Internet Archive's new Historical Software Archive lets you interact with software as-it-was

The Internet Archive this weekend released a new addition to its growing collection of historical media, the Historical Software Collection. The collection lets you run old, outdated, and historically important software right inside the modern browser. This marks the first time a project of this kind has been taken on to such a large extent, and it is free to the public.

Just like the Wayback Machine for websites, the Historical Software Collection shows you how things really were. You can interact with old software like VisiCalc, the 1979 Apple II spreadsheet program that brought personal computing out of the hobby realm and into practical business applications. You can also play games like 1982's Pitfall, the second most popular Atari 2600 game after Pac-Man. A growing collection of productivity, educational and entertainment software will be added to the archive over time.

The archive is made possible through JMESS, a Javascript port of the MESS console emulator. JMESS runs in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer. It relies heavily on the Emscripten compiler project, and is headed by Mozilla's Alon Zakai. The MESS project is a result of 15 years of open source collaboration among historical software fans, many of whom participated anonymously.

This software archive is important for a number of reasons, argues the Internet Archive. It exhumes long-buried software that broke ground and revolutionized the computing industry. It lets the modern world interact with software that would otherwise remain locked up in cassette tapes and floppy disks, the equipment for which is no longer in widespread use. Ultimately, it can teach us how our recent technology forebears solved computing problems and innovated to bring us to where we are today.

SOURCE: Internet Archive