Author Archives: Jason Scott

The Internet Archive Musiczoom Collection Continues

The start of the pandemic in 2020 had immediate effects on the Internet Archive, especially regarding the San Francisco-located headquarters.

A bustling building full of many dozens of simultaneous projects and conversations became an empty shell. The whole world was grappling with the new situation, and for the Archive, it meant many of the all-hands meetings were moved to strictly online, using Zoom conferencing. We learned fast to be online-first, where we remain currently.

There was one small glimmer of light in this darkness.

It was decided to hire artists to give pre-meeting musical performances at our weekly all-hands. This would add a bit of uplift to the morning gatherings, and allow musicians who had lost access to public performances to make a little income and share their music with a grateful audience of dozens of Internet Archive employees. It was a rousing success, and performances were added to our Friday Lunches as well.

The variety of musicians and performances have been amazing: Instrumentalists, Singers, Dancers, and a breathtaking spectrum of styles and acts have made an appearance on our (virtual) stage.

As was covered in a blog post in 2020, all sorts of great stories and opportunities to learn about these artists have been added to the record. The artists were asked if the Archive could archive their performances, and many have agreed.

The number of music concerts in The Internet Archive Musiczoom Collection has now passed over 200 individual works.

Some performers are clearly adjusting to their new circumstances, while others have created entire “online stages” for their performances. All of them show remarkable talent and resilience in willingness to do this strange “gig”, and we’ve even had repeat performances over the years.

We continue to enjoy the creative spirits that start our all-hands, and if you didn’t know about this growing and enjoyable collection… you do now.

Stop by anytime. And note that many of these performances have links to directly support the artists; please do if you can.

A Calculated Move: Calculators Now Emulated at Internet Archive

It’s time to add another family of emulated older technology to the Internet Archive.

The vast majority of platforms within what we call The Emularity happens because of the work of MAME Team, which has spent over 25 years adding support for tens of thousands of machines, platforms, and tools to their breathtaking system. The amount of arcade machines and computers they now cover is so huge, a site exists just to keep track of what they don’t emulate… yet.

While we have an excellent family of emulators assisting MAME in making programs work in the browser, the vast majority of the items in our Internet Arcade (and Turbo Edition), Console Living Room, and Handheld History collections mostly have MAME to thank.

And now another can as well: The Calculator Drawer.

The Calculator Drawer
is smaller than these other collections, but they possess a hearty collection of graphing and simple Calculators, emulated in MAME and with an additional layer of presenting the calculator itself, as a clickable graphical object, which you can then do math and graphing on. (You also need to turn many of them on, so look for the “ON” button to get things going.)

If Graphing Calculators were not a part of your childhood or previous life, they may be a bit of a steep climb to get to understand. If you still want to mess around with them, a stash of manuals for most of the models in the collection has been provided.

So, go forth and literally multiply.

However, if you wish to stick around a little bit longer…

The main reason you can do this wonderful “click on an image of a calculator as if it was a real object inside the browser” is because of a feature in MAME called MAME ARTWORK. It is one of a couple solutions to a major problem in emulation, especially of handheld devices, or tools like synthesizers or plastic toys.

The problem is that the actual “emulated” part of many of these machines are a tiny set of LED lights, or a line of LCD numbers, which is where all the circuitry presents its output, while the vast majority of the item is a static piece of metal or plastic with paint, labels and physical heft to the item. Compare, for example, the output of The Little Professor, emulated:

…to what the actual form factor of The Little Professor was:

We can all agree that while one could make the keys for 0-9, OFF, ON and so on “work” on a keyboard input, it would be so much nicer if a representation of the Little Professor calculator was on the screen to type into, pressing keys by a touchscreen or via a mouse (while leaving the keyboard option active).

MAME has two different ways it can render an emulated device that needs “additional” drawing to augment the part of itself that’s reflecting the screen or lights of the device.

One is to have the MAME system itself do a line-drawing of the interface the machine is using. That is, actual vector-based drawing of the buttons, screen and other decorations to help users understand what they’re looking at. To provide a counter-example of The Little Professor, here’s a Chess-Master Diamond system in the plastic realm:

…and here’s what you’ll see when you boot it up in the MAME system:

..definitely pretty sweet, for sure!

And while it’s very nice this option exists, there’s something compelling about a photograph of an original item being shown on-screen along with interactivity, and the best part is how it doesn’t require a deep lore of programming.

It’s called The MAME Artwork System, and while it’s not completely easy to get a hang of, it’s been refined since being introduced in 2006, and it could use help.

There are some amazing efforts that have been done to make these “layout” files for items emulated by MAME, with the best clearinghouse for seeing this work at Mr. Do’s Arcade. By leafing through the collection of artwork made so far, you can see how much better the interface is with a graphical addition. There’s over 1,400 different systems that have gotten the Artwork Treatment, a major success.

But that’s still a tiny percentage of the systems that need to time, focus, and skills of volunteers to make them come alive in this way.

People are often inspired to want to help emulation efforts, since they’re the future of software’s history, but it can be daunting to find a place in, to ramp up to the mass of intricacies and standards of a decades-long project. But perhaps, out there, is someone, maybe even you, who would find it a delight to help acquire excellent photographs of vintage hardware, and collaborate on designing the layout files for them.

This effort will allow us to add more calculators, devices, and hardware out of MAME to be playable at the Internet Archive, and you’ll join the immortal names of the creation of this longstanding project.

Until then… enjoy the Calculators.


A developer came to me a week ago with a project they’d been working on for over a year. The proposition of what they offered and the importance of what it would mean to historical software at Internet Archive was so compelling that within 48 hours, we’d announced it to the world.

The site is DISCMASTER.TEXTFILES.COM, and within its stacks lie multitudes of previously hidden software treasure, and a directed search engine that makes it a top-notch research tool.

More than a fascinating site, though, it represents some philosophies regarding the Archive’s stacks that are worth exploring as well.

The first thing that strikes a visitor to the site is either how strange, or how nostalgic it looks. The site is strikingly simple and references the first few years of the world wide web, when backgrounds were grey by default, and the width of the screen was almost always under 640 pixels. Same with the link colors, and use of (to the modern era) small icons next to the words and links. This is a version of the world wide web long gone.

However, underneath this simple exterior beats the heart of a powerful search engine and an astounding amount of processing that has analyzed millions of files to make them easy to interact with. If your area of research or interest is vintage/historical software, we’ve all been handed a top-class tool to discover long-lost files and bring them back instantly.

A Quick Reminder about CD-ROMs

From (very roughly) 1989 through to the early 2000s, CD-ROMs (and later DVD-ROMs) were one of the primary ways to transfer heaps of software or large-sized programs to end users. Instead of spending hours or literal days transferring software you may or may not have wanted after you received it, you could go to stores or on-line and purchase a plastic disc that contained between 600-700 megabytes of information on it.

The potential of this, in fact, was so strong, that there was an entire industry of providing databases, news summaries, and even all-digital magazines using this format. Booklets of CD-ROMs became resplendent, and libraries could allow patrons to check out these discs to do research with them.

Besides these more institutional compilations, an industry rose up of companies compiling software, artwork, music and more and selling them to end users. Companies with names like Walnut Creek, Wayzata, Valusoft, and Imagemagic would have catalogs of CD-ROMs to buy. Starting out with software from bulletin board systems and gathered from FTP sites, these CD-ROMs quickly ran out of easy-to-find material to fill, and an era of “shovelware” began, allowing these products to claim “thousands of files, gigabytes of materials” while pulling from more and more out-of-date sources.

As websites, torrents and other means of transport brought the era of physical media for software to a close, the world was left with a finite, contained pile of titles that had come out on CDs. And, as luck would have it, people have been uploading those out of date files to the Internet Archive for years.

The Final Piece

Therefore, sitting on the Archive, are tens of thousands of these CD-ROMs of the past. And for a very long time, it’s been possible to download a Disc image, analyze its contents, search for useful or potentially interesting items, and then find a way to make them work again.

That last piece, in fact, is the hardest – not just knowing where the files you’re looking for are located, but to be able to browse them without a massive host of helper applications scattered to the four winds. There are dozens of archive types, dozens and maybe hundreds of multimedia formats, and, even more frustrating, archives within archives – making everything that much harder to find.

DiscMaster has fixed this.

Within the search engine is the ability to find millions of files, categorized by type or size or date or extension, and then be presented them instantly. Three decades of computer software with layers upon layers of obfuscation are brought immediately to the top.

The developer wrote applications to grind through the contents of a CD-ROM and present them with previews that wouldn’t require anything but a browser to see. This can take hours to pull out of a single CD-ROM, but the results are breathtaking.

Audio and music files play in the browser. Flash, IFF, Bitmaps, Fonts and more display in preview. Macintosh, PC, Commodore, Atari and more are presented simply, without a mandate to track down the proper utility to figure out what they are.

In other words, vintage and historical software is back from the obfuscated darkness.

In the short time that Discmaster has been online, success stories are appearing. Authors are finding shareware programs they lost track of decades ago. Original versions of software that were thought impossible to track down just pop up in the search engine. And organizations dedicated to creating catalogs of now-dormant formats are suddenly handed a thousands-of-items to-do list on a silver platter.

The Philosophy of the Support Site

The ramifications and discoveries from Discmaster are going to be coming for a very long time – even if a researcher has a light memory of something they’re looking for, the search results will guide them in the right direction faster than ever before.

But beyond that, this site shows a different approach to the Internet Archive’s materials that’s worth seeing more of.

With over 100 petabytes of data, representing a mass of materials with all sorts of containers, metadata, and approaches by contributors, the Internet Archive has to be as general as possible. This generality extends to the presentation, search engine, and storage of the items.

It is a major effort to ensure the data stays secure, the metadata is searchable, and the ability to upload nearly anything results in a usable item details page.

But that’s kind of where it has to stop.

It’s asking an awful lot to both maintain an entity like this, and also design, say, a specifically-geared site for a relatively smaller set of people and needs. It can be done, but when energy and funding are limited, it’s sometimes best to stick to basics.

Discmaster shows one way it could be done. After working hard on its specific set (software from CD-ROMs), the entire site is constructed with its singular goal in mind. If it’s not obvious, the simple, almost-no-javascript and straightforward design lends itself to an entire family of browsers that run on those original machines. You’ll be able to download Amiga software through your Amiga, your Atari software to your Atari and so on. A thousand little touches and flourishes live easily on this custom experience – because it has the freedom to allow them.

Perhaps seeing Discmaster in action will encourage others to interact with the Internet Archive as a pool, a container of resources that could receive some of the powerful analysis along specific lines. If they can then be fed back to the Archive at the end, even better; but let a hundred supporting sites bloom.

Meanwhile, enjoy the history of software – it just got a lot easier to find.

A Small Addendum Regarding Emulation

After this announcement came out, a not-insignificant amount of people have come forward to ask some form of:

You’re the Emulation In The Browser People – will DISCMASTER allow you to emulate the programs that are found in these floppies and CD-ROMS?

The short answer is no, there are no current plans to do emulated previews.

The longer answer is that the wonderful emulation in the browser that the Internet Archive has covers over the amount of work that needs to be done in selecting, refining, and in some cases modifying original programs to make them work. If a program requires all of Windows 3.1 installed, for example, someone went through the process of determining that, configuring the item to know to load Windows 3.1, and then added custom settings in the item to ensure it would all boot up correctly. Often this work can be automated to a degree, but the time involved is considerable.

Multiply these issues by the dozens of platforms that are emulated, and you can see why it would be more trouble than it would be worth. Additionally, some programs just don’t make sense to be emulated – running a printer utility “in the browser” will probably just show a prompt and nothing else, as it is loaded in the background – many, many programs of the past don’t make sense without additional context.

A much more likely scenario will be DISCMASTER revealing long-lost vintage software that is so interesting and/or fun that it will get uploaded to Internet Archive separately and those configurations done to allow it to be played in the browser.

If you find interesting items along DISCMASTER’s millions, feel free to contact me, Jason Scott, or take a shot at uploading the program yourself and doing the configurations.

Mission Impossible: The Compuserve Chapter

There are parts of technology history (frankly, any history) that are thought to be critical to telling the story, and utterly lost. Pieces and fragments will rise up out of the darkness, but a cohesive collection of what once made up a chapter will be thought gone forever.

Sadly, this happens a lot.

But in one special exception, the Computer History Museum found itself with an opportunity to seize the moment.

Compuserve is considered to be the first major online service in the United States. Founded in the era of “time-sharing” services (paying to use a computer during the main owner’s quiet hours), this subsidiary of Golden United Life Insurance moved from 1969 to 1979 in the kind of obscurity befitting a simple business-to-business service providing access to PDP mainframes.

This all changed in 1979 with the rebranding of Compuserve Information Service (CIS), which marketed itself to mainstream computer users, providing chat, games, and storehouses of information for an hourly fee to who ever could afford the phone bills and equipment to do so. It is here that Compuserve (and later services like The Source, America On-Line and Prodigy) brought a bulk of folks online for the first time.

Book page image
Catalog of Compuserve Games, 1984.

This service flourished through the 1980s and 1990s, and in what should be considered a reductive and surface description of the situation, slowly broke apart via acquisitions, shifting priorities and the dominance of the World Wide Web providing many aspects of what Compuserve had previously done exclusively.

By the time this 2000s-era chapter was over, Compuserve was more a brand and a memory. But it had still reigned in the minds of many as the beginning, the launching pad for a lot of what people came to expect the online world to provide.

It was assumed most of the history of Compuserve was gone – the hardware, software and documentation scattered to the winds.

Not so.

As explained in this blog entry that literally reads like a movie script, the Computer History Museum has acquired, sorted, and added a major amount of Compuserve’s archives to their stacks. The collection had been sitting for decades, and was soon to be disposed of, when it was offered to CHM and they accepted.

Among these items that have been recovered are documents that are being given to the Internet Archive to scan and place online – instructions on how to operate a Compuserve service.

These opportunities to recover assumed-lost materials are extremely rare, but hope springs eternal that in rooms, attics and file cabinets around the world, there possibly lurk further discoveries, and happy endings. Almost like a movie.

A Long Bet Pays Off

11 years ago, on the site, a friendly wager was made between two mavens of the web: Jeremy Keith and Matthew Haughey.

The bet, to be revisited a decade and a year later, would be whether the URL of their wager at Long Bets would survive to a point in the semi-distant future.

That is, this day, February 22nd, 2022, (2/22/2022).

As of this writing, the URL absolutely has survived.

Therefore, the Internet Archive shall receive a $1,000 donation from Mr. Keith and Mr. Haughey ($500 apiece), provided from an escrow account that has held the funds since the day of the wager. (We shout out to the Bletchly Park Trust, a worthwhile historical organization, who will not be getting the donation but who are deserving of yours.)

It would be easy enough to declare it a win for the idea of “the web” and that regardless of concerns brought up about the Internet’s ongoing issues, we can still find hope. So certainly, let us all applaud that things worked this way, and the URL’s 11-year consistency is a bright beam of light, online.

In many ways, however, the bet is at best a bittersweet victory, and at its darkest interpretation, a small oasis in a desert.

To understand The Long Bets, you need to understand The Long Now.

The Long Now Foundation is a non-profit meant to be an organization geared towards projects and approaches to thinking that chronologically leave the average human lifespan in the dust; focusing on 10,000-year timelines and solutions to problems of sustaining cultural contexts for a hundred lifetimes and beyond.

Currently, the Long Now and its ideals are expressed in both a very nice performance and drinking space called The Interval, and a number of stylish projects and websites to bring this realm of thinking into focus.

The most prominent and first major project was the Clock of the Long Now, a project to make a time-accurate clock that would function for 10,000 years. The as-yet incomplete project goal is to build a clock deep in a mountain range and set it off, ticking occasionally (but on time, doing so) for the next ten millennia.

Other projects follow this approach as well, ranging from delicious to provoking. A re-imagining of the Rosetta Stone, a language translation service, a manual for civilization, a mountain land purchase, and others in these themes.

Among these variant projects is Long Bets.

It is a facilitation of long-term thinking, of providing a neutral, fair and equitable way for years-in-the-future bets to be made between parties, each contributing funds towards the prize. It is traditional that the recipient of the prizes be organizations not run or controlled by either bettor.

Browsing the betting page, the bets range from the humorous to the aspirational, from specific sports outcomes to predictions around space travel, vehicle autonomy and economics. They’re a joyride of thought and conversation starters, as they’re meant to be.

And among them is Bet #601.

Jeremy Keith and Matt Haughey are both veterans of The Web as it has historically been described; each has had their voices heard to crowds online and off, describing the nature of websites. Their careers have (deservedly) benefitted greatly from the power of interlinked websites.

They both recall the start of the world wide web, as well as internalizing the rules and mores that followed its birth. They were well-qualified to debate on the longevity of URLs and the position that a specific URL would hold across time.

That said, Keith was skeptical. Haughey was optimistic.

Like a lot of its neighbors, Bet #601 is too clever by half; the bet states that it is won or lost depending on the availability of the bet at the URL the bet is hosted at. That is, two situations exist to judge the outcome: Either the URL exists, at which point the bet is lost, or it does not exist, at which point the bet is won.

(Strikingly, if the bet had been won, the Internet Archive would possibly be the only place to browse the site in its original form, where it would have then helped prove the funds should go to Bletchly Park Trust. The continued reliance on the Wayback Machine as the vault of the Web’s lost memories would have persisted, in a very sharp and slightly less financially-beneficial way. Such is the price of memory.)

For the record, here are the statements made by each bettor about their arguments for the wager:

Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith:
“Cool URIs don’t change” wrote Tim Berners-Lee in 01999, but link rot is the entropy of the web. The probability of a web document surviving in its original location decreases greatly over time. I suspect that even a relatively short time period (eleven years) is too long for a resource to survive. I would love to be proven wrong.

Matt Haughey

Matthew Haughey: Though much of the web is ephemeral in nature, now that we have surpassed the 20 year mark since the web was created and gone through several booms and busts, technology and strategies have matured to the point where keeping a site going with a stable URI system is within reach of anyone with moderate technological knowledge. My oldest sites are going on 13 years old at the time of this bet and the original URL scheme still functions via 301 redirects to a final format we selected about six years ago.

This should be it.

But it’s worth noting how the context of this bet has changed over time. And issues with the continued evolution of the web strike at heart of the point the bet was trying to make.


The Long Now Foundation, intending to maintain its footing for as long as absolutely possible, has a very vested interest in its URLs staying stable. Between hosting structure, the setup of the webpages themselves, and maintaining clean, static URLs ( is a very simple address, lacking any ornamentation or dependence on programming language extensions or dynamic rendering). The domain name is registered until June of 2022 as of this writing, but was registered in June of 2001, twenty years ago, which bodes well for continued survival.

If you’re going to bet that a URL is going to stick around, on a website run by an organization that expresses its character by the longevity of its projects, staking your bet on a specific URL from that organization is a pretty safe bet.


Both of the parties in the bet clearly think of “the web” as being a set of interacting links between websites, but even by 2011, the idea of a “website” was beginning to experience direct collision with the ever-centralizing, ever-shifting audience of online life. Mobile access is a quirk in the 1990s, an oddity growing into a majority in the 2000s, and now, in the present day, phones with screens are the “home computer” of vast percentages of internet patrons.

In the interconnection of the world, it is harder and harder to think of a “website” where “platforms” rule the roost. A user is more likely to have an account name, or a public identity, than to ever utter the phrase “http” in their daily activity, or maybe even their year. The clear goal of many firms is to dissolve the consideration of the URI or URL, with many of the previous protocols of the earlier Web forgotten. The question becomes less of “will this URL survive” and more of “will the idea of the URL survive?”


Finally, the overarching fact of the situation is that sites like Long Bets are part of a philosophy of the web that is rapidly shrinking. Points of data and dependable signifiers of content and individuals were once the destination. That’s long changed; they are but stops along the way, flotsam and jetsam that ride in nebulous platforms that dominate online life. While Jeremy Keith and Matt Haughey maintain personal websites, they have rapidly become like homesteads that jut out in the center of towering skyscrapers and apartment blocks. Future generations will think of “the web” as much as they think of “the roads”; intensely interest to a few, below the watermark of consciousness to the rest.

As we move into this even-more-ethereal version of the Web, where objects, materials and locations possess data as much as pages and links we ever did, the Internet Archive will do its best to keep up and grow to match the challenge.

But what a challenge it shall be. Bet on it.

A Holiday Jackpot: The Lounge is Open

Continuing our tradition of releasing new sets of emulated items around the holidays, the Internet Archive has added a new collection: THE JACKPOT LOUNGE.


Previous sets of items, including arcade machines, handheld toys, computer software and flash animations, all represent thousands and in some cases tens of thousands of individual items from history, all playable in the browser.

The Jackpot Lounge is much more focused and refers to one specific group of coin-operated games: Gambling Machines.

Not too soon after video games began replacing mechanical coin-operated games on the midway, bars and other locations, games with a gambling theme or straightforward gambling payouts began to arrive. The same arguments for video games taking over (cheaper maintenance, more dependable, easily upgradable) applied to these potential replacements for slot machines.

“Super Twenty One”, a gambling machine from 1978. the same year as Space Invaders.

While such games would exist in a grey zone for a few years, Poker and Slot/Fruit machines of a video game nature quickly fell under the jurisdiction of gaming authorities in different countries. In some cases, however, it is clear looking through the code of these games that a select few cheated or ended winning runs quickly.

“Cal Omega”, a 1981-era poker machine.

Still, there was little to compete with the complete automation and dependability of these machines, and over time they took over gambling houses and areas where games of chance were legal. Even the venerable and charming mechanical horse-racing games began to fall compared to a simple horse-racing videogame like Status Fun Casino:

“Status Fun Casino”, a 1981 game for betting on various casino games, including horse racing.

As more and more pressure came down to ensure the slot and poker machines had dependable random number generation and payouts, the games became more homogenized, only reflecting changes in sound and visuals while letting the rules stay dependably the same.

From those early beginnings, the increase in quality of sound and video with videogames extends to gambling machines – the colors are bright, the sounds intense, and all are intended to catch your eye and bring you over to play “just a few rounds”.

“Black Rhino”, a 1996 example of the advances in the look of video slot machines, including multi-line bets and amounts of payout.

Reflecting that we are now closing in on a decade of emulation at the Internet Archive, it seems a good time to bring in this class of machines, which have at the start of each game a very complicated start-up process. Reflecting that actual money could be involved with a machine and the tallies of what it was paying out for the day would be very important to a casino, these games have very complicated processes for starting up. By pressing these keys, you are simulating Audit and Jackpot keys being inserted, sign-off buttons are being pressed, and that the metal “cage” door of the machines were closed and locked. Thanks to a set of volunteers, however, these extremely un-intuitive keypresses have been documented for you.

Slot Machines have become particularly graphically intense over the years, even though the legal restrictions of the games have caused them to stay with a very basic set of rules.

Because of the nature of this genre of machine, many of the 500+ machines will look rather similar: made by the same companies, with only minor modifications to the code to reflect different rules or providing compatibility with gaming commission chips (which would not be manufactured by the game companies, but supplied to them under authority of the commission). Others, however, will seem like strange one-off creations that you can’t imagine attracted anyone to play them – except they did.

One particular fascinating set of machines exists in this collection: Stealth Gambling Machines, meant to look like one kind of video game, but secretly playing another, based on when a secret switch (or secret coin slot) was used. In countries where hosting a gambling machine of any sort held severe penalties. For example, this game acts like Breakout but is actually a poker machine.

It looks like Breakout – but put your money into the secret coin slot and the game will play poker instead.

And finally, let’s just remember that sometimes, the game is out to get you. The game Tetris Payout will wait until you are winning a bit too much, and then intentionally throw the worst pieces at you to ensure your game comes to an end early.

So go ahead, check out the lounge, and walk through decades of electronic coin-operating casinos. You can’t win real money…. but you can’t lose it, either.

A very large thank you to Xarph and others, who played through these hundreds of machines to learn the by-machine instructions for getting them into a standard playing mode. The process was weeks of work and incredibly appreciated.

If coming into contact with gambling machines causes stress or issues for you or your family, contact Gamblers Anonymous.

Welcome to the Webspace Jam

It stood as either a memorial, embarrassment or in-joke: the promotional website for the 1996 film Space Jam, a comedy-action-sports film starring Michael Jordan and the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes characters.

Created at a time when the exact relevance of websites in the spectrum of mass media promotion was still being worked out, held many of the fashionable attributes of a site in 1996: an image map that you could click on, a repeating star background, and a screen resolution that years of advancement have long left in the dust. The limits of HTML coding and computer power were pushed as far as they could go. The intended audience was a group of people primarily using dial-up modems and single-threaded browsers to connect to what was still called The Information Superhighway.

By all rights, the Space Jam site should have died back in the 1990s, lost in the shifting sands of pop culture attention and flashier sites arriving with each passing day.

But it didn’t die, go offline or get replaced with a domain hosting advertisement or a 404.

Unlike a lot of websites from the 1990s, the Space Jam movie site simply didn’t change.

It persisted.

Just as every city seems to have that one bar or restaurant that can trace itself back for over a century, this one website became known, to people who looked for it, as a strange exception – unchanging, unshifting, with someone paying for the hosting and advertising a movie that, while a lot of fun, was not necessarily an oscar-winning cinematic experience. You could go to the site and be instantly transported back to a World Wide Web that in many ways felt like ancient history, absolutely gone.

Years turned into decades.

For those in the know and who paid close attention to this odd online relic, the real mystery was that the site was not actually staticsomeone was making modifications to the code of the website, the settings and web hosting, to jump past several notable shifts in how websites work, to ensure that deprecated features and unaccounted browser issues were handled. That costs money; that’s the work of people. Somehow, this silly movie site represented the held-out flame that with a small bit of care and dedication, a website could live forever, like we were once promised.

It wasn’t just a clickable brochure – it became a beacon in the dark, a touchstone for some who were just children when the World Wide Web was started, and who grew up with this online world, which has shifted and consolidated and closed and tracked us.

Then the unthinkable happened.

In 2021, the sequel arrived.

It is abundantly clear the abnormally long life of the original 1996 site helped see the sequel through the endless mazes and corridors of Hollywood development turnaround.

Because websites and online presence are the way that movies are now promoted, the very place that spawned this consistent brand through decades had to go. A new Space Jam site was created, using the domain.

In a nod to its beginnings, the 1996 website still exists, shoved into a back room; adding /1996 to the URL will give you the old site as it used to appear before this year, and a small note in the corner lets you know you could optionally visit this once-dependable hangout.

But now the site is broken.

Links from around the net to the Space Jam site, to specific sub-pages and specific images, now break. A browser arriving at the page from a link elsewhere will see Just Another Movie Promotion Site, utilizing all the current fads: Layered windows to YouTube videos (which will break), javascript calls (which will break) and a dedication to being as flashy, generically designed and film-promoting as literally any other movie site currently up. Links that worked for decades have been cast aside for the spotlight of the moment.

The word is disposable.

There’s still one place you can see the old site, as it was once arranged, though.

The same year the Space Jam movie and website arrived, another website started: The Internet Archive.

Unlike Space Jam, the Internet Archive’s site did change constantly. You can use the Wayback Machine to see all the changes as they came and went; over half-a-million captures have been done on

We have changed across the last 25 years, but we also have not.

The ideas that the Web should keep URLs running, that the interdependent linking and reference cooked into it from day one should be a last-resort change, and that the experience of online should be one of flow and not of constant interruptions, still live here.

Hundreds of webpages that have also survived since the time of Space Jam are inside the stacks of the Wayback Machine, some of them still running, and still looking unchanged since those heady days of promises and online wishes.

And if the unthinkable happens to them, we’ll be ready.

The Million Manual March

An arbitrary but still amazing milestone has passed:

The Internet Archive now has over one million manuals, instruction sheets and informational pamphlets in its Manuals collection. They range into every field of study or product and extend back, in some cases, well past a century!

People have been uploading manuals of every stripe into the Internet Archive for well over a decade, not to mention instruction booklets and related works in collections of partner organizations which are not in the main collection. In the past few years, efforts to mirror both manual repositories out in the world as well as documentation collecting by individuals have put our materials into the stratosphere of this staggering number.

While we gaze upon a nine-digit mountain of manuals, let’s talk about why this is so important and what it means.

Since we’ve had technology and tools, we’ve had instructions on how to use them. Passed along by demonstration, discussion or written forms, the critical link between having possessions and making the most of them has been the unit of knowledge called The Manual.

It’s a very general idea, and one that can range wildly in terms of depth, quality, and approach. Some items hand you a scant single printed page with poorly constructed diagrams. Others are multi-volume tomes that give exacting detail down to the smallest theory of operation. (The manuals for a Boeing 747 airplane weigh more than a 747!)

Considering the manual, one impression might be that they’re only of interest to someone in possession or with interest in the specific item or procedures being addressed.

But manuals are much more than just instructions of operation, or a listing of the components inside a product. They’re windows and insights into the priorities and approaches that companies and individuals take with the tools and goods they sell. And in many cases, the artistic and visual efforts to make an item clear to the reader has led to truly breathtaking visual feats.

With this many manuals and documents, a person trying to find the exact manual they need for something they own will always be a little difficult. Here’s some quick suggestions.

  • First try searching for the product name, with just the company and the model number. If the company does not make that many items (as opposed to a large multinational), just putting in the company name may be enough.
  • Sometimes there will be just one manual for an entire product family. If so, searching for the company name and the product type (like “Angelcorp CD Player”) will put you on the right track.
  • There is also a “Full-Text Search” under the search box you can select which will look inside the documents in the manuals, allowing you to search for model numbers or information in a much deeper way.

Naturally, a collection of this size is rather hard to browse through – there are manuals coming in by the thousands every month, and we are working to get them into proper sub-collections and headings, as well as improving metadata. The work is never done with a project like this, but the joy and wonders never cease.

So enjoy a million manuals, and we’ll see you at two million!

A shout out and deep thank you to all the different communities and individuals worldwide who have assembled manuals mirrored from external sites like manualzzz, manualsbase and iFixit, as well as by uploading in some cases scanning and uploading thousands of manuals to the Internet Archive personally, for being the reason this collection has grown so large.

Flash Back! Further Thoughts on Flash at the Internet Archive

A little behind the scenes here at the Archive: this blog is the province of a wide range of sub-groups, from books and partnerships over to development and collaborators. There’s usually a little traffic jam to schedule or make sure entries don’t go over each other, so this “sequel” post is being written before we return you to other Archive news.

The big announcement last week about the Internet Archive hosting Flash animations/games and making them run in the browser thanks to the Emularity and Ruffle made a huge splash. If you haven’t read that entry, you should definitely read it first.

Here’s some observations about Flash and the Internet Ecosystem from the last three rambunctious days. Obviously, the story of us including Flash doesn’t end here – we’ll continue to update Ruffle as it improves, and both users and collaborators are adding new animations at a pretty stunning clip. Be sure to keep checking the Flash Collection at the Archive for new additions.

What have we learned so far?

The Idea of Playing Flash in the Browser Past The End of The Year Is Very Popular

It was assumed, and has proven out, that being able to play Flash items, be they animations, toys or games, is an extremely popular idea: Tens of thousands of people have been flooding into the Archive to try things out. The “death” of Flash as a default plugin for browsers and the removal of easy access to it definitely had many people sad and concerned.

That said, assuming that Adobe and any other vendors were not going to throw the significant resources behind security and maintenance that Flash plugins would require, removing default support for it made sense. Sometimes these choices are not great for the historical Web, but sideloading in significant attack surfaces just because people like old games is not ideal either.

Ruffle is not Flash. It is an emulator that takes .SWF files (which worked with Flash) and makes a very good attempt to display what the file means to do. It is written in an entire other language with an entire other team of programmers, and is working with a specification and history that is ossified. In that way, it is hoped that the security issues of Flash can be avoided but the works can live on.

And are they living on!

Even in the very short time that this new feature has been announced, the news was picked up by Boing Boing, Engadget, The Verge, The Register, Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and dozens of other locations (and the top spot at Hacker News for a while). That increased the flood of visitors to our site and we’ve held up pretty well, due to the high compression rates and small file sizes of Flash.

People Have Very Strong Memories of Flash; For Some It Represents Childhood

Everyone has a different timeline with computers and the internet, but for countless people using their phones and connections today, Flash plays as critical a role in their childhood memories as a game console or television show. Students could sneak flash games into the computer labs, or trade USB sticks with Flash, or simply get around filters preventing “obvious” entertainment sites to find a single URL that gave them a racing or RPG game to while away an afternoon on.

And, most notably, not just as players, but as creators. There are, it turns out, a significant amount of professional artists and coders who count Flash and related technologies as their very first “programming language”. Going through our collection, you can find ten-person studio productions side-by-side a game made by a driven teenager at home, and the teenager will have gotten more popular. Intended to be used for creative works, the Flash environments over the years provided the launchpad for thousands of careers and creative outlets.

The Role of Flash Wasn’t Obvious To a Lot of People

An interesting situation as people come face to face with in some of these animations in the Flash collection are that many didn’t know they were Flash.

Video sites, such as Youtube, are a mid to late 2000s addition to the Internet. Previously, with dial-up modems as the main connection to the Internet, streaming video was a distant and hazy dream that seemed impossible to provide beyond a small experimental or well-connected crowd. Filling that need was Flash, which could compress down incredibly small (a full song and video to accompany it could be under five megabytes, or even one megabyte) and they even had quality settings for less powerful computers. Flash animation could “pre-load” the data required that was coming over a modem, giving an update as to progress or a small game to play, until the full “video” was downloaded. This has all been swept away into the dustbin of memory in a world where 4k 60fps video is possible (if still not to everyone).

With the jump to video in the mid 2000s, many Flash animations were transcoded into MPEG files, or animated GIFs, or uploaded to Youtube as fully-realized video, even though Flash was the original medium. As the more well-crafted works gained attention in this new space, the old formats were forgotten.

Since the Ruffle browser has a fullscreen option (right-click, soon to be a button to the right of the animation), if the Flash animation was done using vectors, they will scale up to 4k displays smoothly. Unlike old video, the original works will keep up with the newest technology very nicely and will give added appreciation for the efforts in the original piece.

Flooding All These Old Flash Works Has High and Low Moments

Because nearly anyone could create flash animations and games, nearly anyone did. It also meant that filters on quality, profanity, or unusual subjects were gone.

Sometimes that worked out very nicely: Imagine trying to pitch an animated film like The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny to a studio or backers to make for film festivals. A game like Castle Cat is bizarre and a collage of pop culture but plays as well as a professional game at the time. (it even got a sequel.)

Other times, the works are clunky, poorly programmed, and full of offensive jokes and material. They could literally be after-school projects or whipped up in a weekend to make fun of someone or something and then get trapped in amber to the present day. Wandering the stacks, with what will soon be thousands of items, can be daunting.

As a result, the Showcase was created to highlight the best of the best, the handful that really universally stand out as entertaining, well-made, and uplifting (or at least, thought-provoking).

By the way, if the towering piles of Flash works seems daunting now, imagine what it was like 20 years ago for people slowly moving through page after page, taking minutes to download a given animation, and clicking on it with no idea what they’d be seeing next.

Adding Your Own Flash Is Difficult But Rewarding

It is notably complicated to add new working Flash to our collection. This is a side effect of all the different components that need to be activated in the Internet Archive structure. By far, the best document to read about how to test, upload, and describe SWF files is this document by the Flashpoint project:

(As a side note, the two most common mistakes are setting “emulator-ext” instead of “emulator_ext” (see the difference?) and not setting the item to be a “software” media type. A script has been written that checks new uploads to find common mistakes and will sometimes tweak the uploads to fix them.)

There’s Still A Long Way to Go To “Perfect” or Wayback Playback

We shoved this entire ecosystem into the Archive “hot”, with known gaps in support for Flash features, and with bugs still being ironed out. Most Flash animations used a rather small set of scripting commands within the potential list, and those have been focused on by the Ruffle team, so a lot of animations do just fine. But more than just a few times, a Flash item will go in and there will be a critical failure, be it the inability to hit buttons or missing video/audio. This reflects the continual improvement of the emulator but also that entire swaths of support are still a way to go.

This also provides the answer to the question some are asking, which is how long before the Wayback Machine “just plays” old Flash items when you go to the page. Ruffle is still way too new to shove into the Wayback and the problems it would cause at this stage would be significant. Many improvements to Wayback and its reach have happened over the last year, with connections to Wikipedia, Cloudflare and Brave, but the day when you go to an old Flash-driven site and have it “just work” in Wayback is going to be a significant time in the future.

Which brings up another tangent:

Flash Interfaces to the Web Were The Worst Idea

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the fad of making Flash boot up and be the “menu” or selections for a website were unusually cruel to anyone in need of portability or accessibility. What’s thought of as “Web 1.0” (HTML files and simple flat files provided to servers) was extremely good for screen readers and keyboard shortcuts, providing important access to blind or disabled users, as well as expanding the amount of devices and systems that could use the Web. Flash took a lot of that away in the name of.. well, Flashiness. As this small burst of interest in Flash has occurred, a not-insignificant amount of people dependent on accessibility have said “Good Riddance to Flash”, and they’re entirely right. Captured inside little boxes on Internet Archive as displays in a museum, they work fine enough. But the Web should never have depended on Flash for navigation.

When Flash Is At Its Best, There’s Nothing Like It On The Internet

As people have been sharing the Flash animations they’ve found on the site, as well as providing their own additions, jewels have been coming to the forefront. Most inspiring have been artists and creators who did work 15 or 20 years ago and have been rifling through floppies and stored ZIP files to upload to our collection.

Watching this as they come in, it strikes us anew how much effort, artistic and otherwise, went into a good Flash animation. Crafting custom artwork, adding little touches and flair, and truly bringing something new into the world… this was the promise of Flash and every time someone in the modern age stumbles on a classic for the first time, all the effort is worth it.

Long Live Flash!

Flash Animations Live Forever at the Internet Archive

Great news for everyone concerned about the Flash end of life planned for end of 2020: The Internet Archive is now emulating Flash animations, games and toys in our software collection.

Utilizing an in-development Flash emulator called Ruffle, we have added Flash support to the Internet Archive’s Emularity system, letting a subset of Flash items play in the browser as if you had a Flash plugin installed. While Ruffle’s compatibility with Flash is less than 100%, it will play a very large portion of historical Flash animation in the browser, at both a smooth and accurate rate.

We have a showcase of the hand-picked best or representative Flash items in this collection. If you want to try your best at combing through a collection of over 1,000 flash items uploaded so far, here is the link.

You will not need to have a flash plugin installed, and the system works in all browsers that support Webassembly.

For many people: See you later! Enjoy the Flash stuff!

Others might get this far down and ask “And what exactly is Flash?” or even “I haven’t thought about Flash in a very long time.” For both of these groups, let’s talk about Flash and what it represented in the 1990s and 2000s.

A Short History of of the Rise of Flash

In the early 1990s, web browsers were incredibly powerful compared to what came before – with simple files written in HTML that could generate documents that were mixing images and text, as well as providing links to other websites, it felt like nothing for computers had ever had this level of ease and flexibility. It really did change everything.

But people didn’t stay in a state of wonder.

It quickly became a request, then a demand, then a mission to allow animation, sound, and greater audio/video flexibility into webpages. A huge range of companies were on a mission to make this happen. While looking back it might seem like one or two tried, it was actually a bunch of companies, but out of the wreckage of experimentation and effort came a couple big winners: Shockwave and Flash.

Flash had once been called SmartSketch in 1993, which was rewritten as FutureWave, and was actually a challenger to Shockwave until purchased by Macromedia, who handled creation software and playback software for both products.

Flash had many things going for it – the ability to compress down significantly made it a big advantage in the dial-up web era. It could also shift playback quality to adjust to a wide variety of machines. Finally, it was incredibly easy to use – creation software allowed a beginner or novice to make surprisingly complicated and flexible graphic and sound shows that ran beautifully on web browsers without requiring deep knowledge of individual operating systems and programming languages.

From roughly 2000 to 2005, Flash was the top of the heap for a generation of creative artists, animators and small studios. Literally thousands and thousands of individual works were released on the web. Flash could also be used to make engaging menu and navigation systems for webpages, and this was used by many major and minor players on the Web to bring another layer of experience to their users. (There were, of course, detractors and critics of use of Flash this way – accessibility was a major issue and the locked-in nature of Flash as a menu system meant it was extremely brittle and prone to errors on systems as time went on.)

This period was the height of Flash. Nearly every browser could be expected to have a “Flash Plugin” to make it work, thousands of people were experimenting with Flash to make art and entertainment, and an audience of millions, especially young ones, looked forward to each new release.

However, cracks appeared on the horizon.

The Downfall of Flash

Macromedia was acquired by Adobe in 2005, who renamed Flash to Adobe Flash and began extensive upgrades and changes to the Flash environment. Flash became a near operating system in itself. But these upgrades brought significant headaches and security problems. Backwards compatibility became an issue, as well as losing interest by novice creators. Social networks and platforms became notably hostile to user-created artworks being loaded in their walled gardens.

It all came to a head in 2010, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs released an open letter called “Thoughts on Flash”. The letter was criticized and received strong condemnation from Adobe, and Apple ultimately backed off their plan (although work was done to support alternate tools).

The call-out, even if not initially successful, ended the party.

In November of 2011, Adobe announced it was ending support of Flash for mobile web browsers, and in 2017, announced it was discontinuing Flash altogether for 2020.

Flash’s final death-blow was the introduction of HTML 5 in 2014. With its ground-up acknowledgement of audio and video items being as important as text and images, HTML 5 had significant support for animation, sound and video at the browser level. This mean increased speed, compatibility, and less concern about a specific plugin being installed and from what source – audio/video items just worked and Flash, while still used in some quarters and certainly needed to view older works, stopped being the go-to approach for web designers.

What Are We Losing When We Lose Flash?

Like any container, Flash itself is not as much of a loss as all the art and creativity it held. Without a Flash player, flash animations don’t work. It’s not like an image or sound file where a more modern player could still make the content accessible in the modern era. If there’s no Flash Player, there’s nothing like Flash, which is a tragedy.

As you’ll see in the collection at the Archive, Flash provided a gateway for many young creators to fashion near-professional-level games and animation, giving them the first steps to a later career. Companies created all sorts of unique works that became catchphrases and memes for many, and memories they can still recall. Flash also led to unusual side-paths like “advergames”, banners that played full games to entice you to buy a product. Clones of classic arcade games abounded, as well as truly twisted and unique experiences unfettered by needing a budget or committee to come to reality. A single person working in their home could hack together a convincing program, upload it to a huge clearinghouse like Newgrounds, and get feedback on their work. Some creators even made entire series of games, each improving on the last, until they became full professional releases on consoles and PCs.

Why We Emulate Flash

The Internet Archive has moved aggressively in making a whole range of older software run in the browser over the past decade. We’ve done this project, The Emularity, because one of our fundamental tenets is Access Drives Preservation; being able to immediately experience a version of the software in your browser, while not perfect or universal, makes it many times more likely that support will arrive to preserve these items.

Flash is in true danger of sinking beneath the sea, because of its depending on a specific, proprietary player to be available. As Adobe Flash is discontinued, many operating systems will automatically strip the player out of the browser and system. (As of this writing, it is already coming to fruition a month before the end-of-life deadline.) More than just dropping support, the loss of the player means the ability of anyone to experience Flash is dropping as well. Supporting Ruffle is our line in the sand from oblivion’s gaze.

Credit Where Due

This project is by no means an Internet Archive-only production, although assistance from Dan Brooks, James Baicoianu, Tracey Jacquith, Samuel Stoller and Hank Bromley played a huge part.

The Ruffle Team has been working on their emulator for months and improving it daily. (Ruffle welcomes new contributors for the project at

The BlueMaxima Flashpoint Project has been working for years to provide a desktop solution to playable web animation and multimedia, including Flash. Clocking in at nearly 500 gigabytes of data and growing, the project is located here:

A shout-out to Guy Sowden, who first drafted the inclusion of Ruffle in the Emularity before it was refined elsewhere; your efforts set the ball rolling.

And finally, a huge thanks to the community of Flash creators whose creative and wonderful projects over the years led to inspiration in its preservation. We hope you’ll like your new, permanent home.

Bonus Section: Adding Your Own Flash Animations to the Archive!

For the creators, artists and collectors who have .swf files from the era of Flash and would like to see them uploaded to the Archive and working like our collection, here’s some simple instructions to do so.

Please note: Ruffle is a developing emulator, and compatibility with SWF files is continually improving but is not perfect. They have provided a test environment here to see if your SWF file will work. Please take the time to test before uploading to the Archive.

The Archive looks for one mediatype setting (software) and two metadata pairs set (emulator and emulator_ext) to know whether an item can be run in the Ruffle emulator. Here are those two settings:

emulator set to ruffle-swf
emulator_ext set to swf

The emulator only works with a single SWF file at the moment, which should have no spaces in it. With all these conditions in place, the swf item should be offered up to play and the emulator should work.

When uploading to the Archive, accurate or complete descriptions, title, creation date, are all optional but strongly encouraged to provide context for users. Additionally, if you create an image file (jpg, png or gif) and name it itemname_screenshot.ext,, like itemname_screenshot.png, it will become the official screenshot and thumbnail for the item. Notice how we named things here:

We’re here to help you if you run into any snags or issues. There’s no other location on the internet that does things quite this way, so if you do run into problems, feel free to mail Jason Scott about tech support and whatever assistance can be given will be provided.

Update: Read about how this new adventure of Flash has had an effect on the Web.