mine of valuable
programs and data for all INDOLOGY members.  In addition to maintaining
a substantial library of Sanskrit texts in machine-readable form
(including the only publicly available copies of the Ramayana and
Mahabharata outside Japan), Tom and his staff created computer fonts for
Sanskrit, Tamil, and several other languages, in original script and in
romanization, and for several different programs (including Windows and
TeX) and output devices (including EGA and VGA).  Many of us use parts
of this library of tools even today.

Because of the suddenness of Tom's dismissal, and the unplugging of the
Blackbox site, it was impossible to save the Blackbox files.  There is
currently an effort underway to try to recover some of the data, and
make it available from sites in London, Liverpool and Columbia, NY.  But
it is going very slowly, and it will probably not be possible to recover

Many people at the University of Washington (Seattle), as well as
outsiders, were shocked and appalled by the above developments.  No
explanation for the events has ever been made public, nor has there been
any sign that the administrative authorities at U. Washington were aware
of the wider impact of their actions, which may be compared with the
destruction of a specialist library.

These events are now past, and there is no chance that the situation can
be improved or restored.  Nevertheless, there may be some purpose in
registering a protest, even at this late stage.

I have been in discussion with Prof. Pierre Mackay of the Department of
Classics of U. Washington (Denny Hall, Mail Stop DH-10, University of
Washington, Seattle, WA 98195. Tel. (206) 543-2268) who was as horrified
as the rest of us by what happened.  Prof. Mackay feels that if he were
to receive letters of appreciation for Tom Ridgeway's contribution to
Indological computing, from people who used materials he created or made
available, and for the Blackbox ftp site, and critiques of their summary
removal, it might be possible to create a small shift in atmosphere at
U. Washington.  In particular, the department of Slavic Studies is
currently under threat, and an international response on the
cancellation of the Indian facilities might create a climate in which
further cuts in rare subjects (Russian!?) might be weighed more

If you wish to register a message of appreciation for Tom Ridgeway's
contribution to INDOLOGY, and/or regret concerning his dismissal and the
removal of Blackbox, please send it to Prof. Pierre Mackay
mackay at

Best wishes,
Dominik Wujastyk


Original-Received:  by 
PP-warning: Illegal Received field on preceding line
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 1995 09:00:51 -0500
From: edeltraud harzer clear <eclear at>
To: indology at
Subject: Re: NYAGRODHA
Message-ID: <"">

Thanks Dominik for the nice story.  Edeltraud.

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