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Following this post I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how to preserve the Atari 2600 and all things around it for the future.

 

The people interested into Atari 2600 are getting older on average. Eventually most of us will be gone. What happens then to our legacy? Who will take care of the numerous collections? Who will look after our homebrews, the documents, our tools etc. And last not least AtariAge (and other websites) who tell the stories of Atari 2600.

 

Accidents can happen to us everyday and sooner or later we have to face the end of our lives. How many of you have taken care of? And what can and should we do now?

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With regard to our homebrews... releasing ROMs is the quick answer here, but I think you're postulating a time when there is no longer an active community, even with emulation. The best option in this case might be to submit homebrews to archive.org when the community wanes. (or before!)

 

With regard to our homebrew tools. I honestly consider your main question here whenever I create a new toolset. I hate it when there's a community tool I want to use that only runs on [insert ancient Windows version here] and there's no source code. To that end, I try to build cross-platform tools, and release the source code (with some kind of license granting the user required rights to go forward) along with the binaries, in the same zip file. That way every active user acts like a mirror, in case I get struck by lightning. When there is no longer an active community, I'm not really not convinced it's worth preserving the tools. Is it?

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As the upcoming BladeRunner movie shows us, Atari is imbued in modern culture and technology.


What's perhaps the most relevant to this discussion is that you can go into the store today and buy a portable Atari console that takes cartridges.


What better way to support classic gaming on the Atari than by patching Thrust and your other games that aren't compatible to run on the new Atari console?


imo BoulderDash would look great on the Portable with it's oversized playfield - it would be awesome to preserve this classic in a format where more people can play.


Preserving Atari is about sharing Atari games and ensuring people can still play them on an Atari console in the future. This includes virtual consoles that are emulated, however this preservation route is less certain because it relies on modern technology that is designed for obsolesence in increasingly short timeframes. The constant flux of phone, web and PC platforms and form precipitates the russian doll effect a la DosBox where you must first emulate the older platform to run emulation software for an even older platform.

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It would be interesting to see the demographics of Flashback Portable buyers. (I refuse to call it a console. I own one and enjoy it, but it's a poor emulator in a cheap case, not a new Atari.) I imagine the majority are around the same age as the collector community and feel nostalgic, but not enough to track down an original console and cartridges.

 

There are people who are fans of music and movies created before they were born. It's not unreasonable to believe that there will be enough gamers of the future who similarly look back to keep Atari 2600 games and history alive somehow, mostly through emulation or virtual consoles with a few hard core fans keeping some original hardware working.

 

The main issue will be making sure as many games as possible are preserved. There's one known copy of Birthday Mania which the owner refuses to have dumped. What happens if that cartridge is destroyed and another one isn't found? That game is lost forever. (Have there been any updates on the source code that was located? I haven't checked for a while.)

Edited by KaeruYojimbo
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There's one known copy of Birthday Mania which the owner refuses to have dumped. What happens if that cartridge is destroyed and another one isn't found? That game is lost forever. (Have there been any updates on the source code that was located? I haven't checked for a while.)

The source code was retrieved from the copyright office, so there's a binary now (altough not publicy available yet)

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/204909-birthday-mania-unwrapped/page-4?do=findComment&comment=3367845

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Following this post I thought it would be a good idea to discuss how to preserve the Atari 2600 and all things around it for the future.

 

The people interested into Atari 2600 are getting older on average. Eventually most of us will be gone. What happens then to our legacy? Who will take care of the numerous collections? Who will look after our homebrews, the documents, our tools etc. And last not least AtariAge (and other websites) who tell the stories of Atari 2600.

 

Accidents can happen to us everyday and sooner or later we have to face the end of our lives. How many of you have taken care of? And what can and should we do now?

I asked myself these questions almost 15 years ago and then decided to join the Atarimania team (Gamebase64 being a shining example for me).

 

IMO the most important collections will eventually end up in boxes and crates never to be seen again (perhaps an occasional exhibition will display some of it once in a while, but that's it).

 

The rest will eventually rot, burn, drown or fade away.

 

First priority is to .bin as much original software as possible.

 

Then digitize as much original material as possible.

 

Then archive this as good as possible.

 

If a handful of interested video game/computer nerds in the future want to have a look at it, they can log in, browse through the virtual material and have a good laugh.

 

That's all.

 

8)

Edited by Rom Hunter
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As far as media goes, the Atari 2600 is probably the most well preserved thing in history. Look at the early days of film. Something like 90% of the films from the first few decades are lost forever. I would imagine it's a similar thing with music and print materials.

 

I think it's safe to say that what, over 95% of Atari materials have been preserved digitally? That's remarkable.

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As far as media goes, the Atari 2600 is probably the most well preserved thing in history. Look at the early days of film. Something like 90% of the films from the first few decades are lost forever. I would imagine it's a similar thing with music and print materials.

 

I think it's safe to say that what, over 95% of Atari materials have been preserved digitally? That's remarkable.

It sure is.

 

And I'm sure the nostalgia factor helped a lot to achieve this.

 

8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Rom Hunter
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I believe Atari stuff needs to be preserved, not just for nostalgia sake, but as a big part of cultural and entertainment history. And we all know there's lots of collectors with various size collections, but what will happen to those collections with the owner passes away? Will the families respect the collections, part them out all over, dump them on a charity or just trash them... it happens.

 

I've though about re opening my BBS as a repository for Atari (and TRS-80) programs, but honestly, I'd be doing it on my own since i have no friend or contacts to help, and it's be come a daunting job for sure alone. even though a relatively modest sized hard drive could store every Atari and TRS-80 programs and file ever made. And everybody talks about this site, Atariage, there's no guarantee it'll last any set length of time either. I'm 50 with hopefully a few years left, but who know what will happen to my modest collection when I die... The only relative I have left is my brother that sees no value in this stuff, according to him is should be out collecting fish reals like him.. and his wife she no value in anything old, it's all trash to her..

 

But if i knew where to start, I try bring my telnet BBS back online as a repository. Or even use my magicjack and make it dial up..

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Hopefully there will be some museum or technology institution my stuff could go to. Even a university or something. Because there wouldn't be too many people I could give my stuff to--assuming I live at least another 30-50+ years--that would be able to maintain it, let alone know how to use it or even simply appreciate it.

Even if there isn't, I guess I don't care. Considering I'm on the younger end of the spectrum of Pre-Crash collectors, there probably won't even be many people left to care by the time I die (again, assuming I make it to 70 or 80 in 40-50 years' time). And I'm sure that by then, the way that people will interact with computers and electronics will be so different from now that it will be impossible for people to really comprehend, or at least understand, the user experience of, say, an Atari 2600 or Apple II. And the amount of incorrect or distorted information that will have continued from, for example, popular YouTubers and "gaming experts" continuing to get things wrong today (despite the wide availability of references and materials that are actually accurate) will have become so widespread and commonly "known" that it would just be futility to try to correct it. People will have emulation and simulation, sure, but no context (much like today...). Or at least false context.

Another reason I don't care too much about what happens to my stuff in 40-50 years is that even now, I'm something of a "fringe" collector/enthusiast. My favorite stuff is 1970s arcade, console, and computer games. Even in the world of classic gaming, nobody gives a shit about that stuff. Nobody wants to play Integer BASIC games on an Apple II when there's Lode Runner, Ultima IV, and Choplifter. Nobody wants to play Superman, Indy 500, or Star Ship on an Atari VCS when there's Pitfall II, Enduro, and Starmaster. Even most retrogamers don't know what the [email protected]#$ to do with a Studio II. And others wouldn't bother with any of those platforms at all when there's the Amiga, S/NES, or NeoGeo. So I kind of live in my own world. And that world will die with me.

I guess if I die, either sooner or later, my wife would have first dibs, but I'm sure she'd pass most of it along to some of our collector friends (they know who they are), which is what I would do anyway in the event she died first. If none of them are around by then, and there's no suitable organization to donate them to (hopefully that's not the case--I can't imagine technological archaeology and preservation wouldn't be a focus of at least several major universities by then), then I guess they go into an estate sale and disappear into the ether. A sad thought, I guess, but they'll have served their purpose to me, and I'll be dead, so what do I care?

It's kind of funny this topic comes up now; I'm having surgery next week and one of my coworkers was asking me about it just yesterday, asking if I could die. Of course, as with any surgery, that's always a possibility, although in this case I'd have a better chance of winning the Powerball. He knows I'm into old games (I showed him my Vectrex at my house once, and I actually have a Pocket Simon at work) and, mostly joking, he asked if he could have my games if I die. He's 24 or 25 and has given me shit in the past for liking retro games, a concept that's simply and utterly illogical to him--he even wrote off my Vectrex as "basic" (in the trendy pejorative sense) and boring (I know, right?)! So I told him, "Hell no. You wouldn't appreciate them." And he admitted, "Yeah, that's true." :P (Plus, he has no idea what "all my games" actually means--he's only seen my Vectrex with my Sean Kelly cart and my PlayStation with about 15 games next to it; the joke would definitely be on him when a semi truck pulls up on front of his apartment. :evil: )

Edited by BassGuitari
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The best thing you can do is raise a kid who cares about this stuff. It would be nice for him or her to like it too, but having at least an appreciation for it would be great.

 

I think the preservation efforts done to date (this site, Archive.org, emulation, and the hundreds of thousands of old hardware still in peoples hands) are likely sufficient for a good long time.

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The best thing you can do is raise a kid who cares about this stuff. It would be nice for him or her to like it too, but having at least an appreciation for it would be great.

 

I think the preservation efforts done to date (this site, Archive.org, emulation, and the hundreds of thousands of old hardware still in peoples hands) are likely sufficient for a good long time.

 

Yep. The problem is actually having them decide on their own that they care. I've got 4 kids, 2 of them now adults, and I'm still waiting to see who will emerge with enough interest in my various hobbies (book collecting, Atari, coin collecting, ham radio, etc.) to put them in my will. Otherwise, my wife has threatened to give it all to the local thrift store.

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The best thing you can do is raise a kid who cares about this stuff. It would be nice for him or her to like it too, but having at least an appreciation for it would be great.

 

Both of my boys have grown up with Atari. We have discussed this issue before and they have dibs on my collection. It will be up to them and my wife as to what to do with the left over consoles, games and accessories. They are aware of AtariAge and I have made it known that should I kick the bucket, they should reach out to the community on this site and see if anyone would be interested in the remainder of my collection. :)

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Otherwise, my wife has threatened to give it all to the local thrift store.

 

Sounds fair to me. Someone who wants it would be likely to get it that way. Why do you consider it a threat? That she'd be missing out on the "fun" of fetching the highest possible price? That has a big cost as well, and if you're dead and gone, why would you care what she does with it?

 

That's the wonderful thing about eBay, too -- the market decides what things are worth, and people sort themselves out to decide who wants it most.

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For art/paintings, and even expensive cars, don't they often go "on loan" from various estates to museums and galleries, and such, for display (either permanently or semi-permanently)?

So people with large collections can donate (or loan) them to the National Video Game Museum in Texas.

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Sounds fair to me. Someone who wants it would be likely to get it that way. Why do you consider it a threat? That she'd be missing out on the "fun" of fetching the highest possible price? That has a big cost as well, and if you're dead and gone, why would you care what she does with it?

 

That's the wonderful thing about eBay, too -- the market decides what things are worth, and people sort themselves out to decide who wants it most.

 

I'd prefer my wife at least gets something out of it. But I'd really prefer to pass it on to one of my kids.

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This is why posting everything up to services like github.com is a very prudent thing to do, not only to preserve what has been done, but to provide documentation for those going forward.

 

-Thom

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I think the best thing that can be done to preserve the VCS ecosystem and the modern achievements of the community is to carefully document and open source them. This ensures that, as long as interest in the VCS is alive, people will be able to maintain hardware and software. As with all things, I think the relevance of the VCS as an item worthy of preservation lives and dies with the existence of a community that feels this way. Making this heritage more accessible lowers the barrier of entry for newcomers, especially for those that are too young to have associations of childhood nostalgia :)

 

I think that this applies to all types of data, both software and hardware documentation

 

  • The original hardware documentation on the VCS is patchy at best. The community has done a tremendous job in reverse engineering most of the details (even though that will propable never be complete). However, this information is scattered all over the web. It really would be awesome to collect all this in a central wiki, with backups available such that the wiki can be salvaged if the original site goes down
  • There are exhaustive collections of dumps of (all?) historic ROMs available. I don't think there is any room for improvement there :)
  • I think that homebrew always should be released as ROM images and as source. I can't imagine that this does considerable damage to possible cartridge sales, the target audience is mainly enthusiasts and collectors anyway.
  • I fully understand and respect the reasons why the harmony design and the firmware, including the banking drivers, are not public. However, I think that this is an impediment for future preservation efforts, especially for games using modern "banking schemes" like DPC+. I think it would be a wise move to open source design and firmware sometime in future.

Finally, I think that clean (as in "readable"), accurate and maintained emulators are the key to long-time preservation of the platform. Hardware will die and writher, but software can be kept very much alive as long as it is maintained. I think that, for preservation purposes, it is vital that emulators strive for readability and accuracy over speed --- as the hardware dies over time, they will become the time capsule in which the original design is preserved.

Edited by DirtyHairy
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I got thinking about this more.. and I think there will probably interest in Atari for a long time yet. Just like people collect old cameras, clocks, or radios, there will be those that will want to have the old games too. I think the question is how to preserve the hardware so it eventually gets in to the hand of those that will wany it in the distant future instead of meeting some horrible the the pop electronics of today deserve.

 

maybe put a condition in your will that states nobody gets anything from your estate unless they keep and protect your Ataris.. call it the Defender clause..

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What's perhaps the most relevant to this discussion is that you can go into the store today and buy a portable Atari console that takes cartridges.

 

 

I wish there was a console that played cartridges. I would be nice to buy an atari off the shelf that played carts.

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Atari, Apple, Commodore, IBM PC, Astrocade, Vectrex, Odyssey2, Intellivision, TRS-80, Timex-Sinclair, Spectrum, NES, SNES, PS1, and all the rest of 'em.. All are worth preserving in some manner. Digital preservation is probably best, via the most accurate emulators, ROM dumps, development tools, dis-assemblies, source listings, scans, manuals, magazine publications, internet page saves, photographic imagery, and other documentation.

 

I feel that though original hardware is a good thing, it doesn't lend itself to longevity or any sort of permanence going out another 50 years. It has survived these first 50 years because of highly dedicated fans, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. But once we're gone that hardware will fade away. Whereas a comprehensive digital information collection can carry forward the instructions and essence of the games and consoles and good we all had.

 

It is important to not tie it all to the web, but instead use the web as a storage container. By this I mean no online emulation or storing documents on a single source/server. It is best to distribute it and digest it down to common file formats that have proven themselves over the past decades. Formats that are readable by hardware and standards which change little with time. The information should be packed and organized in such a way that it can be migrated over time - so that retrieval devices 100 years from now can access it. The information should be complete enough that someone of 150 years later would be able to recreate at least the games and gaming experience if not the exact console hardware.

 

A brief example would be DOSBOX. A form of virtualization. While still true to legacy, the x86 has evolved to run very fast. And contemporary operating systems as of 2017 have difficulty running native DOS games of the 1980's and 1990's. Let alone Windows 3.1 software. So as an interim solution, DOSBOX will allow you to run most Windows 3.1 and DOS software on today's rigs. There! A straightforward example of migration we can all relate to. VMs and emulation are at the forefront of preservation whether you like it or not.

 

At one time I was all gung-ho on collecting and preserving cartridges. But it became impractical for reasons already discussed in other threads here. It was a 10-12 year stint so to speak. Why so short? The mean reason being as time flowed forward the amount of material became crushing. Weighty. Time-consuming. While in theory (and with continual expenditure of $$$) a cartridge and console collection can be amassed; it's never going to be complete. It will always remain localized and specialized. Not everyone who seeks to enjoy it will be able to. It will be a constant drain on your bank. It will only live as long as you do anyways. But a digital information collection isn't subject to those limitations. It can be duplicated and distributed to all interested parties on a whim.

 

Next of kin are far more likely to preserve and protect a couple-a digital storage devices that fit in small box as opposed to what can be literally rooms or multiple pickup truck's of this "stuff". It really is impractical to get the software to everyone in a playable format when you're limited by physical consoles and carts. You need emulation and virtualization - both on and off the web. A digital collection will do that.

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As far as roms go, making sure all the variations, the homebrew games, the prototypes and unfinished projects, the tools etc. backed up onto a site like archive.org is sensible. And probably as many other sites as possible. Same with scans of ephemeral materials, video and audio of interviews, text interviews, etc.

 

I think it's really important to make sure that research is backed up as well. I don't know if that means making sure Atariage and its forums (along with sites like digitpress with its interviews and scans, and atariprotos) are backed up to the internet archive or what, but there's a ton of information packed up on those sites built over years of sifting through for whatever nuggets people could find. We should be thinking of ways we can document all that for longevity, so that people don't have to try and duplicate that research down the line when resources are less available. There are digital file formats built around archiving for the long-term for text documents, picture files, and PDFs, and if source code is available that may help too... certainly a better long-term idea than keeping everything in one basket, so to speak. And honestly? It might be a good idea for folks to sort of describe their experiences playing these games, their thoughts, either in video or audio or text. That way future generations have an idea of what these games and their platforms meant to us now and in the past.

 

For me personally, I figure if my future kids don't want my collection, or don't want all of it, I'd like to see it donated to a museum or a university archive. I do kind of expect there to be a future solution to running Atari carts on hardware, though, ala FPGA, that'll keep a niche interest alive in the platform.

Edited by ubersaurus
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It is important to not tie it all to the web, but instead use the web as a storage container. By this I mean no online emulation or storing documents on a single source/server. It is best to distribute it and digest it down to common file formats that have proven themselves over the past decades. Formats that are readable by hardware and standards which change little with time. The information should be packed and organized in such a way that it can be migrated over time - so that retrieval devices 100 years from now can access it.

We must be using physical medium as a backup, but it is these mediums that are getting harder to read. For example if you wrote a .bin on a cassette tape in the 80s, it's a hassle to get a machine that reads those and will then interface with modern computers. Something as simple as a word document on a floppy is hard to get to for most people.

 

Using internet and the cloud is the best (as long as servers are kept running) because of how it's built. The internet is nothing more than a ton of our best hard drive easily accessible from the globe, it's not different than our own harder. However there are people maintaining those hard drives and migrating the informarion to modern storage as we go.

 

If I want to access my high school essays,they are on a 15 year old floppy I can't access. My highschool emails are currently sitting on a state of the art harddrive in a server farm owned by Microsoft and easily readable on my 2017 cellphone.

 

Those e-mails can easily disappear forever if the servers are shut down... but they are the most accessible files. A physical back up is subject to some the same problems as a genuine collection, it can become a pile of unreadable unusable bricks requiring legacy hardware once it's not maintained by the owner.

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What's perhaps the most relevant to this discussion is that you can go into the store today and buy a portable Atari console that takes cartridges.

 

I'm not aware of any cartridge-capable Atari VCS console being sold today, and certainly not within 100 miles of home. What am I missing?

 

 

imo BoulderDash would look great on the Portable with it's oversized playfield - it would be awesome to preserve this classic in a format where more people can play.

 

While yes it would be nice to have the VCS version of BD made available. It will never happen. But that's alright. There are other versions available. Some versions are even better by sheer virtue of having been made on more sophisticated hardware. Not to downplay the technical prowess of VCS BD of course.

 

 

Preserving Atari is about sharing Atari games and ensuring people can still play them on an Atari console in the future. This includes virtual consoles that are emulated, however this preservation route is less certain because it relies on modern technology that is designed for obsolesence in increasingly short timeframes. The constant flux of phone, web and PC platforms and form precipitates the russian doll effect a la DosBox where you must first emulate the older platform to run emulation software for an even older platform.

 

Yes I agree here. And I believe this is the best way to move forward. While a cartridge's masked-rom is projected to live for 200 years, many avenues of attrition will kill it before the infamous bit-rot sets in. And a cartridges is one. One single instance. There may be 20,000 instances of Demon Attack out there in physical form. Whatever. But those are NOT available to anyone and everyone. The number is limited.

 

A Digital Collection built around emulation can be unlimited. In fact a DC relies on numbers and widely distributed storage "spots" to maintain existence.

 

If the kids want to play Doom (or a VCS game), see the box, hear the sounds, revel in the fast-action graphics.. Where and how is it going to happen? Likely it will happen on a phone, tablet, or PC or any other device. Not a dedicated console. Ohh there may BE new hardware, or a virtual game pack for the PS or whatever system is in vogue, but one thing in common is emulation/virtualization.

 

This Russian-doll effect.. It's part of the migration process. It may grow several 4 or 5 layers deep, and then a re-write and consolidation is likely to take place. And we're back to only 1 layer. Tablets and phones are in the here and now. They're windows into the server farms and datacenters. Who knows what will be in the future? But change has proven to happen slow enough that migration is effective. I'm not using the Activision ActionPacks from Windows 3.1 anymore, I could, but I don't. Nor am I using DOS based Stella or PCAE or Z26 anymore either. The vehicle has changed, the passengers are the same.

 

I can't emphasize this enough. DATA MIGRATION IS KEY!

 

I've blabbed about it before. All the sci-fi stories and crazy stuff and recollections of Estes model rockets I wrote about on my TRS-80 Pocket Computer 1 and Apple II back in the 70's and 80's has been migrated through 7 or 8 different mediums till it ended up on a PC-based USB drive at the end of the dot-com era.

 

Some went from the TRS-80 Pocket Computer to a cassette and back to the computer then to a strip printer narrower than a McDonald's receipt. Then it was scanned into the Apple II with a hand scanner. Some was OCR'd or just saved as a hi-res image. Some manually printed and then re-typed. Material originally done up on the Apple II w/ProTerm was sent directly to the Amiga and then to the PC. Then it was transfered to floppy, then a Sider HDD, then to Amiga based 720K disks. Then to a PC HDD, floppies, ReWritable CD-RW, ZipDrive, then 1394 FireWire drive, then several USB disks. I even uploaded some text to a BBS and re-captured it natively in ProComm Plus (pc terminal software). There's more. And it gets more convoluted for some. But hey! I was learning then. And we didn't have solidified standards either!

 

But I'm happy to say that today I have the original cassettes & diskettes from the 1970's and some printouts too. Today I could just zip'em on over via ADTPRO or CFFA3000. But either way. The files on my modern HDD today contain the same exact information as they did back then. Solid proof that migration works even if done haphazardly.

 

When I check the dates on some of them the last-action took place around 1993/1994. It was around then that I containerized them in a zip file with checksums. And they've been frozen since.

 

---

 

It should be noted that data storage and interface standards have slowed and continue to slow. Back then in the early days it was a whirlwind because capacity was growing rapidly and new standards had to be implemented to handle the capacity. We've seen many interfaces from custom SCSI/SASI jobs on the Apple II to proprietary memory cards and half-baked attempts at large capacity (and unreliable) consumer devices - think CD-RW, Bernoulli Boxes, Flopticals, 720K floppies, and early high-speed HDD in overheated ventless external enclosures.

 

All of that happened in a ~10 year span. But today, the USB standard is still working quite well. Drives I got in 2006 are still using the same interface, USB 2.0. And they are backward compatible with USB 3.0. That's more than 10 years on one standard. And I'd say we have another 5 or 10 years more before something better comes along.

 

The point being is that standards are changing slowly enough that there is ample time for migration. USB, for example, isn't going to suddenly drop off the planet. It will be phased out gently because of the huge installed base. And hardware to read USB devices will be available years after that via auction houses and flea markets.

 

And most certainly transfer to new storage containers will be as easy as a couple of clicks. If I should ever need to (and I expect to) replace a removable HDD, the information can be put on a new one as fast as the data moves across the wires. Couple of clicks and we're done.

 

Over the years Microsoft has released readers and converters and plugins for Office that let the suite be aware of older obscure formats from the DOS days. So there's that too.

 

Lots of options!

 

---

 

As far as documenting the culture and era? Well it isn't too hard. Periodicals and a/v materials of the day are best. We don't need too many summaries and history rewrites by some hmucks that thinks they know how "vintage" "retro" "classic" apply to gaming and computing. Direct records pulled from the mists of time trump all!

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