Category Archives: Emulation

30 Days of Stuff

Jason Scott, free-range archivist, reporting in as 2017 draws to a close.

As part of our end-of-year fundraising drive, I thought it might be fun to tweet highlighted parts of the vast stacks of content that the Internet Archive makes available for free to millions. A lot of folks know about our Wayback Machine and its 20+ years of website history, but there’s petabytes of media and works available to see throughout the site. I called it “30 Days of Stuff”, and for the last 30 days I’ve been pointing out great items at the Archive, once a day.

You won’t have to swim upstream through my tweets; here on the last day, I’ve compiled the highlighted items in this entry. Enjoy these jewels in the Archive’s collection, a small sample of the wide range of items we provide.

Books and Texts

  • The Latch Key of my Bookhouse was one of the first books scanned by the Internet Archive in its book scanner tests, and it’s a 1921 directory of Children’s Literature that is filled with really nice illustrations that came out great.
  • As part of our ever-growing set of Defense Technical Information Center collection, we have The Role of the Citizens Band Radio Service and Travelers Information Stations In Civil Preparedness Emergencies Final Report, a 1978 overview of CB Radio and what role it might play in civil emergencies. Many thousands of taxpayer-funded educational and defense items are mirrored in this collection.
  • Also in the DTIC collection is The Battalion Commander’s Handbook 1980, which besides the crazy front page of stamps, approvals and sign-offs, is basically a manager’s handbook written from the point of view of the US Army.
  • There are hundreds of tractor manuals at the Archive. Hundreds! Of all types, languages (a lot of them Russian) and level of information. Tractors are one of those tools that can last generations and keeping the maintenance on them in the field can make a huge difference in livelihood.
  • A lovely 1904 catalog for plums called The Maynard Plum Catalogue was scanned in with one of our partner organizations and it’s a breathless and inspiring declaration of the future wonder of the plums this wizard of plum-growing, Luther Burbank, was bringing to the world.
  • Xerox Corporation released “A Metamorphosis of Creative Copying” in 1964, which seems to function as both promotion for Xerox and a weird gift to give to your kids to color in.
  • In 2014, a short zine called The Tao of Bitcoin was released, telling people the dream of $10,000 bitcoin would be real.
  • The 1888 chapbook Goody Two-Shoes has lovely illustrations, and a fine short story.
  • Working with a lovely couple who brought in a 1942 black-owned-businesses directory, I scanned the pages by hand and put them up into this item.
  • Inside that directory was an ad for a school of whistling that said it taught using the methods of Agnes Woodward, and a quick scan of the Archive’s stacks showed that we had an entire copy of her book Whistling as an Art!
  • The medical treatise Sleep and Its Derangements, from 1869, is William A. Hammond, MD’s overview of sleep, and what can go wrong. Scanned from the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, it’s one of many thousands of books we’ve scanned with partners.
  • Let Hartman Feather Your Nest could be described as “A furniture catalog” in the same way the Sistine Chapel could be described as “a place of worship”. The catalog is a thundering, fist-pounding declaration of the superiority of the Hartman enterprise and the quality and breadth of furniture and service that will arrive at your door and be backed up to the far reaches of time.

Magazines

  • Photoplay considered itself the magazine for the motion picture industry in the first part of the 20th century, and this multi-volume compilation of photos, articles and advertisements is a truly lovely overview.
  • There’s over 140 issues of the classic Maximum RockNRoll zine, truly the king of music zines for a very long time. On its newsprint pages are howls and screeches of all manner of punk, rock and the needs of musicians.
  • A magazine created by the Walt Disney Company to trumpet various parts of Disneyland and its attractions was called Vacationland, and this Fall 1965 issue covers all sorts of stuff about the park’s first decade.

Movies

  • Rescued from a warehouse years ago, a collection of Hollywood movie “B-Roll”, unused secondary scenes often filmed by different crew, has been digitized. My personal favorite is [Western Film Scenes], which is circa 1950s footage of a Western Town, all of it utterly fake but feeling weirdly real, to be used in a western. Don’t miss everyone standing around looking right at you and looking like they agree quite energetically with you!
  • No compilation could be complete without the legendary Duck and Cover, a cartoon/PSA that explained the simple ways to avoid injury in a nuclear blast. Just lie down! It’ll be fine. Please note: This Probably Won’t Work. But the song is very catchy.
  • The very weird Electric Film Format Acid Test from 1990 has a semi-interested model holding up a color bar plate in a wide, wide variety of film and video formats. Filmed just a few blocks away from the Internet Archive’s current headquarters.
  • I snuck in a 1992 interview with the Archive’s founder, Brewster Kahle, back when he was 33 and working at WAIS, a company or two before the Archive and where he is asked about his thoughts on information and gathering of data. It’s quite interesting to hear the consistency of thought.
  • The Office of War Information worked with Disney to create “Dental Health“, a film to show to troops about proper dental care. It’s a combination of straightforward animation and industrial film-making worth enjoying.

Audio

  • We have a collection of hours of the radio show The Shadow from 1938-1939, starring  Orson Welles at 23, at the height of his performance powers, playing the dual main role.
  • For Christmas Eve, we pointed to “Christmas Chopsticks”, a 1953 78rpm record of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” performed to the tune of the classic piano piece “Chopsticks”; one of tens of thousands of 78rpm records the Archive has been adding this year.
  • On Christmas, a user of the Archive uploaded two obscure albums he’d purchased on eBay – remnants of the S. S. Kresge Company, which became K-Mart, and which were played over the PA system for shoppers. He got his hands on Albums #261 and #294.
  • Earlier in the month before the user uploaded those Christmas albums, I linked to a different holiday collection of K-Mart items, a 1974 Reel-to-Reel that started with a K-Mart jingle and went full holiday from there.
  • Before he was a (retired) talk show host, and before he was a stand-up comedian, David Letterman worked and trained in radio. Happily, we have recordings of Dave Letterman, DJ, from when he was 22, at Ball State University.
  • Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber has been hosting his weekly pop music recycling radio show, “Crap from the Past”, for over 25 years, and he’s been uploading and cataloging his show to the Archive for well over 10 of those years, including all the way back to the beginning of his show. The full Crap From The Past archive is up and is hundreds of hours of fun.
  • The truly weird “Conquer the Video Craze” is a 1982 record album with straightforward descriptions of how to beat games like Centipede, Defender, Stargate, Dig Dug, and more. This album has been sampled from by multiple DJs to bring that extra spice to a track.
  • Over 3,000 shows at the DNA Lounge are at the archive, including “Bootie: Gamer Night“, which combines mash-up tracks and video games. Bootie has been playing at DNA Lounge for years, and puts the audio from one song with the singing from another, and… it’s quite addicting, like games. This night was for the nearby Game Developers’ Conference being held the same week.

Software

  • In 2011, as part of a “retrocomputing” competition, we saw the release of “Paku-Paku”, a pac-clone program which ran in an obscure early PC-Compatible graphics mode that was very colorful and very small (160×100) and was built perfectly for it. You can play the game in your browser by clicking here.
  • Psion Chess is a game for the Macintosh that can play both you and itself with pretty high levels of skill and really sharp and crisp black and white graphics.  It makes a really great screensaver in self-playing mode.

People often overuse a phrase like “Barely scratched the surface”, but I assure you there are millions of amazing items in the archive, and it’s been a pleasure to bring some to light. While the 30 Days of Stuff was a fun way to stretch out a month of fundraising with stuff to see every day, we’re here 24/7 to bring you all these items, and welcome you finding jewels, gems and clunkers throughout our hard drives whenever you want.

Thanks for another year!

Early Macintosh Emulation Comes to the Archive

After offering in-browser emulation of console games, arcade machines, and a range of other home computers, the Internet Archive can now emulate the early models of the Apple Macintosh, the black-and-white, mouse driven computer that radically shifted the future of home computing in 1984.

While there are certainly predecessors to the computer desktop paradigm, the introduction of the Macintosh brought it to a mass market and in the 30 years since, it has been steadily adapted by every major computing platform and operating system.

The first set of emulated Macintosh software is located in this collection. This is a curated presentation of applications, games, and operating systems from 1984-1989.

If you’ve not experienced the original operating system for the Macintosh family of computers, it’s an interesting combination of well-worn conventions in the modern world, along with choices that might seem strange or off-the-mark. At the time the machine was released, however, they landed new ideas in the hands of a worldwide audience and gained significant fans and followers almost immediately.

The story of the creation of the operating system and the Macintosh itself are covered in many collections at the Archive, including this complete run of Macworld magazine and these deep-dive Macintosh books.

As for the programs currently presented, they are in many cases applications that have survived to the present day in various forms, or are the direct ancestors.

While it is a (warning) 40 megabyte download, this compilation of System 7.0.1 includes a large variety of software programs and a rather rich recreation of the MacOS experience of 1991.

Enjoy this (9-inch, black and white) window into computer history!

Many people worked very hard to bring this emulation system to bear: Hampa Hug created PCE (the original Macintosh emulator program). Experiments and work by James Friend (PCE.js) and Marcio T. (Retroweb) ported PCE to javascript via Emscripten. They all provided continued assistance as the Emularity team approached refining the emulator to work within the Archive’s framework. Much work was done by Daniel Brooks, Phil-el, James Baicoianu, and Vitorio Miliano, with Daniel Brooks putting in multiple weeks of refinement.

The Internet Arcade becomes an Archive Reality

A couple years back, we introduced the Internet Arcade, which enabled people around the world to play a number of Arcade titles from the last 40 years in their browsers, instantly. We’ve also had collections of console games, and a general library of tens of thousands of software programs which has also proven very popular.

The work continues to expand the emulated systems and refresh what titles are available, but a project we’ve had going on the side for a while just came to fruition.

Among the organizations that turned out to benefit from having our browser-based emulations was X-Arcade, manufacturers of high-quality joysticks and control panels for use with computers and software. Meant to have the original Arcade feel, a few examples of these controllers were gifted to the Archive and we’ve used them pretty extensively in demonstration days and special events.

Last year, X-Arcade announced an old-school full-sized arcade machine case for sale, and generously offered to send one to the Archive as well. We contacted an excellent artist, Mar Williams of Sudux.com, who has done excellent art for the DEFCON hacking conference and many other events, and she put together custom Internet Archive-themed arcade side art for the machine. Here’s what she came up with:

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The machine has made its way through shipping and moving companies and arrived at the Internet Archive’s 300 Funston Avenue headquarters in great shape, along with all the electronics and parts to make it go soon.

It’s one thing to see a mockup, and another to see the actual machine in your lobby:

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Over the next few weeks, the system will be set up to run with the Internet Archive systems and provide a really nice demonstration station for the many guests and visitors we see. It really jazzes up the place!

In the meantime, we’re now providing you with links to download the artwork files, in case you want to use them yourself.

Thanks again to X-Arcade for the lovely addition to our lobby, and to Mar Williams for such fantastic art!

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The Hidden Shifting Lens of Browsers

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Some time ago, I wrote about the interesting situation we had with emulation and Version 51 of the Chrome browser – that is, our emulations stopped working in a very strange way and many people came to the Archive’s inboxes asking what had broken. The resulting fix took a lot of effort and collaboration with groups and volunteers to track down, but it was successful and ever since, every version of Chrome has worked as expected.

But besides the interesting situation with this bug (it actually made us perfectly emulate a broken machine!), it also brought into a very sharp focus the hidden, fundamental aspect of Browsers that can easily be forgotten: Each browser is an opinion, a lens of design and construction that allows its user a very specific facet of how to address the Internet and the Web. And these lenses are something that can shift and turn on a dime, and change the nature of this online world in doing so.

An eternal debate rages on what the Web is “for” and how the Internet should function in providing information and connectivity. For the now-quite-embedded millions of users around the world who have only known a world with this Internet and WWW-provided landscape, the nature of existence centers around the interconnected world we have, and the browsers that we use to communicate with it.

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Avoiding too much of a history lesson at this point, let’s instead just say that when Browsers entered the landscape of computer usage in a big way after being one of several resource-intensive experimental programs. In circa 1995, the effect on computing experience and acceptance was unparalleled since the plastic-and-dreams home computer revolution of the 1980s. Suddenly, in one program came basically all the functions of what a computer might possibly do for an end user, all of it linked and described and seemingly infinite. The more technically-oriented among us can point out the gaps in the dream and the real-world efforts behind the scenes to make things do what they promised, of course. But the fundamental message was: Get a Browser, Get the Universe. Throughout the late 1990s, access came in the form of mailed CD-ROMs, or built-in packaging, or Internet Service Providers sending along the details on how to get your machine connected, and get that browser up and running.

As I’ve hinted at, though, this shellac of a browser interface was the rectangular window to a very deep, almost Brazillike series of ad-hoc infrastructure, clumsily-cobbled standards and almost-standards, and ever-shifting priorities in what this whole “WWW” experience could even possibly be. It’s absolutely great, but it’s also been absolutely arbitrary.

With web anniversaries aplenty now coming into the news, it’ll be very easy to forget how utterly arbitrary a lot of what we think the “Web” is, happens to be.

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There’s no question that commercial interests have driven a lot of browser features – the ability to transact financially, to ensure the prices or offers you are being shown, are of primary interest to vendors. Encryption, password protection, multi-factor authentication and so on are sometimes given lip service for private communications, but they’ve historically been presented for the store to ensure the cash register works. From the early days of a small padlock icon being shown locked or unlocked to indicate “safe”, to official “badges” or “certifications” being part of a webpage, the browsers have frequently shifted their character to promise commercial continuity. (The addition of “black box” code to browsers to satisfy the ability to stream entertainment is a subject for another time.)

Flowing from this same thinking has been the overriding need for design control, where the visual or interactive aspects of webpages are the same for everyone, no matter what browser they happen to be using. Since this was fundamentally impossible in the early days (different browsers have different “looks” no matter what), the solutions became more and more involved:

  • Use very large image-based mapping to control every visual aspect
  • Add a variety of specific binary “plugins” or “runtimes” by third parties
  • Insist on adoption of a number of extra-web standards to control the look/action
  • Demand all users use the same browser to access the site

Evidence of all these methods pop up across the years, with variant success.

Some of the more well-adopted methods include the Flash runtime for visuals and interactivity, and the use of Java plugins for running programs within the confines of the browser’s rectangle. Others, such as the wide use of Rich Text Format (.RTF) for reading documents, or the Realaudio/video plugins, gained followers or critics along the way, and were ultimately faded into obscurity.

And as for demanding all users use the same browser… well, that still happens, but not with the same panache as the old Netscape Now! buttons.

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This puts the Internet Archive into a very interesting position.

With 20 years of the World Wide Web saved in the Wayback machine, and URLs by the billions, we’ve seen the moving targets move, and how fast they move. Where a site previously might be a simple set of documents and instructions that could be arranged however one might like, there are a whole family of sites with much more complicated inner workings than will be captured by any external party, in the same way you would capture a museum by photographing its paintings through a window from the courtyard.  

When you visit the Wayback and pull up that old site and find things look differently, or are rendered oddly, that’s a lot of what’s going on: weird internal requirements, experimental programming, or tricks and traps that only worked in one brand of browser and one version of that browser from 1998. The lens shifted; the mirror has cracked since then.

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This is a lot of philosophy and stray thoughts, but what am I bringing this up for?

The browsers that we use today, the Firefoxes and the Chromes and the Edges and the Braves and the mobile white-label affairs, are ever-shifting in their own right, more than ever before, and should be recognized as such.

It was inevitable that constant-update paradigms would become dominant on the Web: you start a program and it does something and suddenly you’re using version 54.01 instead of version 53.85. If you’re lucky, there might be a “changes” list, but that luck might be variant because many simply write “bug fixes”. In these updates are the closing of serious performance or security issues – and as someone who knows the days when you might have to mail in for a floppy disk to be sent in a few weeks to make your program work, I can totally get behind the new “we fixed it before you knew it was broken” world we live in. Everything does this: phones, game consoles, laptops, even routers and medical equipment.

But along with this shifting of versions comes the occasional fundamental change in what browsers do, along with making some aspect of the Web obsolete in a very hard-lined way.

Take, for example, Gopher, a (for lack of an easier description) proto-web that allowed machines to be “browsed” for information that would be easy for users to find. The ability to search, to grab files or writings, and to share your own pools of knowledge were all part of the “Gopherspace”. It was also rather non-graphical by nature and technically oriented at the time, and the graphical “WWW” utterly flattened it when the time came.

But since Gopher had been a not-insignificant part of the Internet when web browsers were new, many of them would wrap in support for Gopher as an option. You’d use the gopher:// URI, and much like the ftp:// or file:// URIs, it co-existed with http:// as a method for reaching the world.

Until it didn’t.

Microsoft, citing security concerns, dropped Gopher support out of its Internet Explorer browser in 2002. Mozilla, after a years-long debate, did so in 2010. Here’s the Mozilla Firefox debate that raged over Gopher Protocol removal. The functionality was later brought back externally in the form of a Gopher plugin. Chrome never had Gopher support. (Many other browsers have Gopher support, even today, but they have very, very small audiences.)

The Archive has an assembled collection of Gopherspace material here.  From this material, as well as other sources, there are web-enabled versions of Gopherspace (basically, http:// versions of the gopher:// experience) that bring back some aspects of Gopher, if only to allow for a nostalgic stroll. But nobody would dream of making something brand new in that protocol, except to prove a point or for the technical exercise. The lens has refocused.

In the present, Flash is beginning a slow, harsh exile into the web pages of history – browser support dropping, and even Adobe whittling away support and upkeep of all of Flash’s forward-facing projects. Flash was a very big deal in its heyday – animation, menu interface, games, and a whole other host of what we think of as “The Web” depended utterly on Flash, and even specific versions and variations of Flash. As the sun sets on this technology, attempts to be able to still view it like the Shumway project will hopefully allow the lens a few more years to be capable of seeing this body of work.

As we move forward in this business of “saving the web”, we’re going to experience “save the browsers”, “save the network”, and “save the experience” as well. Browsers themselves drop or add entire components or functions, and being able to touch older material becomes successively more difficult, especially when you might have to use an older browser with security issues. Our in-browser emulation might be a solution, or special “filters” on the Wayback for seeing items as they were back then, but it’s not an easy task at all – and it’s a lot of effort to see information that is just a decade or two old. It’s going to be very, very difficult.

But maybe recognizing these browsers for what they are, and coming up with ways to keep these lenses polished and flexible, is a good way to start.

Those Hilarious Times When Emulations Stop Working

Jason Scott, Software Curator and Your Emulation Buddy, writing in.

With tens of thousands of items in the archive.org stacks that are in some way running in-browser emulations, we’ve got a pretty strong library of computing history afoot, with many more joining in the future. On top of that, we have thousands of people playing these different programs, consoles, and arcade games from all over the world.

Therefore, if anything goes slightly amiss, we hear it from every angle: twitter, item reviews, e-mails, and even the occasional phone call. People expect to come to a software item on the Internet Archive and have it play in their browser! It’s great this expectation is now considered a critical aspect of computer and game history. But it also means we have to go hunting down what the problem might be when stuff goes awry.

Sometimes, it’s something nice and simple, like “I can’t figure out the keys or the commands” or “How do I find the magic sock in the village.”, which puts us in the position of a sort of 1980s Software Company Help Line. Other times, it’s helping fix situations where some emulated software is configured wrong and certain functions don’t work. (The emulation might run too fast, or show the wrong colors, or not work past a certain point in the game.)

But then sometimes it’s something like this:

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In this case, a set of programs were all working just fine a while ago, and then suddenly started sending out weird “Runtime” errors. Or this nostalgia-inducing error:

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Here’s the interesting thing: The emulated historic machine would continue to run. In other words, we had a still-functioning, emulated broken machine, as if you’d brought home a damaged 486 PC in 1993 from the store and realized it was made of cheaper parts than you expected.

To make things even more strange, this was only happening to emulated DOS programs in the Google Chrome browser. And only Google Chrome version 51.x. And only in the 32-bit version of Google Chrome 51.x. (A huge thanks to the growing number of people who helped this get tracked down.)

This is what people should have been seeing, which I think we can agree looks much better:

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The short-term fix is to run Firefox instead of Chrome for the moment if you see a crash, but that’s not really a “fix” per se – Chrome has had the bug reported to them and they’re hard at work on it (and working on a bug can be a lot of work). And there’s no guarantee an update to Firefox (or the Edge Browser, or any of the other browsers working today) won’t cause other weird problems going down the line.

All this, then, can remind people how strange, how interlocking, and even fragile our web ecosystem is at the moment. The “Web” is a web of standards dancing with improvisations, hacks, best guesses and a radically moving target of what needs to be obeyed and discarded. With the automatic downloading of new versions of browsers from a small set of makers, we gain security, but more-obscure bugs might change the functioning of a website overnight. We make sure the newest standards are followed as quickly as possible, but we also wake up to finding out an old trusted standard was deemed no longer worthy of use.

Old standards or features (background music in web pages, the gopher protocol, Flash) give way to new plugins or processes, and the web must be expected, as best it can, to deal with the new and the old and fail gracefully when it can’t quite do it. As part of the work of the Decentralized Web Summit was to bring forward the strengths of this world (collaboration, transparency, reproducibility) while pulling back from the weaknesses of this shifting landscape (centralization, gatekeeping, utter and total loss of history), it’s obvious a lot of people recognize this is an ongoing situation, needing vigilance and hard work.

In the meantime, we’ll do our best to keep on how the latest and greatest browsers deal with the still-fresh world of in-browser emulation, and try to emulate hardware that did come working from the factory.

In the meantime, enjoy some Apple II programs. On us.

Saving 500 Apple II Programs from Oblivion

Among the tens of thousands of computer programs now emulated in the browser at the Internet Archive, a long-growing special collection has hit a milestone: the 4am Collection is now past 500 available Apple II programs preserved for the first time.

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To understand this achievement, it’s best to explain what 4am (an anonymous person or persons) has described as their motivations: to track down Apple II programs, especially ones that have never been duplicated or widely distributed, and remove the copy protection that prevents them from being digitized. After this, the now playable floppy disk is uploaded to the Internet Archive along with extensive documentation about what was done to the original program to make it bootable. Finally, the Internet Archive’s play-in-a-browser emulator, called JSMESS (a Javascript port of the MAME/MESS emulator) allows users to click on the screenshot and begin experiencing the Apple II programs immediately, without requiring installation of emulators or the original software.

In fact, all the screenshots in this entry link to playable programs!

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If you’re not familiar with the Apple II software library that has existed over the past few decades, a very common situation of the most groundbreaking and famous programs produced by this early home computer is that only the “cracked” versions persist. Off the shelf, the programs would include copy protection routines that went so far as to modify the performance of the floppy drive, or force the Apple II’s operating system to rewrite itself to behave in strange ways.

Because hackers (in the “hyper-talented computer programmers” sense) would take the time to walk through the acquired floppy disks and remove copy protection, those programs are still available to use and transfer, play and learn from.

One side effect, however, was that these hackers, young or proud of the work they’d done, would modify the graphics of the programs to announce the effort they’d put behind it, or remove/cleave away particularly troublesome or thorny routines that they couldn’t easily decode, meaning the modern access to these programs were to incomplete or modified versions. For examples of the many ways these “crack screens” might appear, I created an extensive gallery of them a number of years ago. (Note that there are both monochrome and color versions of the same screen, and these are just screen captures, not playable versions.) They would also focus almost exclusively on games, especially arcade games, meaning any programs that didn’t fall into the “arcade entertainment” section of the spectrum of Apple II programs was left by the wayside entirely.

With an agnostic approach to the disks being preserved, 4am has brought to light many programs that fall almost into the realm of lore and legend, only existing as advertisements in old computer magazines or in catalog listings of computer stores long past.

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It gets better.

Easily missed if you’re not looking for it are the brilliant and humorous write-ups done by 4am to explain, completely, the process of removing the copy protection routines. The techniques used by software companies to prevent an Apple II floppy drive from making a duplicate while also allowing the program to boot itself were extensive, challenging, and intense. Some examples of these write-ups include this one for “Cause and Effect”, a 1988 education program, as well as this excellent one for “The Quarter Mile”, another educational program. (To find the write-up for a given 4am item in the collection click on the “TEXT” link on the right side of the item’s web page.)

These extensive write-ups shine a light on one of the core situations about these restored computer programs.

As 4am has wryly said over the years, “Copy Protection Works!” – if the copy protection of a floppy disk-based Apple II program was strong and the program did not have the attention of obsessed fans or fall into the hands of collectors, its disappearance and loss was almost guaranteed.  Because many educational and productivity software programs were specialized and not as intensely pursued/wanted as “games” in all their forms, those less-popular genres suffer from huge gaps in recovered history. Sold in small numbers, these floppy disks are subject to bit rot, neglect, and being tossed out with the inevitably turning of the wheels of time.

This collection upends that situation: by focusing on acquiring as many different unduplicated Apple II programs as possible, 4am are using their skills to ensure an extended life and documented reference materials for what would otherwise disappear.

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Already, the collection has garnered some attention – the “Classifying Animals With Backbones” educational program linked above has a guest review from one of the creators describing the process of the application coming to life. And a particularly thorny copy protection scheme on a 1982 game of Burger Time went viral (in a good way) and was read 25,000 times when it was uploaded to the Archive.

In a few cases, the amount of effort behind the copy protection schemes and the concerned engineering involved in removing the copy protection are epics in themselves.

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As an example, this educational program Speed Reader II contains extensive copy protection routines, using tricks and traps to resist any attempts to understand its inner workings and misleading any potential parties who are duplicating it. 4am do their best to walk the user through what’s going on, and even if you might not understand the exact code and engineering involved, it leaves the reader smarter for having browsed through it.

This project has been underway for years and is now at the 500 newly-preserved program mark – that’s 500 different obscure programs preserved for the first time, which you can play and experience on the archive.

Get cracking!

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(The usual notes: The “Play in Browser” technology used at the Internet Archive is still relatively new, and works best on modern machines running newest versions of browsers, especially Firefox, Chrome and Brave. Javascript (not Java) needs to be enabled on the machine to work. (By default on all browsers, it is.) The manuals for many of the programs are not directly available in many cases, so some experimentation is required, although educational programs often worked to be understood without any manuals for the use of their audiences. Thanks to 4am for housing their collection at the Internet Archive and the many individuals on the MAME and JSMESS teams who have made this emulation possible.)

Internet Archive Does Windows: Hundreds of Windows 3.1 Programs Join the Collection

Microsoft Windows was, to some people, too little, too late.

Released as Version 1.0 in 1985, the graphic revolution was already happening elsewhere, with other computer operating systems – but Microsoft was determined to catch up, no matter what it cost or took. Version 1.0 of their new multi-tasking navigation program (it was not quite an “Operating System”) appeared and immediately got marks for being a step in the right direction, but not quite a leap. Later versions, including versions 2.0 and 2.1, finished out the late 1980s with a set of graphics-oriented programs that could be run from DOS and allow the use of a mouse/keyboard combination (still new at the time) and a chance for Microsoft to be one of the dominant players in graphical interfaces. It also got them a lawsuit from Apple, which ultimately resulted in a many-years court case and a settlement in 1997 that possibly saved Apple.

Meanwhile, the Windows shell started to become more an more like an operating system, and the introduction of Windows 3.0 and 3.1 brought stability, flexibility, and ease-of-programming to a very wide audience, and cemented the still-dominant desktop paradigms in use today.

In 2015, the Internet Archive started the year with the arrival of the DOS Collection, where thousands of games, applications and utilities for DOS became playable in the browser with a single click. The result has been many hundreds of thousands of visitors to the programs, and many hours of research and entertainment.

This year, it’s time to upgrade to Windows.

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We’ve now added over 1,000 programs that run, in your browser, in a Windows 3.1 environment. This includes many games, lots of utilities and business software, and what would best be called “Apps” of the 1990s – programs that did something simple, like provide a calculator or a looping animation, that could be done by an individual or small company to great success.

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Indeed, the colorful and unique look of Windows 3/3.1 is a 16-bit window into what programs used to be like, and depending on the graphical whims of the programmers, could look futuristic or incredibly basic. For many who might remember working in that environment, the view of the screenshots of some of the hosted programs will bring back long-forgotten memories. And clicking on these screenshots will make them come alive in your browser.

screenshot_00 (2)screenshot_00 (3)screenshot_00 (4)When they focused on it, a developer could produce something truly unique and beautiful within the Windows 3.x environment. Observe this Role-Playing Game “Merlin”:

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But on the whole, the simple libraries for generating clickable boxes and rendering fonts, and an intent to “get the job done” meant that a lot of the programs would look like this instead:

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(Then again, how complicated and arty does a program to calculate amortization amounts have to be?)

Windows 3.1 continues to be in use in a few corners of the world – those easily-written buttons-and-boxes programs drive companies, restaurants, and individual businesses with a dogged determination and extremely low hardware requirements (a recent news story revealed at least one French airport that depended on one).

Many people, though, moved on to Microsoft’s later operating systems, like Windows 95, ME, Vista, 7, and so on. Microsoft itself stopped officially supporting Windows 3.1 in 2001, 15 years ago.

But Windows 3.1 still holds a special place in computer history, and we’re pleased to give you a bridge back to this lost trove of software.

If you need a place to start without being overwhelmed, come visit the Windows Showcase, where we have curated out a sample set of particularly interesting software programs from 20 years ago.

As is often the case with projects like this, volunteers contributed significant time to help bring this new library of software online. Justin Kerk did the critical scripting and engineering work to require only 2 megabytes to run the programs, as well as ensure that the maximum number of Windows 3.1 applications work in the browser-based emulator. (Justin thanks Eric Phelps, who in 1994 wrote the SETINI.EXE configuration program). db48x did loader programming to ensure we could save lots of space. James Baicoianu did critical metadata and technical support. As always, the emulation for Windows and DOS-based programs comes via EM-DOSBOX, which is a project by Boris Gjenero to port DOSBOX into Javascript; his optimization work has been world-class. And, of course, a huge thanks to the many contributing parties of the original DOSBOX project.