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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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October: A Site To Behold
October 2023

I believe it was late 1987 or early 1988. I was back in the small, windowless office I occupied at Luby Publishing’s business suite in Chicago’s John Hancock Building, working on the next issue of the then-bimonthly Billiards Digest. A billiard enthusiast (and I mean enthusiast) had contacted me about stopping by the office to discuss his collection: The Billiard Archive.

I had heard of a collection called The Billiard Archive. It was mostly books, graphics and small memorabilia owned by a man in California named Dick Meyers. This gentleman had purchased the collection.

Into my office strode a very scholarly looking man around 40, although to me he looked a little older. He wore wire-rimmed glasses, and his grey pinstriped suit was clearly not off the rack. He introduced himself and proceeded to tell me a little about his background, but honestly his biographical information alone was making my head spin.

He introduced himself as Mike Shamos, and he rattled through his education and work history — majoring in physics at Princeton, followed by graduate degrees from Yale, Duquesne, American University and Vassar. His post-graduate degrees were in computer science, technology of management and law. He launched and subsequently sold several successful computer software companies.

And, seriously, those accolades merely scratch the surface of who Mike Shamos is. Today he is a Distinguished Career Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and is the director of the university’s Artificial Intelligence Masters program. (Had that program existed back in 1987, I’d have felt compelled to admit, “Sir, if you specialize in artificial intelligence, you’ve come to the right place!”) He spent 25 years being called on as an expert witness in cases involving electronic voting systems and is a patent expert witness. And he’s a Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong. For Pete’s sake, the guy received an award from the Black & White Scotch Achiever’s for compiling a collection of more than 6,000 bagpipe tunes! (And I’ve never seen him hold a bagpipe himself.)

Oh, and he has a lifelong love of billiards. That’s where we come in.

His pitch to me on that first day was a regular column he wanted to pen for Billiards Digest. He would call it “Chronicles,” and the articles would examine the history of the game, but with unique perspective. His first submission was called “Who Invented Straight Pool?” In his introductory article, he explained the sharing of the information he’d collected and analyzed. He wrote: “This column will answer questions like why balls have stripes. We’ll look at the origin of different games, the motivation behind rules of play and curious tournament incidents.”

By his own admission, Shamos thought that he’d have enough material for two or three years of columns.

By my calculation, this month’s issue contains his 357th installment of Chronicles. Add to that his monthly “You Make the Call” column and various other contributions to these pages, and the total soars to 700 or so.

How does he do it? What makes Mike Shamos so interesting, and such a treasure for the billiard industry, is his curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Combine that with his obvious genius, and you have not only the largest collection of books, billiard manuals, illustrations, photos, catalogs, cigarette cards and more, but you have someone with the computer savvy to catalog it all and with the intellect to sift through that information to make sense of it all. His articles have included topics like billiard greeting cards, 1,500 words on “the kitchen,” the history of hustling, and more. Each article is a treasure trove of information and images.

The collection of articles itself is astonishing.

And now, as the esteemed Mr. Shamos proudly announced in this month’s installment of Chronicles, The Billiard Archive is available — and free — online as a combination museum and library to anyone with access to the internet.

Not surprisingly, The Billiard Archive site — billiardarchive.org — was meticulously thought out and beautifully presented. More than 23,000 items have been cataloged (in a number of different languages) on the site. Full-size images are available for download. The full text of entire books can be downloaded. It features an extensive set of categories and subcategories that allow you do drill down to specific items.

At your fingertips? Nearly 5,000 cards, 3,500 photos, 2,200 books, nearly 600 posters, 60 paintings and much more.

That Mr. Shamos has gone through the time, effort and money to offer anyone who would like a glimpse into not only his collection, but into the history of the game we all love is not surprising to anyone who has had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. As he explains in his column, he follows the principles of his university’s library: Free to the People.

Mr. Shamos’ gift to billiard lovers is selfless and incredibly important. The Billiard Archive is the sport’s unofficial library. It’s the sport’s unofficial museum. It is where, for years and years to come, people can go to study and learn about our beautiful game and its rich history.

It is, indeed, a gift.

As is my great friend Michael Shamos.

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