ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

A Demoparty in a Browser —

I am a huge fan of the demoscene, and have been for many years now.

demo_awaken_sigflup_2012_screenshot

If you’ve not heard of the “Demoscene” or the “Demos” within the realms of computer experience, it’s worth it, heavily, to check it all out. For decades, majestically talented programmers, artists and musicians have created top-notch experiences on a massive range of computers and then gave this hard work, sometimes weeks or months or even years of effort, away for free.

Nine years ago (!) I was entranced enough about it to try to explain it in a week of postings here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 – and if you don’t have the time to read them all, I’ll summarize thus: The Demoscene is an incredible artistic subculture that creates unique and amazing things, also subject to behind-the-scenes drama and cattiness that all thriving creative cultures do. And the result of their efforts are amazing displays you can enjoy online or in person around the world.

The side effect of this work, however, is how much intense processing and power a system showing a demo might need to have. And demos can be brutal when it comes to system requirements on modern systems. They’re not subject to the requirements of, say, a game that has to play on as wide a set of machines as possible to ensure biggest sales. They’ll come right out and demand top of the line bleeding edge acid dogfood specs, because they can. When parties, held around the world to show off these works, are showing these programs, they have machines that might as well eat meat.

There’s another class of demo, which attempts to put the most amount of power in as tiny a space as possible. We’re talking executable sizes of 256 bytes, or 1024, or 8k, or 64k and so on. It allows a limit on the programming side that favors efficiency and skill in compactness. Let’s set those aside for the purposes of this entry.

And then there are console demos.

demo_noice_liquid_candy_2012_screenshot

Not only do we have demos that are exercising the latest and greatest. We also have demos that are written to use the most basic hardware out there: game consoles. The limited platforms that are machines like the Atari 2600 or Sega Genesis provide a level playing field for artists making a mark within the demoscene. Make these limited machines do something out of the ordinary, and you will get lots of positive attention from your contemporaries, because you obviously worked hard to squeeze this performance out of these things.

To get that special performance, you often have to do insane coding to the console, so that it does things it was never designed to do, and to find weird explosive bugs or undocumented behavior that you can bring to the forefront. It’s obscure, strange magic and it’s as intense as possible for the hardware.

You might see where this is going.

consoledemos

As of this writing I have put 120 console-based demos into the Internet Archive and gotten them emulated in the browser.

Because not everyone has a ROM burner for an old console (or even the old console) at their fingertips, the ROM files made for these demos are either left up languishing, or are often loaded into emulators, or even just turned into YouTube videos to give people an idea of what they’re looking at. It’s generally accepted that playing videos in lieu of getting stuff executed on actual hardware is a necessary but sad evil. And of course emulators have been there for some time, although with many of the same problems that Emularity/JSMESS was meant to address (taking a while to assemble, no one-click referencing for your friends, etc.)

What we have here is instantaneous demos in your browser. You click on these, and it boots up an emulated console playing the demo.

On one level, that’s all you need to know. Go forth and try them out. Every entry has a link back to a page about the given demo so you can see them under other circumstances or fall into a hole seeing all the amazing demos there are out there.

But I wanted to cover a few more things.

demo_stella_cream_2006_05_screenshot

With the integration of JSMESS’s aspects into MAME, comes near-instant turnaround for upgrading the emulation on the Internet Archive. If someone patches or improves a platform supported in MAME, we can have it running on the Archive, and all the programs that use that supported platform running the updated code… in about 10 minutes. Before, it was a little more involved, so if someone did the work, we might still lag on the repair for days or weeks or even in a few cases, years. So that is gone, and with it, any hesitation to encourage people to join development of MAME to make emulation on it as accurate as possible.

You see, these demos I’ve thrown in, and more coming, will likely not be 100% accurate on the browser emulation system. These are tough little nuts when it comes to undocumented tricks and traps to make things go. It’s not a surprise the emulators will fall down. But that’s great. It means there’s a demonstrable, viewable program that will show the problem at hand and encourage improvements.

MAME is open-source in the proper licensed sense now. There’s no reason for people to not be porting over compatible code or improvements into it. The changes will be reflected on the browser emulation as well as MAME’s many other platforms. It’d be excellent work to do. And the reward will be to make things run even more accurately for other, non-demo items.

These two factors are why I’m pushing for this now. I want to see the loop close and for us to see improvements in emulation with a large range of talent joining into this great cause. MAME is a fantastic emulator. It needs more people to do the very intense grunt work of making pixel/speed-perfect emulations of these platforms, before we have no platforms to reference.

And for everyone else…. there’s some damned fine work in these demos, and if I can cause hundreds or thousands more to see and respect these works than had seen them up to this point… that’s a pretty nice day all around.

Enjoy!

ISO


Thousands of Hip Hop Mix Tapes, Why Not —

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been uploading thousands of Hip-hop Mixtapes into the archive. The resulting collection still has a way to go before it’s everything I have acquired at arm’s reach (limited by bandwidth and a few other technical factors), but now that it’s past 150 solid days of music on there, it’s quite enough to browse and “get the idea”, should you be so inclined.

A quick note: If women in scant bikinis, lionization of drug use and violence, and endless intense profanity is not your bag, this is a whole lot of that. Probably don’t visit.

CoverI’m sure this is entirely old knowledge for some people, but it’s new to me, so I’ll describe the situation and the thinking.

Instead of The Part Where Jason Tries to Describe a Basic Thing, there’s some excellent introductions and writeups about mixtapes in Hip-Hop culture at these articles:

So, in quick summary, there have been mixtapes of many varieties for many years, going back to the 1970s to the dawn of what we call Hip-Hop, and throughout the time since the “tapes” have become CDs and ZIP files and are now still being released out into “the internet” to be spread around. The goal is to gain traction and attention for your musical act, or for your skills as a DJ, or who knows what else.

There is an entire ecosystem of mixtape distribution and access. There are easily tens of thousands of known mixtapes that have existed. This is a huge, already-extant environment out there, that was doing pretty well.

So naturally, I stuck my big fat face into it.

Cover (1)

The code I had to write to pull in these tapes (which are often distributed via torrents, because the albums generally range between 80-200mb), then to clean up the resulting downloads, and make sure the right cover is the “official” cover in the collection, took me a while. It’s “human/machine augmented” stuff, because there’s massive variation in how the files come in. Let’s not pretend it’s real work – the real work is even keeping track of all this stuff.

I have a list of 17,000 tapes to access at the exact moment, and so something close to that number might end up at the Archive across the next couple months. Keeping track of new releases will have to be automated, I suppose. I’ll probably need help.

Cover (2)

There’s a lot coded into the covers of these mixtapes (not to even mention the stuff coded into the lyrics themselves) – there’s stressing of riches, drug use, sexual drive, and oppression. I’m personally fascinated at the amount of reference to codeine and the purple color of “Purple Drank”, which, if you’ve missed that subject matter up to now… good for you.

There’s parody, there’s aggrandizement, and there’s every attempt to draw in the listeners in what is a pretty large pile of material floating around. I can listen to some of it, but not really much before I “get it”.

But it’s not about my personal preferences in music – it’s about the fact this whole set of material has meaning, reality and relevance to many, many people.

listing

How do I know this has relevance? Within 24 hours of the first set of mixtapes going onto the Archive, many of the albums already had hundreds of viewers, and one of them broke a thousand views. As of this moment, one has passed 14,000 viewers, and has only been up for 5 days. Somebody wants this stuff, that’s for sure.

And that’s fundamentally what the Archive is about – bringing access to things. I’m sure when Brewster set the place up 20 years ago, his big dream wasn’t that a guy like me was going to show up and go “Video Games and Hip-Hop!!!” but here we are.

The end goal here, like all the things I do in this realm, is simple: Providing free access to huge amounts of culture, so people can reference, contextualize, enjoy and delight over material in an easy-to-reach, linkable, usable manner. Apparently it’s already taken off, but here you go too.

Get your drank on here.

Front Cover


The Manual Rescue: Take Two, And Please Help —

Short Story: An attempt to finish off this phase of the manuals (move from three storage units to a storage space down the road that costs 1/10th the price) is going to happen this Saturday, April 2nd, in Westminster, MD. I invite people to make the trip, and if reporters/students want to come to learn some of what the items are, they are welcome too. email me at jason@textfiles.com. The added costs are still here, so if if you send donations to jason@textfiles.com it helps a lot too.

I’ll make this one all text. You can read the previous entry if you want pictures – it all looks the same right now. (And if this is 100% new to you, you could read all the old entries about this.)

So, I had to call it on Tuesday, return the truck and pallet jack, lock everything up, and drive home. (It took six hours, because of crazy construction work on I-95.) I’d have liked to have emptied one of the three storage units, but it was just not going to happen. Three pallets of boxes are sitting in one unit, so they’re ready to be put on a truck, but it was down to just me being available on the Tuesday, and I saw an incredible safety and health risk, so I dropped it.

Let’s be clear; this one is on me. I had to spend a lot of time on other projects this year (and a lot of materials have gone out my door, as well as work over at the Internet Archive in general) but cutting things so close to the end of the month was a huge mistake – now I have to pay for these three storage units for another month, a significant cost. People who think I am taking on too much can definitely point to this project, although I still think it’s a matter of the learning curve more than the task at hand.

We learned a lot on the loadout this week so far – how to properly pack the stacks, wrap them, and get them onto the truck. We also know the job is at least one ofthreer people helping get the pallets onto the truck (relatively) safely and then two moving the pallets from the truck into the storage space. We learned that the boxes can go between 30-35 a pallet, That means that we will probably end up with having to hand-load additional boxes into the filled storage room and there might, still, be a small storage unit in use, but it would be really small (and frankly I’d like to avoid that). The cost savings will be enormous when these are in their new spot.

And again, I’ve got a home for about half of the manuals – the Internet Archive will take them, and then we’ll see about scanning them. The rest are likely to go to some candidate archives I’ve been in contact with – they move really slow and that’s been a problem too.

Therefore, the new plan is this Saturday, a weekend, when I hope I can get a bunch of people to show up. A dozen or more would be fantastic – one group setting up and wrapping the pallets to get them ready to go, while a second group is driving over the truck and moving the items into the storage. This could go really fast – the boxes are all ready to go, so they’re fine, and it’s just a matter of putting the stack of boxes into a room. No sorting, taping, labeling, nothing. Just move and move.

I’m open to reporters or students or studying archivists to come to the event – they can look through a few things to see examples of the materials, and hopefully lend a hand? Just a few boxes. That’s all I ask.

If you can’t make it, and want to help, paypal would really help. It’s jason@textfiles.com and the costs have been rather tough on me, personally. (Although folks have been helping a lot, let’s make that very clear.) The three storage units were $1000/month, and doing this into April means that it’s going to be another $1000 that way, as well as the $900 paid for the new space for six months (which is very good!) and renting a pallet jack and staying in a hotel near it all, and driving 500 miles round trip to be there and…. you see what I mean.

But it would really help if people could make it out there this Saturday, early, so we can get this thing stable and not costing so much. It would really help a lot. Please contact me at jason@textfiles.com if you can do it or need to put someone into contact with me.

Thanks.

Let’s put this thing to bed.

 

 


The Manual Rescue: A High and Low Day —

Short form is that I thought I’d be out of all three storage units with the manuals and in the new space, but we only had four people show, so at best I drop to one storage unit and possibly two. Anybody able to help by coming to Westminster MD on the 29th would be appreciated; otherwise, you could paypal to jason@textfiles.com if you want to throw money at doing another month.

Today went well, but it probably could have gone better.

imageWe had a rented 26 foot truck with liftgate, a pallet jack, and a bunch of pallets. I got to the mall early, and we signed all the papers and the contract so that there is now a 1,300sq ft. space in the mall I have for 6 months. It all went very fast, and as I was shown where the pallet jack could move stacks of manual boxes and where they’d go, I was very happy indeed.

image

image

But.

We had a total of 5 people involved, not all of them all day, and as a result, we have bundled up one of the three storage units, but only got 9 of the 12 pallets of manual boxes out and on the truck and in the new space in one day. It’s just too much for such a small crowd. With luck, tomorrow, the other three will definitely get out of there and in the new home.

This is good! One storage unit down means no more $300/mo storage for that set. But if we can’t get rid of the other two units, that’s still piles and piles of material left to go, still being rented by the month.

I’ve already determined that getting all three will be impossible by tomorrow. It’s just not realistic. So I’m hopefully shooting for two of the three being empty, which will radically cut down the per-month cost of storing these. (The price on the mall storage is very, very low, which makes me happy.)

imageimageI had a meeting with Brewster at the Internet Archive about storing the manuals that are not HP and Tektronix (those are very common). He agreed! All the non-HP/Tektronix manuals have a home! I will have to deal with scanning and storage, but that will happen.

But meanwhile, it is costing $1000/month in the current location and about a tenth of that in the new. It’s really important to get as much over to the new location. That’s why a truck was rented, pallets acquired, and incredibly involved moving work was being done.

img_20160328_163149.jpg

This was not pleasant work, to be sure – heavy sets of pallets of boxes plastic-wrapped into towers of documents and loaded on a lift gate. We had to be very careful with them, which took quite a bit of time to get right. Eric and I were there all day, Matt was there a bunch of the day, and Elaine and her son helped. But that’s all we got.

It’s a Monday. Not everyone has a flexible schedule, obviously. And of course the worst that happens is that I or someone who helps me pays a little more money to keep the manuals somewhere for a month. That’s definitely not as compelling as them being thrown into a dumpster. So it just wasn’t possible to rile up the Corps to come.

imageTomorrow, pretty sore from today’s work, I’ll do my best from about the middle morning until the late afternoon to move as much of these things as possible, with whoever can show up. It’s what I do, it’s what has to be done.

Do I despair? Oh, sure I despair. It’s a lot of work to save some very old manuals, and when money gets spent this way instead of many other ways, it can feel like bad priority. I definitely feel that once in a while.

But I also know that once these items are in a safe place, and they begin becoming reference material and digital material, a whole host of information and culture will become available again that in no way is guaranteed to have otherwise survived. A lot is out there, of course… this is just one pile. But it’s a pretty big pile.

I’ve learned a ton overseeing this project. I definitely will come into others with wider eyes and background. There’s a bunch of stuff I’d do differently. And I know that spending a whole day doing this is not ultimately what I’d always be preferring to do.

But I’m in this. I’m big on follow-through. Follow-through will happen.

Since I am positive the third unit will not be emptying, I’m going to have to pay for it – and if people want to send money via paypal (jason@textfiles.com) noting it’s for that, it’ll help a lot. And it would be great if people came tomorrow – but I can’t count on it, not on a Tuesday.

But maybe soon I’ll arrange this for a weekend, and we can have more people involved as the boxes are sorted for final ship to the multiple homes I’m now negotiating for them to have. We can have a nice Saturday of it. We’ll picnic.

Until then, I’m going to go to bed and remember why I got into this all in the first place – because I refused to sit still and throw up my hands. And so much more is to come.

image


The 2005 Podcast Core Sample —

A little over 10 years ago, I had this notion.

It was that the Podcasts of the time, growing as they were, were really self-initiated sociology studies; that they would represent a whole range of folks and voices recording ideas and statements with the world extending before them. I also could tell they would often be fleeting and would likely disappear.

So I started to copy them.

This weblog has been around long enough that I can point to my thinking at the time:

This project went on for about a year, I’d say, and during that time it collected many, many mp3 files. I then burned them onto DVD-ROMs and stored the DVD-ROMs away, for “later”.

“Later” is now.

Uploads from all the DVD-ROMs found (so far) in my shipping container are now up on the Internet Archive, in the 2005 Podcast Core Sample. It’s 540 different shows, and about (roughly) 14,000 episodes split among them. I suspect the number will grow as I find more stored DVD-ROMs, but 14,000 should hold people for now.

It’s a wild, wooly and weird collection, to be sure.

It was not clear where Podcasts were going to go, back then. There’s some history of podcasts essays out there, and I won’t try to duplicate them – it’s the case that “make audio files available for people to listen to on a date-based basis” has tons of precursors before the term “podcasting” hits, and when “everybody” seems to be podcasting. General consensus is that 2004 is when it really takes off from non-insidery people, i.e. someone wants to talk about Hot Wheels or Wine and puts up a site RSS feed to let you hear the newest “episode”.

So, the machine I set up did the grabbing, constantly, from 2005 onward, and then, ultimately, the machine encountered issues and I stopped, having considered it a pretty successful project. I would have liked to have grabbed even more, of course, but I was doing a lot of grabbing on spec at the time and I had no idea what if any would hold attention going forward.

So, with the collection now up on the Internet Archive, it’s all accessible, at once, again. I idly checked a few and some of the podcasts have gone on to continue to have episodes, while others, as expected, have been crunched under and lost in the decay of time.

I’m just glad they’re off DVD-ROMs and that a mere 10 years later, people who study or want to understand early Podcasting have another collection from which to draw.

 

 


5 Years at the Internet Archive: The Party —

5th

UPDATE: The Party happened, and was well attended (dozens of people), the band was great, and we scanned a bunch of heads. Thanks to everyone who showed up, and here’s to five more years!

I’ve been at the Internet Archive for five years as of this month. I am sure I will write some very long, very large essay on here about all the ramifications of that, but for now, I think it’s a party that’s called for. A nice big party.

Sorry for the short notice, but if you’re in San Francisco, this Friday, March the 18th… I’d like to invite you to a party at Codeword, jwz’s newest club. The doors open at 8pm, the drinks are not free but admission is. I’ll be there all night, happy to talk with everyone and ready to dance.

Codeword is located at 917 Folsom at 5th Street, San Francisco.

If you can read this, you are invited.

Again, sorry for the short lead time, but arranging events has always been something I’m always doing on the spur of the moment.

Update: I’ve booked the Cantina Band to play live at the party!

See you there!


The Historical Laundry Conundrum (Find a Home for Shirts) —

Here’s a ponderable.

About 5 and a half years ago, I took delivery of a bunch of shirts from Randal Schwartz, he of Perl fame. The reason for this (as explained in that entry), was that he was doing a major cleanup of life and he wanted to donate them to charity, and I happened to see his “look at all these damn shirts” photo and offered to take them. He agreed.

A few years later, I took a small number of these shirts and photographed them. The collection is now sitting at the Internet Archive. Here is a link to it.

Fast forward to now. I’m in the middle of finally giving away some of the dragon hoard to proper institutions and locations that should have them, now that value is recognized, and that’s been going well – well over a thousand pounds of material have left my shipping container out back.

Now we’re back to the remaining shirts.

So here’s the situation.

20160229_22532720160229_22533320160229_225321

Current I have what can honestly be called “a whole heck of a lot of shirts”. They’ve been laundered and folded by a service. They’ve been taking up space in the cube for years, and it’s time for them to achieve some sort of conclusion.

I’ve begun photographing the remaining shirts, intending to have a pretty solid photograph of each one’s design, so the designs have a life beyond these shirts. Old cartoons, logos, events, and other information will exist on in a digital form to allow people to see them, refer to them, and so on.

But the shirts themselves.

I’ve tried a half-dozen locations, including the Living Computer Museum, Computer History Museum, and elsewhere, and nobody particularly wants the shirts. Everybody thanks me for asking, but they’re not overly interested. (My friends at the Strong Museum of Play will want anything with games, but there’s not really any game shirts here.)

schwartzshirts00unse_0026schwartzshirts00unse_0006

So, here’s the deal.

I’m going to photograph all these shirts across the coming days and maybe weeks, going through about 1,200 of them to get their images saved and uploaded. After that, if I am unable to have someone find me a home for them, they’re going to charities, which was their original goal.

If you know an organization that wants them, get in touch with them and ask. Don’t just dump a pile of names on me – I’ve already done that. I’m looking for a place that wants technology t-shirts, 99% of them never worn, all laundered, all ready to go to a home, or to the donation bins down the road.

Act fast.

schwartzshirts00unse_0075

So, on one level, there are people who think I would keep these items, forever and ever, unchanging, never letting the physical objects go away. I appreciate that reputation, but it’s not earned. I mostly keep things that I think need homes and that people either don’t have homes ready, or the world isn’t ready for.

In the case of these shirts, I was mostly concerned that the designs and information on the shirts would be lost – the graphics, the proof something happened, the logo and mottoes that have been buried by time and would otherwise be hard to find. People who want to make new shirts based on these designs would be drawing off the photographs anyway – making new shirts is extremely easy in the modern era, as are drawing graphics based on a provided image to trace over. I’m not worried that the information within them will be lost.

You start to run into harder use cases for the shirts as a whole – perhaps some production company wants vintage shirts for a scene taking place in the 1990s (but they’d just make new ones, frankly, and browse the web for design ideas). Maybe some of the groups within these piles would love old shirts again (but the matching of shirts to willing people who used to have these shirts is diabolically difficult). And, I thought, a computer museum or technology museum might want these materials, but they really don’t seem to.

But I have done my best, and I will be dedicating hours to this material being digitized and put online, so I’m doing what I can, and more than the original destiny of these shirts.

I’m interested in the debate about such things. Naturally the world is full of cases of people saying “If only I had glass marbles” and someone else going “what do I do with all these goddamn marbles”. This may be another one of those. Maybe the heretofore-unknown 100-year old Museum of Old Shirts is going to ask me about these in 3 years. But that’s the froth and weirdness of life. I’ve done my best. Everything else is gravy.

But let me know.

 


The Emularity Sounds Better —

The Emularity, which is the name for the emulation loader framework that the Internet Archive uses, has gotten a notable upgrade in sound performance.

While hanging around in the IRC channel, a relative newcomer, Grant Galitz/Taisel, mentioned doing lots of optimization work with sound on his own project, IodineGBA. I asked him to take a quick look at how JSMESS/Emularity did sound loading, and he suggested a few quick optimizations.

They worked handily.

All JSMESS-emulated operating systems on the Archive are now “better”. Better is, of course, relative. If your system is slow, we made it slightly better. If your system was fast, then little crackles are now gone. You’re probably somewhere in between.

Here’s one to test with: Jumpman, a truly amazing classic released by Epyx.

screenshot_01

It’s a beautiful classic, and the opening song is very charming. The only problem is that it previously sounded terrible, everywhere. Now it sounds pretty good, in a lot of places. (Bear in mind that all Atari 800 programs make that razzing noise at the beginning, as it reads off the “floppy drive”.)

Works best on Firefox. Likes heavy hardware capabilities. Is better than yesterday, worse than tomorrow.

What was nice about this, particularly, is that we made one change to the loader code and suddenly 25,000 items just sounded “better”. That’s the kind of easy upgrade I like to see.

Sound is a very big deal. When it’s not quite up to snuff, people really feel it deep. As time goes on, it’ll improve. Until then, try rediscovering some of the programs up on the Archive and see how much better the sound is.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Reboot Continues —

This one comes pre-formed without the ability to comment!

In late 2015, with my weight hitting a bothersome 245-250 and no end in sight, and with concerns about how much “stuff” is in my office and storage cube, I set off to shed both pounds and the additional stored items.

Since then, and as of February first, I’m at roughly 230 pounds. I’ve also shed 1,000 pounds (!) of materials I had stored in my office and cube. Neither of these trends is intended to stop.

In December, I stopped eating anything with sugar or significant carbohydrates. In early January, I stopped drinking anything with any sweetener (natural or otherwise), stopped taking in Caffeine of any sort, and stopped any non-natural flavoring. Basically, it’s been water and seltzer for over a month, nothing else.

The 230 weight is a bit of a wall, so I’ll be increasing activity (I have more energy anyway) and applying some level of portion control.

My goal is to hit 195, which would make me 10 pounds less than I was when I was 20 years old. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m mentioning all this mostly as a marker in time. I’ve focused the same obsessive approach I do in everything else to my health, and while weight is but one measurement of health, it’s a sign of paying attention to important things. I have intention of being around a significant amount of time.

Updates once a month.

 


The Secret Feature of EM-DOSBOX on Internet Archive —

There’s been a secret feature on the DOS-related emulated programs on the Internet Archive. It’s been there for over a half a year now. I’ll explain what it is and why I didn’t trumpet it.

Internet Archive made thousands of games available on MS-DOS last year, it got an awful lot of press, and it got an incredible amount of visitors – well into the millions. Through the year of 2015, certain games got more attention than others, and many more got a few ardent fans, but most importantly, emulated programs bounced into the general populace in ways they hadn’t before.

Emulation was and is used by many, many people, both intentionally (by running Emulators they’ve downloaded) and unintentionally (using a lot of applications and systems that have little tiny emulators in them to run certain programs with little change). But we’ve not had as many people who are shown a program that runs in a window and then told “Just use it, it’s an emulator, we’ll work out the details.” They know or they don’t know much about the emulation system beneath it, but the knowledge is heavily optional.

It’s worked in droves – as the millions hit, many of them made use of the system for however they pleased, in the same way people use books for however they please.

But along with this explosion of use came an unexpected (except in retrospect) situation – people were unhappy they would lose their saved games.

They were unhappy they would lose their saved games!

To people who know exactly what’s going on (this is a Javascript application running an emulation of a system inside of a browser window), the sadness is understandable but also laughable as a solution set. Of course you can’t save your games! They’re not some actual thing playing on your operating system. They live inside a window. You might as well be sad you can’t crane your head to one side of a video playing and see what’s behind the left border of the player window.

But we got a lot of complaints about it.

So we fixed it.

Through the work of multiple people, including John Vilk, DFJustin, bai, db48x, and other contributions, the BrowserFS extension that JSMESS/Emularity uses can maintain filesystems across sessions, in the LocalStorage API.

It’s been doing this for six months.

Complaints about saved games have dropped to zero.

Every day, dozens (occasionally hundreds) of people are playing long-term role-playing games or ongoing arcade games and shooters, saving off their games where the system provides that as an option, and they they come back later and pick up where they get off. It just works.

Want to try it out? Here’s a nice weird one. Using VEDIT, a rather obscure DOS-based text editor from 1992, made by Greenview, Data, Inc. It’s the demo version of the word processing program, but that’ll be fine enough.

If you go to the page for the program, you’ll be able to boot the emulator.

Within it, you press any key to get to the editing window, enter anything you want, and then press F10, which will give you a glorious retro drop-down text menu. From there, you can save whatever you type into a file. (Or, you can press ALT-S and ALT-Q, which is the same thing.)

You have now saved a copy of the file away on the virtual filesystem of the emulated program.

You can now close the browser window, or close the browser entirely. You can reboot. But as long as you come back to the same machine, and the same browser, the file you wrote will come back.

Why not announce it?

Well, for one thing, it’s slightly confusing. Right now it only works on our EM-DOSBOX emulations, because the way that MAME/MESS handles filesystems is notably different (although who knows, we might come up with a solution in the future).

Another is that there’s no quality check, per se. The BrowserFS plugin has plenty of testing, but this whole environment is off the wall. We’ve done as much testing as we can, from a lot of different approaches, but I don’t believe in announcing this feature as a guarantee. You might still lose your games. You might have a blocker, run in private mode, or clear out cookies using some way you don’t know. Poof goes the saved data.

But I’m mentioning it, primarily, for one reason: There are still people who think Emulation is not a solution, or think it’s not ready, or think there’s some other magical, scalable, universal solution to having people interact with this old data.

No.

There isn’t.

And people playing endless games and programs all throughout the world for half a year, without giving one thought to the fact they’re saving their games “somewhere” and coming back to play later, is a very large army of proof.