talk about hardcore digital preservation

…of the first graphical video game, Spacewar!, written in 1967, for the PDP-1.

So basically, some hackers took a digital presevarvation action in 1997 — they wrote a PDP-1 emulator  in Java, so you can run the original compiled binary.

Then, just now in 2011, a second digital preservation ‘port’ action was taken — write a new PDP-1 emulator in javascript/HMTML5, in case in another 10 or 20 years Java isn’t still easily runnable, but javascript/HTML5 is. (I suspect just the fun of writing a PDP-1 emulator in javascript was partial motivation too. I am not sure js/html5 is less future risky than Java. Especially because nobody really knows exactly what “HTML5” is, heh. But certainly having two emulators around helps lessen preservation risk.  )

Now that’s preservation, huh?  Kinda nice that the first graphical game has been so preserved. Just by unpaid hackers as far as I can tell.  (Wouldn’t it be cool if some actual budgetted archival organization did stuff like this? Smithsonian?  )

The emulators presumably serve a preservation function for anything else written for PDP-1 with a preserved binary. I would be curious if anyone has such a preserved binary and has tried it out on their emulators.  I wonder if any other preserved PDP-1 binaries even exist. (It’s not entirely clear to me how this team compiled the PDP-1 source code in 1997, without a PDP-1 But I don’t hardly know what a PDP-1 is or how it worked. )

[ Also, now I’ve got a story in my head where,  in 100 years, after a gap I imagine in concientious hacker Spaceware! preservation, so it hasn’t been ported to anything else but there’s no way to run Java or “js/html5″…. some hackers decide they REALLY want Spacewar! might have to write a Java emulator in the technology of the time, in order to run the PDP-1 emulator in the Java emulator, in order to run Spacewar! ]


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