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About the W. Ross Ashby Digital Archive

This page contains various information about the Digital Archive, and provides hints and tips for achieving an optimum experience.

How the Digital Archive was created

Although this web site consists of 9,195 images and 10,005 HTML pages, only 30 of the HTML pages were created manually in an editor, the other 99.7% are generated using information transformations. This was the only reliable way to create so many densely cross-linked pages, based on Ross's original index.

We maintain several master XML files, which contain structured information about the journal pages, the alphabetical index cards, the "other index", summaries, and the bibliographical references. Using the open-source Saxon-B XSLT processor, we run a chain of XSL transformations, which progressively transform and merge the information from the master files to generate all the HTML pages for the different logical views of the information in Ross's Journal and Index. Whenever we make any improvements or corrections that need to be propagated into the different views, it takes less than four minutes to consistently regenerate the web site.

For more details, see the paper W. Ross Ashby: A Digital Archive.

Image and Screen Resolutions

The default journal images are 1900 pixels wide with enhanced contrast to make them easier to read. If desired, you can switch to the original high-resolution 4k-wide images. This site has been designed to still be usable with screen sizes as small as 1024 pixels wide. Whatever width screen you have, to get more screen space, you can get rid of the navigation frame by opening links in new tabs, or by clicking a 'Remove Frames' link. To get the navigation frame back, click any 'Home' link.


This site has many large pages. The Index, Summaries, and Timeline pages are over 1 MB and the Journal page images are about 600 KB for normal resolution and 2 MB each high-resolution 4k image, so there are sometimes unavoidable delays displaying pages. However, to mitigate this, while you are looking at a journal page, the previous and next page images are preloaded in the background to improve the speed that they can be displayed when you turn the page. In high-resolution mode, this can eat a lot of bandwidth.

How to bookmark pages

While the navigation frame is displayed (on the left), bookmarking a page (or adding it to your favorites) will only ever bookmark the home page!

If you want to bookmark a page on this site, you must either click a 'Remove Frame' link, or right-click a link to open it in a new tab. That way, the page will be displayed without the navigation frame, which means that bookmarking a page will work correctly. Clicking a 'Home' link restores the navigation frame.

Printing journal pages

If you want to print journal pages from your browser, they tend to print best when reduced to about 70-80%. Alternatively, you can click a 'Print' link to display just the image to print or save it.

What are the grey links?

All links to other web sites appear in bold grey. If you click on one, it will open in a new tab without disturbing the archive page that you are viewing. Most of them link to appropriate Wikipedia articles. Hover the mouse pointer over the link to display more information about it.



Ross used British-English spelling. This site deliberately mixes British and American English. The decision to write Ross's rather than Ross' was deliberate, and is consistent with Stafford Beer's spelling of it.


In early 1953, Ross experimented using shorthand in his Journal. He started using it on page 4415, and used it until page 4446, where he concluded that it had more disadvantages than advantages. He also used some shorthand symbols on his index cards and for common endings to words. Later, on page 5108, he provided a list of the symbols that he had used.


Thanks to the following people and organizations for their support:


This web site was created by the Ashby family in our spare time.


All the material on this web site is Copyright 2008, unless otherwise stated. All rights are reserved. Reproducing this web site in part or whole, or creating derivatives from it is forbidden. For more information, see the Copyright page.

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