What would we do without the Internet Archive? In the past few months alone, the Internet Archive has posted a virtual museum of old 80s and 90s era malware and resurrected over 2,300 MS-DOS games — all of which were playable through your browser. Today, the non-profit is upping the ante with the release of 500 Apple II games that you can play for free (as always).
The Internet Archive’s team (with a little help) was able to navigate around copy protection schemes that often made it difficult to make these programs available to the general public. “Off the shelf, the programs would include copy protection routines that went so far as to modify the performance of the floppy drive, or force the Apple II’s operating system to rewrite itself to behave in strange ways,” writes Jason Scott in a blog posting.
Scott goes on to describe that since these programs were often so difficult to copy, the pirates that were successful in their endeavors often marred the originals with embedded crack screens of “alternate color schemes as a way of putting a personal stamp their work.”
The Internet Archive, with the assistance of 4am, did their best to make these programs available once again, bypassing the software copy protection landmines, while at the same time preserving the original intent of the programmers (meaning no defacement of the original graphics).
“Because many educational and productivity software programs were specialized and not as intensely pursued/wanted as ‘games’ in all their forms, those less-popular genres suffer from huge gaps in recovered history,” Scott continues. This collection upends that situation: by focusing on acquiring as many different unduplicated Apple II programs as possible, 4am are using their skills to ensure an extended life and documented reference materials for what would otherwise disappear.
As with previous software made available via the Internet Archive, the programs can be played using its JSMESS “play-in-a-browser” emulator. You don’t need to install any additional software mess around with emulators — you simply click on a screenshot of the title you wish to run and “presto” you’re transported 30 years into the past to relive a small slither of computing history.