Since 2013, the Internet Archive has provided access to old console games, arcade titles and even MS-DOS classics like Oregon Trail. Internet Archive curator Jason Scott explained how and why the non-profit preserves history by making sure games from the past aren’t lost as we move on from old hardware and software platforms.
“The thing about computer software history is that it is both adored and ignored,” he said, comparing how we preserve software to how we preserve old film. “For decades, people would throw out floppies containing classic games without a second thought.” While there are museums where you can see old hardware and software as exhibits (Scott called out the Computer History Museum in Mountain View as a particularly good example), these limit access to those who can actually make it to a physical location, which doesn’t take advantage of the fact that software doesn’t have to remain trapped in a particular computer.
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) today announced a $1.9 million grant to the Internet Archive, the world’s largest public digital library, to develop a search engine that will provide unprecedented access to its extensive collection of webpages, also known as the Wayback Machine. The search engine will allow researchers, historians, and others to retrieve data and information from the billions of webpages and websites stored in the Wayback Machine and will ensure that there is a comprehensive, open record of the Internet that is accessible to all. READ MORE: Laura and John Arnold Foundation Announces $1.9 Million Grant to Develop Internet Archive Search Engine | Laura and John Arnold Foundation
The Internet Arcade collects a wide selection of titles, both well-known and obscure, ranging from “bronze age” black-and-white classics like 1976s Sprint 2 up through the dawn of the early 90s fighting game boom in Street Fighter II. In the middle are a few historical oddities, such as foreign Donkey Kong bootleg Crazy Kong and the hacked “Pauline Edition” of Donkey Kong that was created by a doting father just last year.
Are Digital Libraries A ‘Winner-Takes-All’ Market? OverDrive Hopes So | Forbes “Schools and libraries in all forms are transitioning their spends from providing physical items that are being stored on shelves and branches to digital items — the fastest portion of their growth,” said Steve Potash in a recent interview. Potash is President and CEO of OverDrive, the Cleveland-based provider of technology for managing and distributing digital content for lending libraries.
Gamers of a certain age will no doubt scream Oh wow, I remember that! as they click through the Internet Archive’s latest project.
The non-profit organization recently launched the Historical Software Collection, with the mission of making old programs accessible (including plenty of games!) that were originally released for platforms like Atari 2600, Apple II, and Commodore 64.
Software itself isn’t new to the Archive, but it’s spent the past couple of years making these programs playable in-browser. So whether it’s E.T. on Atari 2600 from 1982 or VisiCalc on the Apple II from 1979, there’s no need to download a heap of emulators to try them out.
Archiving video games can present special challenges, as David Gibson at the Library of Congress has explained so well. But the independent Internet Archive claims to have the largest software archive in the world, and it should be interesting to see how the next few years work out for them.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges they’ll face is copyright. Technically, all of these programs are still covered under copyright law. And I have no doubt that the myriad companies responsible for managing the rights to something like E.T. are figuring out if they should intervene. Hopefully, no one will try to pull these programs. But if they do, it will be just one more example of how desperately broken our current copyright system is. [Internet Archive]
Last fall, the Internet Archive celebrated a massive milestone, as the “online Library of Alexandria” reached 10 Petabytes of stored information. Yes, that means 10,000,000,000,000,000 bytes accessible to anyone. Wow.
Filmmaker Jonathan Minard was on hand for the celebration, and in the short doc above he speaks to the Archives founders about how it expanded from a project dedicated to cataloging everything ever published online—to a project to document every piece of information in existence. Turns out its possible—we just need the will to do it.