Last week the Internet Archive upped our bandwidth capacity 30%, based on increased usage and increased financial support. Thank you.
This is our outbound bandwidth graph that has several stories to tell…
A year ago, usage was 30Gbits/sec. At the beginning of this year, we were at 40Gbits/sec, and we were handling it. That is 13 Petabytes of downloads per month. This has served millions of users to materials in the wayback machine, those listening 78 RPMs, those browsing digitized books, streaming from the TV archive, etc. We were about the 250th most popular website according to Alexa Internet.
Then Covid-19 hit and demand rocketed to 50Gbits/sec and overran our network infrastructure’s ability to handle it. So much so, our network statistics probes had difficulty collecting data (hence the white spots in the graphs).
We bought a second router with new line cards, and got it installed and running (and none of this is easy during a pandemic), and increased our capacity from 47Gbits/sec peak to 62Gbits/sec peak. And we are handling it better, but it is still consumed.
What it Means to be a Library During COVID-19.Chris Freeland, our Director of Open Libraries, chatted with local librarians to find out what it means to be a library during the COVID-19 pandemic, how librarians are holding up during this time, and how the National Emergency Library has been used in their libraries. This post features commentary from Kelvin Watson, Director, Broward County Libraries; Michael Blackwell, Director, St. Mary’s County Library (MD); and Lisa Radha Weaver, Director of Collections and Program Development, Hamilton Public Library. We thank them for finding the time out of their very busy days.
What YOU Are Saying About the National Emergency Library: Our team has been soliciting input on the National Emergency Library. Below are a handful of testimonials from across the education and library sectors. We only use testimonials for which we have explicit permission. If you would like to be featured in our next newsletter, please submit a testimonial.
Note: We have NOT substantially changed the testimonials, if you notice your testimonial looks a little different, it is just for readability purposes. Thank you for submitting.
Jennifer J., Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, Librarian: Jennifer is a librarian who is using the National Emergency Library in a classroom setting. “[The NEL] provides my students with 9th grade student novels. I discovered the NEL from a librarian for the Atlantic City Public Library.’
Augusto W., Lima, Peru, Researcher: Augusto uses the National Emergency Library for personal research purposes. He writes, ‘It is like being a millionaire, being able to flip through books I always wanted to take a look at or read, including many of which have been out of print for decades. This is the greatest gift of all for someone in need (or who dreamed) of a near-perfect library.’
Upcoming Webinars and Events. Times are tough, so many books are now inaccessible due to the closures for the COVID-19 crisis. If you’re interested in learning how libraries can use controlled digital lending in addition to the temporary National Emergency Library, please join Chris Freeland, Director of Open Libraries, who will be leading a series of webinars on this topic. Freeland will explain how the Internet Archive works: from scanning book centers to how books are made available online. Please check out our calendar of webinar dates.
Library directors and staff are facing incredible challenges in meeting their community’s needs during this unprecedented time of library closure. As a recent article by NISO Director of Content, Jill O’Neill, points out “[o]ne take-away from this global pandemic might be the humble recognition that there are existing needs in the marketplace that are not satisfactorily served by current access models.” In the meantime, with the majority of the nation’s libraries closed, librarians are turning to a variety of currently available digital content resources to meet patron needs while their physical collections are unavailable for use.
One of the librarians leading the charge is Michael Blackwell, Director of St. Mary’s County Library, in coastal Maryland. Michael is active in a variety of eBook working groups at the state and national level, and champions the role of digital content in meeting the needs of the residents of his rural Maryland county. Another voice in this conversation is Lisa Radha Weaver, Director of Collections and Program Development at Hamilton Public Library, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. With a circulation of more than 7 million items each year, Hamilton Public Library serves its community of more than 750,000 residents through a variety of programs that are all currently suspended due to COVID-19. Similarly, Kelvin Watson, Director of Broward County Libraries, in southern Florida, is leading his staff and community through this remarkable moment in library history. Serving a population of nearly 2 million people, the Broward County Library system circulates more than 10 million items each year through its 38 branches, all of which are currently closed.
All three librarians took time from their hectic schedules to talk with the Internet Archive about their operations during closure, the role of digital content in meeting the needs of their patrons, and the value of digital libraries in the COVID-19 era.
Chris Freeland, Internet Archive: As of this writing your libraries are currently closed because of COVID-19. How are you reaching patrons while your libraries are shuttered?
Kelvin Watson, Director, Broward County Libraries (FL): All of the 38 physical locations of Broward County Library (BCL) closed at the end of the day on March 19, 2020, but library staff remain working to keep up with the public’s demand for its free online resources and remote reference services. With its customers confined at home, BCL is experiencing a surge in usage and new users of its digital resources.
As the threat of COVID-19’s spread increased in mid-March, BCL marketing staff launched a public-awareness campaign via social media posts and targeted ads, a virtual newsletter and customer emails to inform the community about its extensive collection of free digital content that can be accessed with a BCL Instant eCard.
The marketing efforts paid off. There has been an increase in Overdrive eBooks and eAudiobooks checkouts of 22% from March 2019 to March 2020 and a 68% rise in check-outs of eBooks from Axis 360, which offers titles for children and teens, a clear indication of how many youth in our community are accessing BCL materials for homework and entertainment during local safer-at-home mandates.
In addition to providing digital content, another way that BCL is engaging customers while its buildings are closed is through virtual outreach that replaces popular in-person library programs. These include video story times, like this reading by librarian Autumn Dec of the book Dragons Love Tacos, which has garnered 1.1k views on social media as well as librarian-led “Book Bites” book reviews. BCL is even planning a virtual version of their popular “Summer at Your Library” program, which will offer prizes and incentives as well as an online game board and activities for readers and learners of all ages.
Just like the Internet Archive, during this crisis, BCL is also expanding its scope by reaching out to customers in unexpected ways. Staff at BCL’s Creation Station makerspaces are using the library’s public 3D printers, sewing machines and other gear, to produce protective face coverings and using BCL’s 3D printers to make S-hooks (which helps face coverings fit comfortably) to distribute locally to healthcare professionals and first responders.
Michael Blackwell, Director, St. Mary’s County Library (MD): The COVID-19 pandemic has foregrounded the need to provide all types of library content virtually. We are doing weekly digital storytimes so that children can and their parents can have fun while practicing literacy-building activities. We are grateful to publishers such as Penguin Random House that have lifted restrictions on storytime reading of content online. We are doing online trivia contests. We are subscribing to additional online services, such as CreativeBug, which has videos about crafting. We are doing a weekly “Quaranzine” with writing and art submissions by our patrons.
One of the most important ways we are responding, however, is by providing additional digital content. We have added to the number of Hoopla checkouts per month and added content to OverDrive, RBDigital, and the DPLA Exchange. We are a small three branch system serving a county of some 113,000, however, and we do not have the funds to keep up with an increased demand, with downloads exceeding 33% in March and April what they did in January and February.
Lisa Radha Weaver, Director of Collections and Program Development, Hamilton Public Library: During this unprecedented time, Hamilton Public Library (HPL) staff is available by phone, email and online chat. Our website (hpl.ca) also offers 24/7 access to online programs and resources. While our branches are closed, HPL continues to connect customers with our Digital Collections including the National Emergency Library (NEL). Staff is also calling all customers aged 75+, 3D printing masks and sewing protective face coverings, offering online programs and discussion forums for all ages, launching our Hamilton Reads and Summer Reading programs early and donating our book sale collections to clients at our partner food banks.
Chris Freeland: Are your staff or patrons using the National Emergency Library while your libraries are closed? If so, what response are you getting?
Michael Blackwell: The Internet Archive provides another arrow in our quiver. Without additional cost, we can provide another source of eBooks that helps us match the depth and breadth of print books sitting idle on our shelves. Patron response has been sparse, but at least one person has commented with joy upon finding books from his childhood that he had not seen in years, that are otherwise completely unavailable in digital form, and that could be read only by ordering tattered copies from online bookstores. We are not using it to supplant our licensed content but to add richness that we otherwise could not. In a time when we cannot circulate our physical collection, when many are staying in place for their own health, when many are now unemployed, and when an economic recession might restrict people’s buying power and create ever greater reliance upon libraries, a source of information and reading delight is welcome to us and our patrons.
Lisa Radha Weaver: At HPL, we share the National Emergency Library with customers via our website, catalogue and during reference inquiries. Our reference desk is open seven days a week and staff Book an Appointment for those customers needing additional assistance. Customers are directed to the NEL for content that we cannot physically share at this time.
Chris Freeland: The value and role of digital libraries have never been more apparent, and yet, in an attempt to discredit the work of the Internet Archive and the National Emergency Library, critics are using a line of attack that the Internet Archive is “not a library.” As a professional librarian, how is this criticism harmful?
Michael Blackwell: Criticism that the Internet Archive is not a library is so absurd a claim as to be almost unworthy of a response and yet it should be of concern to all librarians. Attacks on libraries are of course commonplace these days. An online search will quickly reveal organized groups that would, for instance, like local government to seize control of libraries to make all collections and programs suit the outlook of a particular religion. My library has been attacked by such groups.
This attempt to subvert a library by saying it isn’t actually a library is unprecedented, as far as I know, but equally worthy of rejection as narrow-minded censorship, however fallacious it is. First, members of a group unaffiliated with libraries have no more business defining what a library is than librarians have any business saying who is or who is not an author. Second, what exactly is a library? In defining the term, the American Library Association, which surely has more right to define what a library is than Internet Archive’s critics, says the following: “The word ‘library’ seems to be used in so many different aspects now, from the brick-and-mortar public library to the digital library (https://libguides.ala.org/library-definition).
The Internet Archive is not a public library, of course, but in an increasingly digital world, collections of eBooks and other resources online have every claim to be called a library. Project Gutenberg describes itself as “a library of over 60,000 free eBooks” (https://www.gutenberg.org/). The word library is in the very name of the Digital Public Library of America, another registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Do these critics maintain that DPLA too is not a library? What about the increasingly important collections of local content digitized by public libraries, including books of local interest—are only the physical books sitting on shelves the actual “library”? Nonsense! Libraries must be free to collect in ways that give access to knowledge, and we must defend our mandate and the people’s right to literacy against any agency that would restrict our legitimate efforts to provide and preserve books.
Lisa Radha Weaver: As a public library, our mandate is to provide equal access to information and encourage lifelong learning. HPL staff members appreciate the opportunity to expand our support to customers during this pandemic. Digital libraries ensure customers continue to enjoy access to content. The Internet Archive offers increased access to research and information, regardless of format or choice of genre. Hamilton Public Library supports Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) and while physical collections are temporarily closed, customers need access in new ways. The National Emergency Library ensures vital, equitable access for everyone — just as public libraries will again provide when physical distancing and stay-at-home orders are lifted.
Kelvin Watson: Libraries are more than physical spaces and buildings – like the Internet Archive, our resources and services are virtual as well, serving our customers 24/7, everywhere and anywhere. Our strong virtual presence has been just as important as our brick-and-mortar storefronts – even more so in times of crisis, when people cannot visit a library in person for whatever reason.
During the COVID-19 crisis, with social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, we are again seeing just how essential our virtual services are. Just because customers can’t walk into a library it doesn’t mean they’re not using library services. They are, more than ever according to our statistics. For many customers, accessing library materials virtually is easier, faster and more efficient. Online or in person, Broward County Library is still a library, providing educational, informational and recreational resources constantly and consistently, to everyone in our community, all the time, at any place.
The Fourth Annual Internet Archive Artist-in-Residency Exhibition, organized in collaboration with Ever Gold [Projects], has been cancelled this year—along with so many other visual art exhibitions in the Bay Area and across the globe. Part of the residency program involves Ever Gold and the Internet Archive providing participating artists with funds to support production costs to create their research project and the artworks they exhibit.
Typically, emerging artists creating a body of work for a solo or two-person exhibition at an art gallery pay for these production costs out of their own pockets, and wait for their dealers to place their finished artworks with collectors, patrons, or institutions to recoup this overhead.
With exhibitions cancelled and art sales slowing down to a crawl, these lost revenues are compounding emerging artists, who have already invested in production costs for now cancelled shows.
As this is a specific problem to practicing emerging artists which the artist in residency program is designed to support—Ever Gold and the Internet Archive have decided to use the funds allocated for this year’s residency program and create a relief grant to support other Bay Area artists with lost and out of pocket exhibition production costs.
This is made possible by a grant from the Internet Archive, with additional support from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and individual contributions from Roselyne Swig, Bryan Meehan, Justin Shaffer, John Sanger, and Maurice Kanbar. To date, we have raised a total of $30,000 which wewill be distributing in thirty $1,000 grants direct to artists who meet the following qualifications.
APPLICATIONS OPEN 9AM (PST) MAY 12TH / AND CLOSE MAY 15TH 4PM
Applications will be limited to the first 400 artists who apply.
Qualifications for artists to apply:
You must be a Bay Area resident.
You must have had a solo, two, or three-person exhibition that has been cancelled or delayed due to the pandemic.
The exhibition needs to be with a commercial Bay Area art gallery and have an original opening date of between March and September 2020.
Provide visual documentation of the body of work made or in-progress.
Provide a basic summary of production costs spent out of pocket for this work (besides materials, this can also include studio rent, and other related costs)
Provide a finished or draft of the press release for the exhibition.
Only 400 application slots available, open May 12 – 15, with funds distributed the following week.
You must be able to participate in an online exhibition featuring grant recipient, tentatively scheduled in mid-June.
Applications will be reviewed by: –Hilde Lynn Helphenstein aka Jerry Gogosian (Curator, critic, and @jerrygogosian) –Drew Bennett (Artist and founder of the Facebook art program) –Andrew McClintock (Ever Gold [Projects]) –Amir Esfahani (Internet Archive)
She’s an author of crime fiction. A college librarian. A recently retired faculty member at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. For more than 30 years, Barbara Fister has felt the opposing pull from her publishers and the call of open access; from the need for books to make money and the desire for her published work to live on into the next century. Plus, this author and librarian has authored five books now available in the National Emergency Library.
Because Fister resides at the nexus of authors and libraries, we wanted to understand why on April 15, 2020, she posted this to her Twitter account:
From her home in rural Minnesota, Fister (who is “not a fan of Zoom/Skype/etc”) and I corresponded by email. “Honestly, I was surprised,” Barbara wrote. “When I started poking around the National Emergency Library I did a vanity search and—hey, look at that! I had to tweet that my books were there, because it made me happy. Then I started looking for things I would check out of my academic library if it were open, and many of those books were there, too. It’s very gratifying to have that access.”
As Fister sees it, “Regardless of the legal issues, I think the Internet Archive has the moral high ground in launching the National Emergency Library. There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis.”
One reason Fister is “tickled” is because her novels, published in 2008 and 2010, are hard to find, even in libraries. “They were published a while ago, so a lot of public libraries have no doubt weeded them to make room for more recent titles, which is totally understandable,” Fister explained. “I have worried a bit about the disappearance of non-academic books from the public cultural record. There was a time scholars could rediscover overlooked women writers long after their books went out of print, because they were on the shelves of academic libraries. In recent decades, however, academic book budgets have been strained and very few libraries purchase and retain popular literature.” She believes this “gradual forgetting of the popular” makes a shared digital collection like the Internet Archive’s even more valuable. “Even without a pandemic, it’s a need that I’m happy the Internet Archive is tackling.”
Fister has made many of her publications completely open access, and downloadable through the Internet Archive. It’s a value she embraced as an academic librarian. “As a library, we consciously promoted open access because equitable access to information is a core library value. For that reason, I have tried to make as much of my work open access as possible. This gets tricky with books, because both authors and publishers put a great deal of work into a book, and since I respect the value editors and publishers add, I sympathize with the need to have a business model that supports that critical hand-crafted work.”
But as both an author and a librarian, Fister doesn’t subscribe to the notion that libraries in general and the National Emergency Library in particular are cutting into author revenue.”It’s not a competition, it’s a symbiosis.” she wrote. ”I don’t think they understand how unlikely it is that allowing multiple users of these versions of their books will adversely affect their income, but it seems many authors view it as a moral argument. ‘You can’t scan my books, period. It’s my property, and you didn’t ask my permission.’ Admittedly, like most authors I don’t depend on my writing for a living; perhaps if I did I would feel differently. But as it is, I’m delighted if anyone discovers my books and enjoys them.”
There’s no way people who already contributed to paying for access to books through taxes or tuition can individually purchase every book they might want to consult while the libraries they relied on (and helped to fund) are closed. We need to consider the public good in this crisis.
As an academic, Fister has spoken and written extensively about information literacy, the “understanding of how information is produced and valued…ethically in communities of learning.” She points to Congress and the current copyright laws as the source of current tensions between open access advocates, libraries, authors and publishers, writing:
Launching the National Emergency Library has been risky for the Internet Archive, and I appreciate that act of risk-taking as a person who would like us to do a better job of balancing social and individual interests in the original Constitutional purpose of copyright – “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Congress has tilted much too far against society’s legitimate interest by making “limited time” for copyright owners nearly unlimited. This is actually bad for authors – and for all of us. Copyright isn’t working as it should, but people are too nervous to make full use of fair use because losing a lawsuit could be ruinous. The Authors Guild does not represent all authors. It certainly doesn’t represent my interests. I’m more aligned with the Authors Alliance.
Some day in the future, when COVID-19 is defeated and libraries are once again open, Fister believes that scholars of library history will examine this moment and “be pleased that their research is available to Americans who are learning and working from home during this historic pandemic.”
Barbara Fister is one of those working from home.
Earlier, Barbara returned a library book she needs for her research, Wayne Wiegand’sA Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of American Public Libraries, but now that her library is closed, she was delighted to find it in the National Emergency Library. “’I’m scrolling through on my laptop, typing out quotes I want to note down; no copying and pasting or downloading the file for keeps allowed, all limits which makes it not at all like piracy,” she wrote. “This effort to make so many books available for the duration, legally risky and technically challenging, is beyond what any single library could do. While the National Emergency Library isn’t the same as our local libraries, it’s a wonderful thing to have available in these challenging times.”
At the end of the movie “Titanic,” from her makeshift raft Rose Calvert promises Jack Dawson, “I will never let go,” but then, well, a floating board is only so big…
On June 1, we will gently release Internet Explorer, version 11, from the list of browsers supported on our website Archive.org into the oceanic depths of the obsolete. To give you an idea of what this means to us, a member of the UX team composed this little remembrance:
We hate you. Good-bye.
Why the ichor? Why the bile? No doubt one too many sleepless nights struggling to make our website layout work with this venerable browser, released in 2013, which lacks support for so many features that are now standard in today’s browsers: module imports, web components, CSS Grid, ES6, the list goes on. Like its ancestor IE6, version 11 has clung to life far longer than it should have.
Though Microsoft support for it will not officially end until 2025, Microsoft’s Chief of Security, Chris Jackson, recently recommended in a blog post that people stop using IE11 as their default browser. It is considered a “compatibility solution,” something you should only use for services that require it. Our analytics indicate that a mere 0.8% of our users use IE11 to browse the site. (Even worldwide usage is at 1-3%, the bulk of it from a country in which we are blocked.)
Plus, maintaining compatibility with IE11 — with its need for polyfills, transpilation, and other workarounds — gets expensive, especially for a small team such as ours. Generously supported by donations from people like you, we are committed to doing the greatest good with the resources we have, making the world’s knowledge available to as many people as possible. IE11 is a distraction, with a diminished and ever diminishing return on our efforts.
So farewell, IE11. We will sleep better and rise with a little more spring in our step, knowing that your phrase with us has reached its conclusion.
Our staff has been working from home for weeks now, keeping the Internet Archive up and running from a variety of remote locations. In the midst of all our video calls, email chains, and team chats, one theme keeps reoccurring: gratitude. We’re grateful for all of the donors who give so generously to us time and time again; we’re grateful for all of the teachers who write us with their suggestions and kind words of encouragement; we’re grateful for all of the Dead Heads who upload live shows and keep us staff entertained; we’re grateful for our partners and colleagues.
Most importantly, we are grateful that our community supports us and helps us grow. We are grateful for you.
In the past few months we’ve received countless messages from our community asking “How can I help?”. People everywhere are wondering how, during these turbulent times, they can make a positive impact on the world without leaving their homes. Some folks have offered to make a donation in support of what we do, and we’re always grateful for the help! But for those who might not be able to donate right now, or who already have and wish they could do more, there are a few different ways you can lend a hand. Here are some easy ways to help the Internet Archive if you have limited time, money, mobility, or energy:
Matching Gifts Have you donated to the Internet Archive recently? Help your gift go even further! Many companies offer matching gift programs as part of their benefits packages to employees. These organizations may be willing to double or even triple the value of your charitable gifts. Have you made a donation this year that might qualify? Curious to see if your company provides this benefit? To find out, visit our Matching Gifts page and enter your company’s name in the search box.
Better World Books Roundup Program There’s nothing like a good book to whisk you off and help wile away the hours while stuck inside. When you buy a book from Better World Books, you have the option of rounding up your purchase to support the Internet Archive. Since we launched this partnership back in December 2019, these roundups have resulted in $11,000 for the Internet Archive! A little bit certainly goes a long way. To our friends at Better World Books and to all who have ‘rounded up’ 10 cents here and 45 cents there, thank you. To wander their digital bookshelves for your next book purchase, visit the Better World Books website.
Amazon Smile Fresh veggies, canned goods, dish soap, the elusive toilet paper…many people are doing most of their shopping these days using delivery apps like Amazon. Did you know that Amazon Smile gives back .5% of every purchase you make to the participating non-profit of your choice? If you find yourself hitting their “virtual checkout” button more often, make sure you do so with Amazon Smile! And if you decide to make the Internet Archive the beneficiary, we’d be ever so grateful. To sign up and support us, visit: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/94-3242767
Donate Books Looking for a forever home for all those books that no longer spark joy? Look no further than Better World Books. Every book they receive will be resold, donated, recycled… or digitized and added to the Internet Archive, so that readers everywhere can enjoy it. All books (in good condition) are welcome! Visit https://www.betterworldbooks.com/go/donate to find a dropbox location near you.
Host a Facebook Fundraiser Is your birthday coming up? Or looking for a good way to spread the word about the Internet Archive to friends and family? Why not try out hosting a fundraiser on Facebook! To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/fund/internetnetarchive/
Spread the Word! One simple way to support us is by using the Archive and spreading the word to your friends and family. We don’t have an advertising or marketing team, so we definitely appreciate all the help we can get with promotion. If the Wayback Machine saved your website or you found a cool collection that made your day, tell a friend! You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’ve got a once a month newsletter you can join, and make sure to bookmark our blog!
Thanks for helping us out! Your support helps journalists, teachers, researchers, high school students, kindergarteners, PhD candidates, genealogists, old time radio enthusiasts, Dead Heads, podcasters, developers, and readers of all ages get the information they want, the information they need, and the information they love. We thank you for all your contributions, big and small. Every little bit (and byte) counts.
One of the few people working in our headquarters building, Roxana Alfaro Rodriguez has been busy sewing cloth masks to give away. We now have a dozen ready and they are available for free in a box in front of the Internet Archive.
If you would like one, please come by 300 Funston Avenue. Please only take one or maybe two. They take about 30 minutes apiece to make. Thank you, Roxana, for your amazing sewing skills!
Our friends at Better World Books, the wonderful online bookstore (which is shipping during the current crisis) added a “round up your bill” feature so that purchasers could add up to 99 cents to their order as a donation to the Internet Archive.
Thanks to the generosity of their customers, Better World Books sent us a check for $11,000 in donations! The average donation was 45 cents. Thank you to 24,444 customers of Better World Books for supporting our nonprofit library!
Better World Books, is a B-corp, a social benefit corporation, dedicated to social good projects including supporting literacy programs, the Internet Archive, and Books for Africa. And they are now owned by a non-profit charity, Better World Libraries, making it now completely mission aligned with the non-profit Internet Archive.
A big Internet Archive thank you to Better World Books customers! A great way for our community to support them in these times would be to buy a book from Better World Books. And remember, please round up if you are able!
Greetings to everyone getting by at home, especially those looking to teach remotely, entertain your family, or find connections to your own past that used to live in programs from the 1980s and 1990s.
Perhaps, locked at home with your computer, you’ve finally got enough time to try out our collections of games for classic Sega and Atari consoles for the very first time. Or you find yourself longing for a simpler time in your history, when Prince of Persia, Pac Man and SimCity could make your troubles disappear, if only for a few hours. Or more likely, your kids have been assigned to set off on the Oregon Trail, but you can’t figure out how to begin that “long, difficult journey…that often resulted in failure and death.”
For all of you video game first time explorers, here’s a little boot camp for booting up Oregon Trail, and much, much more!
I’m Jason Scott, software curator at the Internet Archive, and I want to help introduce (or re-introduce) you to one of our more unique features—the ability to boot computers in your browser!
What Is Emulation in The Browser?
For more than five years, the ability to boot software, including video game consoles, computers and even handheld plastic games has brought millions through the Internet Archive’s doors. It’s been so extensive and even routine that it hardly gets mentioned now – it’s just something that happens. But for many who suddenly find themselves online a lot more than they used to be, this feature may not be something you’re aware of.
In the same way that music can be listened to inside your web browser and movies can be watched or books read, it is possible at the Internet Archive to “start” up a computer inside your browser that is running software, and that computer can be something completely different than what you’re running.
Imagine an Apple II (1980s) or a Windows 3.1 (1990s) or any of a number of long-gone systems, and the software they used to run that can’t be found or easily used anymore, coming back very quickly and easily, simply by clicking on a screenshot of the program and then playing it. That’s what people do by the thousands every day at the Archive.
Bringing back hundreds of thousands of old software packages brings multiple advantages—the games are generally simpler and extremely clear in goals and play, and have very little connection to later phenomenons like free-to-play, advertising or social media; they’re self-contained worlds, which is ideal for setting up games for children and education.
How to Use Emulation at the Archive
Any software item that can be activated will have a “Play” icon over the screenshot at the top. It looks kind of like a big power button – it’s green and transparent. This means that emulation is available for that program, and you just have to click in the general area of the button for the system to start “booting up” in the browser.
Try it out now! Visit this URL: https://archive.org/details/a2_Childrens_Carrousel_1982_Dynacomp_PD using a desktop or laptop computer (mobile devices will work, but there’s no keyboard to do anything). Click on the icon as it appears above, and watch as the system starts up an Apple II computer running a simple educational program called Children’s Carrousel from 1982.
There are a number of messages being shown while the system is booting, meant to indicate if something has gone wrong or how long it will take for data to be loaded to your browser. If you see red error messages, or the loading seems to stop, don’t worry—move onto other titles or contact me for tech support.
Where to Start Finding Software?
The hardest part of bringing materials to your students or family is finding appropriate or useful software packages out of a field of potential titles that can range from outdated or broken to simply difficult to use.
There are over 150,000 software at the Archive that can theoretically run in the browser, and naturally the collection runs from timeless classics to best-forgotten past experiments.
To help, I’ve assembled a collection called the Software Kids Zone: https://archive.org/details/softwarelibrary_kids – which has a bunch of chosen software packages that I have found are generally easy to use, self-explanatory, fun to play and in some way educational.
Things to Keep in Mind
Here are some tips and advice to bringing your classes or family into programs at the Archive:
Always test the software yourself, clicking on items or using keyboard commands, to make sure everything works like you expect it to. There’s always a chance a program has issues past “it runs”, and taking a quick tour beforehand helps remove a lot of chance and issues later.
Try to find several versions of software you want to share, or have a list that can be switched to, in case the first doesn’t work. Being able to go from one geography game to another quickly is much better than having to start another search from scratch.
The best games and programs feel contemporary, even when 20 years old – it means they weren’t chasing graphics or trends and were trying to build something from the ground up. If you find a program hard to use or not intuitive, skip it, and move on.
If you are working with a collection of kids or families, have videos they can watch or music they can listen to instead of using these programs, in case they run into technical issues.
And speaking of technical issues:
Some Common Problems with Emuation in the Browser and Potential Solutions
The most common issues related to emulation in the browser is that it requires a more recent desktop or laptop – the older the machine, the more likely to run into slowdowns, crackling in audio, and other issues.
Another issue is that some software is just not intuitive or needs a lengthy introduction to get working, which is not what kids or really anyone is looking for. The simpler the program, the better it generally is, so don’t hesitate to switch to other titles if playing a game or package is not enjoyable or easy. There’s many, many to choose from!
As above, if you need support or information or even want to ask some general questions, I’m available via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some Suggested Titles
Finally, here are some programs at the Archive that are really fun and easy, and which can tell you if this great feature is right for your purposes.
Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess is an educational chess program that can not just play the game of chess, but teach all the rules about it and give historical information. It’s perfect for a family to learn the game utterly from a true master. It’s located here.
MathOSaurus is a dinosaur-themed mathematics educational game that quizzes you on a range of math concepts with a colorful and fun cartoon dinosaur theme. Originally for the Apple II and with great thematic elements and easy. It’s located here.
The Oregon Trail is still our most popular emulated title on the Archive, and with good reason—it’s well designed, a challenging and interesting experience, and kids love it. I suggest The Oregon Trail Deluxe, which has a more engaging graphical style while maintaining all the fun of the original works, which date back to the 1970s. You can find it here.