ASCII by Jason Scott

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Making Historic Software Eternal —

Update: Ultimately, the grant was not accepted, although it was a really important process to describe the importance of JSMESS and the rest of the related projects, and more grants will be applied for. Thanks for everyone for their encouragement.

At the urging of the grant-writer for the Internet Archive, I have submitted an application to the Knight Foundation for a grant for further development of JSMESS.

Making Historic Software Eternal



This is just the first step of a multi-step process (although this one needs you the most of all). Over the next couple of months, I have to discuss the project and plans for it with their judges and readers, and promote the core ideas of what this whole thing has been for. If it all comes together, a grant will be issued to the Internet Archive for the project.


JSMESS has come an enormous way – it basically works. You can choose a piece of software in the Internet Archive, say a copy of Mystery House for the Apple II and click on it and there you are. It works with all the major browsers, although they have to be pretty contemporary (the last year or two) to work well. Firefox is significantly faster than Chrome. But sound works (if your machine is fast enough), and it’s compatible with USB joypads, which is more surreal every time I do it.

It’s a major, unquestionable success.

At its core, however, JSMESS is essentially an involved port of MAME and MESS, two projects that have had hundreds of contributors and many thousands of hours dedicated to them by volunteers. The functionality and approach to these programs have been to bring into software form the hardware aspects of thousands of machines. This is a miracle and it’s a wonder to behold what MESS and MAME are, when you really go over what it all does and how it does it.

The Internet Archive has gotten behind this in a very big way, dedicating resources (hardware, software, networking, and me) to bringing JSMESS to where it is now. It has, in my opinion, been very beneficial to both parties – MESS/MAME get another end compiling point and platform (the web), and Internet Archive can begin to make hundreds of thousands of software packages available instantly.


What this proposal does is ask for a grant to increase the amount of people working on this project. That includes making JSMESS run faster (by finding optimizations that could be conducted), on more platforms (making it more aware of mobile, or other browsers), and to go and audit/augment MESS/MAME (by having a person or persons work on the more “boring parts” and continue to improve it). It can also allow to work with acquiring equipment or software that should be ingested, and so on.

Internet Archive is a non-profit library, and this grant is for libraries and to improve the world’s libraries along access and technology – I can think of no finer fit between goal and project than JSMESS, which will allow libraries the world over to turn computer history into a clickable link.

There’s just a few days to show approval, ask questions, and respond to the whole thing – then it goes in for study, voting, and the rest of the process. Feel free to get involved in it – that’s what it’s there for.

Time for the next level.

Categorised as: computer history | Internet Archive

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  1. Bruno A says:

    What can we do to help?

  2. Todd says:

    This is absolutely wonderful. I hope you get funding.
    Are you planning on opening up a curated “old machines” section, similar to the console living room? Would be great to have access to the full Apple II, C64, Atari, etc libraries