The history of home computer gaming is quite a remarkable tale. There were a diverse range of innovative systems that produced some truely enspiring software titles. These should be preserved for future generations in a form that was originally intended.
By design, much of this software had copy protection. Especially notable are systems such as the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST. The protection in theory reduced illegal copies of the software, but in practice it hinders preservation of the software in its original format.
What you can usually find on the Internet for many systems is pirated software, which may or may not be identical in functionality to the original. Much of this type of software has features removed: animations, intro`s, end-sequences, pictures, sounds, etc. All to save disk space and transfer costs through the low speed modems of the time, and to fit the cracked software into standard disk formats. Some software is unplayable, due to bugs in the cracked versions mostly caused by the rush to claim to be the first to “release” a new piece of software. Also many games have their authors and copyright notices replaced to promote the cracking group that removed the protection.
The Software Preservation Society, or SPS for short, aims to preserve all commercial (therefore often copy protected) games in their original format for various systems - no matter how good or bad a particular game is perceived to be. Our focus is on systems using removable magnetic disk technology, that is, systems such as the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, IBM-PC, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, etc. Some of these systems are still in the research stages however.
We do not currently have any plans to support:
- Tape-based software, as very capable projects such as the Spectrum Tape Preservation Project exist.
- Most Read Only Memory (ROM) based software, as used in console cartridges, since this is a comparatively easy technology to reproduce and there are lots of projects looking after the various systems already.
One day we may move into preserving CDROM-based software, but the reported life of the commercially produced media does not pose an immediate concern.
There have been various barriers to preserving disk-based media in the past. The problem is that reading out actually what is on the disk is not a trivial task for various technical reasons, and some systems like the Commodore Amiga had hundreds of disk formats, which makes it very difficult to represent such software in a preservable manner.
Preserving the original versions of software will also positively influence companies who might not mind letting their old software be distributed, but are quite unhappy about letting pirate “graffiti-ridden” material to be used.
- Making images of original (not cracked, backup, etc.) versions of classic software. This method does not involve sending physical disks to us, though you will need some equipment.
- Scanning physical items from software packages (box, manuals, etc.)
- Sending original (not cracked, backup etc) versions of classic software. Obviously recent software does not fall into this category.
- Buying original versions of classic software.
- You are a representative of a company, who sees this as a great and free opportunity to promote yourselves.
- You are willing to donate to the project financially.
- Tell us what a great idea this project is, but thank you for your support in advance!
- Ask for the games. This is a not an games download site.
- This project has nothing to do with software piracy or “warez”.
- This is a free project.
- Even if you don’t take part, the chance are that you will enjoy the benefits.
- There are many thousands of commercial games available. Many of these are “not very good”, but this project is about preservation, not criticism.
- It is probably going to take a while to get back to you. Since our day jobs take our daytimes, some evenings and sometimes nights too.
- Create a complex description format that can support any type of encoded (MFM, GCR, etc.) disk protections and any custom disk format. DONE
- Create a backup program that can recreate the originals based upon their description. RESEARCHING
- Study the disk formats used by the original games. ONGOING
- Preserve the games themselves. ONGOING
The last two points will of course only be complete when we have preserved every game possible. This will take some time, and the more time we take the more games will be lost. Hopefully with the help of others, we can maximise the amount saved.
Thanks for your time,
The Software Preservation Society
All contributions are much appreciated no matter how great or small they are. Even if you just have one original game, that might be the one that is missing.
If you would like to help spread the word about us, feel free to use the following banners and/or HTML.
<a href="http://www.softpres.org"> <img src="http://softpres.org/_media/banner_sps_small.gif?w=&h=&cache=cache" alt="SPS - The Software Preservation Society" /> </a>