When this launched, there were dozens of confused comments from people wondering what old videogames has to do with Internet history.
In my mind, this stems from mistaken perception issues of the Internet Archive as solely an institution saving webpages.
But their mission and motto is much broader:
Universal access to all knowledge.
The Internet Archive is not Google.
The Internet Archive is a chaotic, beautiful mess. It’s not well-organized, and its tools for browsing and searching the wealth of material on there are still rudimentary, but getting better.
But this software emulation project feels, to me, like the kind of thing Google would have tried in 2003. Big, bold, technically challenging, and for the greater good.
This effort is the perfect articulation of what makes the Internet Archive great — with repercussions for the future we won’t fully appreciate for years.
But here’s a glimpse: last week, one of the JSMESS developers managed to get Netscape running on Windows 3.1 with functional networking. All of computing history is within our grasp, accessible from a single click, and this is the first step.
It’s not just about games — that’s just the hook.
It’s about preserving our digital history, which as we know now, is as easy to delete as 15 years of GeoCities.
We can’t expect for-profit corporations to care about the past, but we can support the independent, nonprofit organizations that do.