Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Shareware CD Archive

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Ever go to a website looking for something that's no longer there? Sure, it happens all the time, companies go under, bands break up, bloggers forget to pay their hosting fees, etc. Say what you will about print media but at least the words know enough to stay put. Lucky for us, Internet Hall of Famer,  Brewster Kahle, began the Internet Archive website back in 1996 with the intent of collecting and archiving digital data on the web, and many folks still use it daily to find web pages from bygone days of yore. It's a fantastically vast non-profit internet resource that is completely free to all netizens the world over, and unlike Wikipedia they aren't greedy elitist b*stards. But did you know that there are tons of other way-cool things to check out at the Internet Archive besides old web pages? I've got one for ya. Think back to the days of the internet when broadband referred to neither my belt-size nor the speed of your internet connection and perhaps you'll remember that most (if not nearly all) computer software came to us on smallish pieces of plastic called discs and not from super-slick touch-screen-aware, Paypal-enabled internet app-stores like you spoiled Gen-Z'ers are used to. While commercial software, shareware and freeware had for years been available via floppy disc and the Sneaker-Net (the practice of delivering data in a physical format by physical means i.e. walking), the introduction of the high-capacity and damage-resistant (sort of) CD-ROM was like a shot of rocket fuel right into the arm of the software industry. The next thing you know, CDs were suddenly flying from the pages of even vaguely tech-oriented publications and threatened to overtake the already massive glut of AOL discs that kept the USPS in business through the 1990s. Here's what the Internet Archive has to say about it:
One of the most historically important artifacts to come from the home computer telecommunications revolution was shareware CDs, compact discs put out by companies containing hundreds of megabytes of shareware. Initially containing less than the full capacity of the discs (600mb, later 700mb) these items eventually began brimming with any sort of computer data that could be packaged and sold. As material "ran out", that is, as sellers of these CDs found they were unable to easily find shareware programs and files, the hunt began to track down every last file and item that could make the quarterly or monthly quota. As a result, many otherwise-lost pieces of computer history were gathered up in the trawling nets of these individuals and companies and were preserved for future generations.
So thanks to the Internet Archive, an extensive (and I mean extensive) library of these long-lost discs has been collected for anyone's perusal and use. Browse through their offerings and maybe you'll find that elusive demo copy of Hexen, Duke Nukem or Doom you've been looking for. Beware, however, while modern computers can usually handle older CD-ROMs and CD-ROM images with little problem, they can't always handle the code contained within. To ease your journey into the past, you can download DOSBox, a free virtual DOS PC emulator (for Windows, Mac, Linux, Solaris, Debian, BeOS, you name it!) that will open the door to many, many hours of retro-rediscovery! There are literally hundreds of disc-images available for download stretching all the way back to 1987 so set your resolution to 640x480, have fun and thank God you're not on dial-up anymore!

1 comment:

  1. Cool. I wonder if they'll archive all the AOL CDs just to be funny.

    I looked forward to the MacAddict CD-Rom every month back in the OS9 era.

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