If you thought it was madness to run Windows 95 inside a DOS emulator on an Android Wear smartwatch, then the following could blow your mind.
Jason Scott, a digital archivist working with the Internet Archive, reported on his blog earlier today that one of his colleagues, James Baicoianu, had managed to get Windows 3.11 running inside a DOS emulator running in a modern web browser.
That's an impressive accomplishment, but he wasn't satisfied with just getting an early 90sera OS running inside a web browser. No, Baicoianu wanted to let it communicate with the outside world:
That took him about 3 days.
You're looking at Netscape 1.0n, an app released in December 1994, running inside Windows 3.11, which was itself released in August 1993. Both the app and the OS are running in an emulator which is inside of Google Chrome 39 on a six year old on a Windows 7 PC.
And it's connected to Jason Scott's website, textfiles.com.
Unfortunately, there's very little that you can do with such an old web browser. Web protocols have changed significantly over the intervening two decades, and Scott reports that almost every website he connected to was inaccessible.
But Scott is hoping to change that, and he sounded thrilled with how much success he had had in such a short period of time.
It took about three weeks after I decided we needed to go with EM-DOSBOX in addition to JSMESS to work with DOS programs, that we had it up on the archive.org site and going out to millions. It has taken two weeks after that for this situation to arrive.
Contrast with how it took poor Justin De Vesine, working hard with Justin Kerk and a host of other contributors, eight months to get JSMESS’s first machine (a colecovision) to run at 14% normal speed inside a browser, for one cartridge.
The Internet Archive has long been working on
We are rapidly approaching an era where any surviving software will be playable on a sufficiently powerful desktop computer - just so long as you can read the storage medium (for example, a hard disk from a 1970s Cray super computer).
Do you have a favorite computer or video game from your childhood? It can now be resurrected in all its 8-bit glory (and probably already has been resurrected).
Now more than ever, saving old electronic files - as well as the documentation - can help recover valuable apps which had been lost to time.
The early history of film is patchy at best due to the loss of key works, and even Doctor Who is missing numerous early episodes as a result of ill-conceived archival policies.
With luck, software will never suffer that fate.