Run Vintage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Software in Your Web Browser, Thanks to


Note: If you’re hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties get­ting this soft­ware run­ning in your brows­er give Fire­fox a try. It seems to work the best.

Movies, com­mer­cials, radio shows, even books: we’ve enjoyed the abil­i­ty to effort­less­ly pull up things we remem­ber from our child­hood on the inter­net just long enough that it feels strange and uncom­fort­able when we can’t. Up until now, though, we haven’t had an easy way to re-expe­ri­ence the com­put­er soft­ware we remem­ber using in decades past. In my case, of course — and like­ly in a fair few of yours as well — I spent most of my com­put­er time in decades past play­ing games and not, say, build­ing bal­ance sheets. But whichev­er you did, the Inter­net Archive’s new­ly opened His­tor­i­cal Soft­ware Archive makes it easy to re-live those old days at the key­board with­out hav­ing to buy a vin­tage com­put­er on eBay, track down its soft­ware, remem­ber all its required com­mands and key­strokes, and hope the flop­py discs — or, heav­en help us, cas­sette tapes — boot up cor­rect­ly. They’ve made these wealth of games, appli­ca­tions, and odd­i­ties freely avail­able with the devel­op­ment of JMESS, a Javascript-pow­ered ver­sion of the Mul­ti Emu­la­tor Super Sys­tem, “a mature and breath­tak­ing­ly flex­i­ble com­put­er and con­sole emu­la­tor that has been in devel­op­ment for over a decade and a half by hun­dreds of vol­un­teers.”


They say a bit more about the tech­nol­o­gy behind all this on the Inter­net Archive Blog, and the His­tor­i­cal Soft­ware Archive’s front page offers rec­om­men­da­tions for which “ground-break­ing and his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant soft­ware prod­ucts” to try first, includ­ing 1.) Jor­dan Mech­n­er’s Karate­ka (top), a hot game in 1980 and the most pop­u­lar item in the archive today; 2) Sier­ra On-Line’s Mys­tery House (above), which gave rise more or less by itself to a vast genre of graph­ic adven­tures; 3) three adap­ta­tions of Nam­co’s Pac-Man (one for the Atari 2600, one remade for that same con­sole, one law­suit-induc­ing knock­off for the less­er-known Odyssey2); 4) E.T. the Extra-Ter­res­tri­al, a “1982 adven­ture video game devel­oped and pub­lished by Atari, Inc. for the Atari 2600 video game con­sole;” and 5) Dan Brick­lin and Bob Frankston’s Visi-Calc (below), the grand­dad­dy of all spread­sheet pro­grams, and arguably the sin­gle appli­ca­tion that turned com­put­ing from hob­by into neces­si­ty. Or how about 6) Word­Star, the ear­ly word pro­cess­ing pro­gram? Just click on the “Run an in-brows­er emu­la­tion of the pro­gram” link to fire up any of these and, if you’re under about 30, expe­ri­ence just what com­put­er users of the late sev­en­ties and ear­ly eight­ies had to deal with — and how much fun they had.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Indie Video Game Mak­ers Are Chang­ing the Game

The Great Gats­by and Wait­ing for Godot: The Video Game Edi­tions

Ancient Greek Pun­ish­ments: The Retro Video Game

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • michaelclarke says:

    Pac­man is the best game i have ever played on inter­net. I still remem­ber those days when i use to play this game for the whole night, sit­ting on my andaseat gam­ing chair. Believe me, the expe­ri­ence is worth it.

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