Archive.org launches in-browser vintage computer emulation

October 28, 2013 // 10:02 a.m.

Tags: #archive #archiveorg #browser #computer-history #emulation #emulator #history #jason-scott #javascript #jsmess #mess #the-internet-archive #vintage-computing

The Internet Archive, the non-profit project with no lesser a goal than the complete preservation of all knowledge both digital and analogue, has added a new string to its bow: in-browser emulation of vintage computing hardware for interactive software exhibits.

Dubbed the Historical Software Archive, the new online exhibit does for software what the organisation has already done for books and other printed material: allows users to experience it as intended without ever having to leave their browser. As the site uses an in-browser engine to emulate the feel of printed material, the organisation has installed a JavaScript port of the popular Multi Emulator Super System (MESS) emulator for access to its broad archive of classic software.

'[The Historical Software Archive is] a collection of prominent and historically notable pieces of software, able to be run immediately in your browser,' explained Archive.org's Jason Scott in a blog post announcing public access to the collection. 'They range from pioneering applications to obscure forgotten utilities, and from peak-of-perfection designs to industry-crashing classics.

'Turning computer history into a one-click experience bridges the gap between understanding these older programs and making them available in a universal fashion. Acquisition, for a library, is not enough – accessibility is where knowledge and lives change for the better. The JSMESS interface lets users get to the software in the quickest way possible.'

The Historical Software Archive currently features only a sub-set of the tens of thousands of items found in the main software archive, with 27 packages available at launch. Each package, however, has been hand-picked for its historical importance and ranges from Jordan Mechner's classic beat-'em-up Karateka to industry-changing business software like VisiCalc.

The full Historical Software Archive is live now for use in any modern JavaScript-enabled browser.

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