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Old 07-29-2010, 10:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

Not long ago a film buff turned up a 90 year old film of Charlie Chaplin. It had not shown since 1914, and was utterly forgotten by film historians -- yet because analog film technology has remained fundamentally unchanged since its invention, preservationists were able to re-debut the movie at a film festival in Virginia.

If the situation outlined in a new paper on the preservation of console video games does not change, decades from now similar rediscoveries--of the games many of us grew up with--will be impossible. And it won't just be the obscure titles: Entire libraries face extinction the moment the last remaining working console of its kind--a Neo Geo, Atari 2600 or something more obscure, like the Fairchild Channel F--bites the dust.

Technology Review: Blogs: Mims's Bits: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage
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Old 07-29-2010, 10:11 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

This article brings up good points.

For hardware preservation, eventually all units will cease to function, and the best that these types of museums can do is push back the inevitable failure.

For backup and digital preservation of the games in question though, I think those fears are overblown. Rom sites contain backups of every game for every console a thousand times over.

And contrary to this article, there are emulators that are in constant development, the largest being MAME (arcade games) and MESS (console games).

I don't think either of these emulators will disappear any time soon.
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Old 07-29-2010, 10:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

This is such a non-issue it's not even funny.
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Old 07-29-2010, 11:44 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

And books will eventually degrade to dust, but for every book written, there are hundreds of well preserved copies, physical transcriptions and digital transcriptions.
There are also libraries that preserve books.

Video games are no different. There are millions of copies of video games, some of which are unsold and remain in their original packaging. There are also millions of ROMS and emulators online, so this is a meaningless and nonexistent problem.
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:16 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

We've already have classic collections being released regularly, there is no reason why one day we won't see entire libraries, even potentially multiple systems libraries, released on a single cd.
And far as the systems go, there is no reason these couldn't be reproduced, i doubt we'd see it because I can't imagine too much demand for them, regardless, like I said this is a non-issue.
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Old 07-30-2010, 03:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

I know, with the technology we have, we could easily reproduce an NES or Sega Master System. Not just emulate it, but build another one. No big deal, right?
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

I did not read all of the article but...
  1. Just because every known NES game is available through emulation today does not automatically mean if we find an unknown copy of SMB4 for NES in the year 2090 that we will be able to load it. (as in the Chaplin analogy)
  2. For the most part this is a non-issue but that is because several people are taking it upon themselves to preserve them as a hobby. If they stop or skip something then it quickly falls apart.
  3. Not every system is preserved yet - example most 2-XL games have not been digitized yet and could be lost. There are other obscure systems facing the same problem.
  4. The copyright law is called the "Mickey Mouse Law" because Mickey Mouse has been just a few years away from entering the public domain since it's creation. Because Mickey is so profitable and Disney's pockets are so deep the copyright length will continue to be extended longer and longer meaning anything newer than Mickey will retain it's copyright almost indefinitely. So games will not enter the public domain and most of the original owners will be lost (go out of business) leaving a legal gray area where you eventually will not be able to get legal permission to play, store, duplicate, or distribute most games.
  5. Just because you can easily make a duplicate NES console or digitize an NES game now does not mean you can easily do it a hundred years in the future. Technology is easily lost and starting over from scratch will be harder in the future.
  6. Emulators are not 100% accurate.
  7. Just because you can emulate it today does not mean you can in the future. The technology the emulators run on changes too, so they have to be constantly updated. Example a large portion of emulators made just 5 years ago were DOS only. Windows no longer supports DOS. So to use those emulators someone had to either convert them to Windows or you had to use a DOS emulator to use the NES emulator. We are currently phasing away from 32 Bit to 64 bit. Eventually all current software will not work on common computers. In a hundred years you very easily could be doing something much more complicated than this -- run a linux emulator to run a windows emulator to run a 32bit emulator to run a dos emulator to run a colecovision emulator. Is a hobbiest going to update a fairchild emulator for every generation of computers forever?

In short, this would be a problem if hobbyist where not on top of it, but they are. for now. A few things will fall through the cracks and be lost forever but the massively popular stuff will survive. Unless there are some big changes in the laws this will require breaking U.S.A. laws to work.
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

You should be a professor Kong.
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