The Internet Archive Makes 2,500 More Classic MS-DOS Video Games Free to Play Online: Alone in the Dark, Doom, Microsoft Adventure, and Others

Back in 2015 we let you know that the Internet Archive made 2,400 computer games from the era of MS-DOS free to play online: titles like Commander KeenScorched Earth, and Prince of Persia may have brought back fond 1990s gaming memories, as well as promised hours of more such enjoyment here in the 21st century. That set of games included Id Software's Wolfenstein 3D, which created the genre of the first-person shooter as we know it, but the Internet Archive's latest DOS-game upload — an addition of more than 2,500 titles — includes its follow-up Doom, which took computer gaming itself to, as it were, a new level.

The Internet Archive's Jason Scott calls this "our biggest update yet, ranging from tiny recent independent productions to long-forgotten big-name releases from decades ago." After detailing some of the technical challenges he and his team faced in getting many of the games to work properly in web browsers on modern computers — "a lot has changed under the hood and programs were sometimes only written to work on very specific hardware and a very specific setup" — he makes a few recommendations from this newest crop of games.

Scott's picks include Microsoft Adventure, the DOS version of the very first computer adventure game; the 1960s-themed racer Street Rod; and Super Munchers, one in a line of educational titles all of us of a certain generation will remember from our classroom computers. Oddities highlighted by classic game enthusiasts around the internet include Mr. Blobby, based on the eponymous character from the BBC comedy show Noel's House Party; the undoubtedly thrilling simulator President Elect - 1988 Edition; and Zool, the only ninja-space-alien platformer sponsored by lollipop brand Chupa Chups.

This addition of 2,500 computer games to the Internet Archive also brings in no few undisputed classics whose influence on the art and design of games is still felt today: Alone in the Dark, for example, progenitor of the entire survival-horror genre; Microsoft Flight Simulator, inspiration for a generation of pilots; and SimCity 2000, inspiration for a generation of urban planners. Among the adventure games, one of the strongest genres of the MS-DOS era, we have Discworld, based on Terry Pratchett's comedic fantasy novels, and from the mind of Harlan Ellison the somewhat less comedic I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. One glance at the Internet Archive's updated computer game collection reveals that, no matter how many games you played in the 90s, you'll never be able to play them all.

Get more information on the new batch of games at the Internet Archive.

via Boing Boing

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Libraries & Archivists Are Digitizing 480,000 Books Published in 20th Century That Are Secretly in the Public Domain

Image by Jason "Textfiles" Scott, via Wikimedia Commons

All books in the public domain are free. Most books in the public domain are, by definition, on the old side, and a great many aren't easy to find in any case. But the books now being scanned and uploaded by libraries aren't quite so old, and they'll soon get much easier to find. They've fallen through a loophole because their copyright-holders never renewed their copyright, but until recently the technology wasn't quite in place to reliably identify and digitally store them.

Now, though, as Vice's Karl Bode writes, "a coalition of archivists, activists, and libraries are working overtime to make it easier to identify the many books that are secretly in the public domain, digitize them, and make them freely available online to everyone." These were published between 1923 and 1964, and the goal of this digitization project is to upload all of these surprisingly out-of-copyright books to the Internet Archive, a glimpse of whose book-scanning operation appears above.




"Historically, it’s been fairly easy to tell whether a book published between 1923 and 1964 had its copyright renewed, because the renewal records were already digitized," writes Bode. "But proving that a book hadn’t had its copyright renewed has historically been more difficult." You can learn more about what it takes to do that from this blog post by New York Public Library Senior Product Manager Sean Redmond, who first crunched the numbers and estimated that 70 percent of the titles published over those 41 years may now be out of copyright: "around 480,000 public domain books, in other words."

The first important stage is the conversion of copyright records into the XML format, a large part of which the New York Public Library has recently completed. Bode also mentions a software developer and science fiction author named Leonard Richardson who has written Python scripts to expedite the process (including a matching script to identify potentially non-renewed copyrights in the Internet Archive collection) and a bot that identifies newly discovered secretly public-domain books daily. Richardson himself underscores the necessity of volunteers to take on tasks like seeking out a copy of each such book, "scanning it, proofing it, then putting out HTML and plain-text editions."

This work is now happening at American libraries and among volunteers from organizations like Project Gutenberg. The Internet Archive's Jason Scott has also pitched in with his own resources, recently putting out a call for more help on the "very boring, VERY BORING (did I mention boring)" project of determining "which books are actually in the public domain to either surface them on or help make a hitlist." Of course, many more obviously stimulating tasks exist even in the realm of digital archiving. But then, each secretly public-domain book identified, found, scanned, and uploaded brings humanity's print and digital civilizations one step closer together. Whatever comes out of that union, it certainly won't be boring.

via Vice

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

1,100 Classic Arcade Machines Added to the Internet Arcade: Play Them Free Online

Once we could hardly imagine such things as video games. Then, all of a sudden, they appeared, though for years we had to go out to bars — and later, purpose-built "arcades" filled with video game machines — in order to play them, and we paid money to do so. When they came into our homes in the form of consoles we could hook up to our television sets, we at first felt only disappointment: these versions of Space InvadersDonkey Kong, and Defender neither looked nor felt much like the originals into which we'd pumped so many coins. But only now that the technology in our homes has long since surpassed most of the technology outside them can we play faithful reproductions of all our old favorite games without going out to the arcade.

Not that many arcades still stand, although the Internet Archive has made up for that absence by building the Internet Arcade, which we previously featured here on Open Culture a few years ago. Having made it possible for us to play an enormous variety of classic arcade games free in our web browsers, the Internet Archive looks on its way to creating not just the largest arcade in existence but an infinite arcade, the kind that Borges would have imagined had he grown up in the video-game age.  Just last week, developments in the software that powers it allowed Internet Archive to add more than a thousand new machines to the Internet Arcade, from games for which we had to wait in line back in the day to obscurities on which few of us have ever even laid eyes, let alone hands, before.

"The majority of these newly-available games date to the 1990s and early 2000s, as arcade machines both became significantly more complicated and graphically rich," writes the Internet Archive's Jason Scott, "while also suffering from the ever-present and home-based video game consoles that would come to dominate gaming to the present day. Even fervent gamers might have missed some of these arcade machines when they were in the physical world, due to lower distribution numbers and shorter times on the floor." You can explore the new wing of the Internet Arcade here, some of whose most popular games include Puzzle Bobble (better known in the West as Bust-a-Move), X-MenMetal Slug 5Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, and Street Fighter Alpha 2. Maybe their sound and graphics no longer wow us as once they did, but the years have done nothing to diminish their fun factor — and for many of us, not having to spend our quarters will always be a feeling to savor.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive, Featuring Over 11,000 Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction

Pulp Fiction will likely hold up generations from now, but the resonance of its title may already be lost to history. Pulp magazines, or “the pulps,” as they were called, once held special significance for lovers of adventure stories, detective and science fiction, and horror and fantasy. Acquiring the name from the cheap paper on which they were printed, pulp magazines might be said, in large part, to have shaped the pop culture of our contemporary world, publishing respected authors like H.G. Wells and Jules Verne and many an unknown newcomer, some of whom became household names (in certain houses), like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Philip K. Dick.

Beginning in the late 19th century, the pulps opened up the publishing space that became flooded with comic books and popular novels like those of Stephen King and Michael Crichton in the latter half of the twentieth century.




They varied widely in quality and subject matter but all share certain preoccupations. Sexual taboos are explored in their naked essence or through various genre devices. Monsters, aliens, and other features of the “weird” predominate, as do the forerunners of DC and Marvel’s superhero empires in characters like the Shadow and the Phantom Detective.

Unlike higher-rent “slicks” or “glossies,” pulp magazines had license to go places respectable publications feared to tread. Genre fiction now spawns multimillion dollar franchises, one after another, purged of much of the pulps’ salacious content. But paging through the thousands of back issues available at the Pulp Magazine Archive will give you a sense of just how outré such magazines once were—a quality that survived in the underground comics and zines of the 60s and beyond and in genre tabloids like Scream Queens

The enormous archive contains over 11,000 digitized issues of such titles as If, True Detective Mysteries, Witchcraft and Sorcery, Weird Tales, Uncensored Detective, Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, and Adventure ("America's most exciting fiction for men!"). It also features early celebrity rags like Movie Pictorial and Hush Hush, and retrospectives like Dirty Pictures, a 1990s comic reprinting the often quite misogynist pulp art of the 30s.

There's great science fiction, no small amount of creepy teen boy wish-fulfillment, and lots of lurid, noir appeals to fantasies of sex and violence. Swords and sorcery, guns and trussed-up pin-ups, and plenty of creature features. The pulps were once mass culture’s id, we might say, and they have now become its ego.

Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Boston Public Library Will Digitize & Put Online 200,000+ Vintage Records

It may be a great irony that our age of cultural destruction and—many would argue—decline also happens to be a golden age of preservation, thanks to the very new media and big data forces credited with dumbing things down. We spend ample time contemplating the losses; archival initiatives like The Great 78 Project, like so many others we regularly feature here, should give us reasons to celebrate.

In a post this past August, we outlined the goals and methods of the project. Centralized at the Internet Archive—that magnanimous citizens’ repository of digitized texts, recordings, films, etc.—the project contains several thousand carefully preserved 78rpm recordings, which document the distinctive sounds of the early 20th century from 1898 to the late-1950s.




Thanks to partners like preservation company George Blood, L.P. and the ARChive of Contemporary Music, we can hear many thousands of records from artists both famous and obscure in the original sound of the first mass-produced consumer audio format.

Just a few days ago, the Internet Archive announced that they would be joined in the endeavor by the Boston Public Library, who, writes Wendy Hanamura, “will digitize, preserve” and make available to the public “hundreds of thousands of audio recordings in a variety of historical formats,” including not only 78s, but also LP’s and Thomas Edison’s first recording medium, the wax cylinder. “These recordings have never been circulated and were in storage for several decades, uncatalogued and inaccessible to the public.”

The process, notes WBUR, “could take a few years,” given the sizable bulk of the collection and the meticulous methods of the Internet Archive’s technicians, who labor to preserve the condition of the often fragile materials, and to produce a number of different versions, “from remastered to raw.” The object, says Boston Public Library president David Leonard, is to “produce recordings in a way that’s interesting to the casual listener as well as to the hard-core music listener in the research business.”

Thus far, only two recordings from BPL’s extensive collections have become available—a 1938 recording called “Please Pass the Biscuits, Pappy (I Like Mountain Music)” by W. Lee O’Daniel and His Hillbilly Boys and Edvard Grieg’s only piano concerto, recorded by Freddy Martin and His Orchestra in 1947. Even in this tiny sampling, you can see the range of material the archive will feature, consistent with the tremendous variety the Great 78 Project already contains.

While we can count it as a great gain to have free and open access to this historic vault of recorded audio, it is also the case that digital archiving has become an urgent bulwark against total loss. Current recording formats instantly spawn innumerable copies of themselves. The physical media of the past existed in finite numbers and are subject to total erasure with time. “The simple fact of the matter,” archivist George Blood tells the BPL, “is most audiovisual recordings will be lost. These 78s are disappearing left and right. It is important that we do a good job preserving what we can get to, because there won’t be a second chance.”

via WBUR

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Apple’s Hypercard Software, the Innovative 1980s Precursor to Hypertext, Now Made Available by Archive.org

Archive.org is on a bit of a roll lately. After recently making available 25,000+ digitized 78rpm records from the early 20th century, they've turned around and put online Apple Hypercard software. When Hypercard was released in 1987, The New York Times published an article entitled "Apple to Introduce Unusual Software," which began:

Apple Computer Inc. will introduce an unusual database and management information program Tuesday that the company hopes will help it maintain its lead in technology for making computers easy to use.

The new software, known as Hypercard, will enable users of Apple's Macintosh computers to organize information on computerized file cards that can be linked to other file cards in intricate ways. The program will be included for no charge with each Macintosh sold, starting this month.

Hypercard made its appearance precisely when Apple also released "a communications device, known as a modem, that will enable the Macintosh to send documents to and from facsimile machines." Some of us still use modems today. Hypercard, not so much. At least not directly.

As Hypercard's creator Bill Atkinson indicates above, Hypercard started working with the hypertext concept that's now prevalent on the web today. Think those links you find in HTML. On Archive.org, you can find and play with Hypercard software, or what they call emulated Hypercard stacks. (They also host a library of emulated software for the early Macintosh computer). Read more about Archive.org's Hypercard project on their blog here.

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25,000+ 78RPM Records Now Professionally Digitized & Streaming Online: A Treasure Trove of Early 20th Century Music

Every recording medium works as a metonym for its era: the term “LP” conjures up associations with a broad musical period of classic rock ‘n’ roll, soul, doo-wop, R&B, funk, jazz, disco etc.; we talk of the “CD era,” dominated by dance music and hip-hop; the 45 makes us think of jukeboxes, diners, and sock-hops; and the cassette, well... at least one subgenre of music, what John Peel called “shambling,” jangly, lo-fi pop, came to be known by the name “C86,” the title of an NME compilation, short for “Cassette, 1986.” (Readers of the magazine had to clip coupons and send money by postal mail to receive a copy of the tape.)

Soon, however, fewer and fewer people will remember the age of the 78rpm record, the preferred vehicle for the music of the early 20th century. From classical and opera to blues, bluegrass, swing, ragtime, gospel, Hawaiian, and holiday novelties the 78 epitomizes the sounds of its heyday as much as any of the media mentioned above.




While cassettes recently made a nostalgic comeback, and turntables are found in every big box store, we’re generally not equipped to play back 78s. These are brittle records made from shellac, a resin secreted by beetles. They were often played on appliances that doubled as quality parlor furniture.

Thanks now to the Internet Archive, that stalwart of digital cataloguing and curation, we can play twenty five thousand 78s and immerse ourselves in the early 20th century, whether for research purposes or pure enjoyment. Previous efforts at preservation have “restored or remastered… commercially viable recordings” on LP or CD, writes The Great 78 Project, the archive’s volunteer program to digitize musical history. The current effort seeks to go beyond popularity and collect everything, from the rarest and strangest to the already historic. “I want to know what the early 20th century sounded like,” writes Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, “Midwest, different countries, different social classes, different immigrant communities and their loves and fears.”

You can hear several selections here, and thousands more at this archive of 78s uploaded by audio-visual preservation company, George Blood, L.P. Other 78rpm archives from volunteer collectors and the ARChive of Contemporary Music are being digitized and uploaded as well. You’ll note the recordings are often submerged in crackle and hiss, and generally lack bass and treble (most playback systems of the time could not reproduce the lower and higher ends of the audible spectrum). “We have preserved the often very prominent surface noise and imperfections,” the Archive writes, “and included files generated by different sizes and shapes of stylus to facilitate different kinds of analysis.” Different playback systems could produce markedly different sounds, and the recordings were not always strictly 78rpm.

These conditions of the transfer ensure that we roughly hear what the first audiences heard, though the records’ age and our penchant for 7 speaker audio systems introduce some new variables. None of these recordings were even made in stereo. The 78 period, notes Yale Library, lasted between 1898 and the late 1950s, when the 33 1/2 rpm long-playing record fully edged out the older model. For approximately fifty years, these records carried recorded music, sound, and speech into homes around the world. “What is this?” Kahle asks of this formidable digitization project. “A reference collection? A collector’s dream? A discovery radio station? The soundtrack of the early 20th century?” All of the above. To learn more about The Great 78 Project, including the technical details of the transfer and how you can carefully package up and mail in your own 78rpm records, visit their Preservation page.

h/t @Ferdinand77

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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