The Internet Archive Brings Vintage Software to the Browser

Posted by Jim Tanous on October 26, 2013
Internet Archive Vintage Software

Many are familiar with the Internet Archive, the non-profit organization that strives to provide digital preservation of classic video, music, books, and websites. The organization announced Friday that it’s making a big addition to that list: vintage software.

The Internet Archive already offers an impressive software database, but the contents of the database are primarily the original source files, which date back 10, 20, or even 30 years. Downloading these applications is the easy part; experiencing them is another story.

While universal tools exist to play back formats like video and audio, software is different. Software platforms, especially in the early days of computing, were so diverse that preserving and using old applications and games is difficult without a myriad of hardware and software emulators. To solve this problem, the Internet Archive employed the JSMESS emulator, an in-browser Javascript port of MESS (Multi Emulator Super System). In simple terms, JSMESS allows just about any modern Web browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer) to run vintage software right in a browser window.

With this new technology in place, the Historical Software Collection could be born. This new Internet Archive section features a small but growing list of classic games and applications that users can browse, learn about, and run directly from within their browser. Notable highlights include 1981’s Microsoft Adventure, the best-known port of the classic Colossal Cave Adventure, 1979’s VisiCalc, the world’s first consumer spreadsheet program, and 1985’s groundbreaking space trading game, Elite.

Like the rest of the Internet Archive, the entire Historical Software Collection is free, so be sure to check it out. It’s a great place for older geeks to relive classic computing moments and for the younger generations to experience history.

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