Add-In Memories

These days gamers have to deal with issues like DRM, lack of support for backwards-compatibility, always-on connection requirements, and next generation consoles like the Xbox One debuting with a name to make catalogers weep. (Seriously, what are we supposed to call the first Xbox now?) Oh, and I suppose there is also a controversy about how it seems like it won’t support used games. But let’s not talk about today’s woes, when we can dig into the past of the Cabrinety collection, a time when manufacturers cared so much about the consumer, that they included toys and treats in the packaging, for free.

In no particular order, here are eight images of titles from the Cabrinety collection that came with a surprise inside.

1. The Lurking Horror: Rubber insect

A rubber insect was loose in the package, ready to horrify unsuspecting gamers with its rubbery creepiness. Instead, it horrified me with its seeping grossness. It leaked its fluids enough to stain the label on the disc.  Lurking horror indeed.

Is It Archive Safe?: Sort of – the insect and the media are now inside inert bags so they don’t damage each other or the other items in the game package.

Game Developer’s Conference 2013: What’s Past is Prologue


This year’s Game Developers Conference featured a rage poetry reading (courtesy of Anna Anthropy), two (!) video game museum exhibits, revelations from the developers of the classic games Myst and X-Com: UFO Defense on the trials and tribulations they faced while forging their creations using arcane tools such as HyperCard, and a session called “Caring About Chrono Trigger” which showcased how the work involved in the preservation of video games is now a common interest and responsibility spread across multiple industries.

Since this was my first time attending GDC, I didn’t have a specific agenda and was free to wander the halls and attend diverse sessions at whim. Here are some photos from the show floor and short recaps of the sessions I attended. I apologize in advance for the terrible quality of some of these photos, which I took with the iPhone model circa obsolete.

Video Game Museum Exhibits

1) The Museum of Art & Digital Entertainment


Preserving Video Game History, One Byte at a Time

After a long hiatus, some personnel changes, and the launch of an ambitious cross-country collaboration between the Stanford University Libraries and the National Institute of Standards and Technoglogy, the spotlight on the Stephen M. Cabrinety Collection in the History of Microcomputing, 1975-1995 returns!

I first read about the Cabrinety collection on the HTGG blog, back when Eric Kaltman was generating content on a more regular basis. I was still in library school at UCLA, embarking on a second career (in my previous life I wrote strategy guides and columns for Tips & Tricks Magazine), and daydreaming about places to work that might need someone with my odd mix of experience, interests, and credentials. I feel very fortunate that I now have the opportunity to work directly with an archival collection that sparked my interest so many years ago. They’re letting take me take the shrinkwrap off titles that haven’t seen the light of day in 30 years? It’s like opening a present – many presents –every single day.

For more information on the collaborative project, check the sites below:

Stanford Libraries preserves historical software collection with Federal Agency

Two-year project will image one of the largest pristine historical collections of microcomputing software in the world for historical and cultural research.
Read the full article here.

GameCity 2012 and game preservation

I will be on the program of this year's GameCity festival in Nottingham, England.  I will have a couple of chances to talk about PVW/PVW2 and will be having conversations with James Newman, Iain Simons and some other people at NTU (Nottingham Trent University, where the UK National Videogame Archive is located) about projects.
The two public events for me are:

Monday, 9am.  GameCity Breakfast talk. "You're All Going to Die." This is a panel with James, me, and Stella Wisdom of the British Library.  I expect that one theme will be the link between web archiving and game preservation.

Monday, 2.30pm. "Before It's Too Late: The National Videogame Archive Four Years On."  This is a "keynote" with James giving the main talk about the NVA, and I will respond.   Yes, the title has a familiar ring, and I'm sure that's intentional.

Tips for Nottingham and the Midlands are welcome.

New Oral History released by Computer History Museum: Al Alcorn

The Computer History Museum has just released the oral history I conducted with Al Alcorn back in 2008. The transcript can be found here.  The two interviews (both about two hours long) were also videotaped, and I am sure CHM will be releasing clips from the interview for various purposes.
Here is a short excerpt to whet your appetite.  

"Lowood: You made a quick comment in there. Do you think Steve Jobs was influenced by Bushnell?
Alcorn:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Again, my personal belief-- remember, Steve was an adopted child, right.  And I don't think the relationship with his parents was that good, and and he was, what, 18, 19 years old?  To all of a sudden see this weird relationship between Nolan and myself, how the dynamics worked and how, you know, we already were known to be a pretty innovative company.  He came to us because it was clearly a fun place to work.  And then to see that process and the very nature of what happened with the Breakout story, you know, that Nolan would get him to go do this thing.  You heard the Breakout story. You know.   
Lowood:  Yes.   
Alcorn:  And not even tell me about it, you know, to get things done.  I mean, look at how things happened with the Macintosh and things at Apple later on, the same kind of thread, just flat out not taking no for an answer.  I think that Steve was affected by that [relationship with Bushnell.]  Yeah."

Stanford acquires archives of "Bay Area Video Arcades: Photographs by Ira Nowinski, 1981-1982."

The Stanford University Libraries have acquired the photographic archives of "Bay Area Video Arcades: Photographs by Ira Nowinski," 1981-1982."  The collection consists of approximately 650 35mm images, with contact sheets, as well as prints and digitized images for approximately 50 selected images. 

Ira Nowinski is an acclaimed documentary photographer who has created extraordinary photo essays in a variety of areas of recent history, including North Beach in San Francisco, the evacuation of elderly citizens in San Francisco's SOMA district, aspects of Southeast Asian, Jewish, and Native American culture, and an important photographic study of Holocaust Memorials.  

Ampex Model 200a installed in Green Library, Information Center

This photo was taken just after the installation of the restored (to working condition) Ampex Model 200a in the Stanford Library's Information Center, in Green Library. It stands alongside the VRX1000. These two machines are the highlights of the hardware portion of our Ampex historical collection, showing off key artifacts from the early history of audio and video recording, respectively. The gentleman standing next to the machine is Larry Miller, a former Ampex engineer who did a marvelous job of restoring the machine to near-pristine condition. Interestingly, Larry's father ran an electronics shop in the 1940s and probably produced a number of prototype components for this very piece of equipment.


Ampex Model 200a, Green Library, Information CenterAmpex Model 200a, Green Library, Information Center


Project Xanadu: Loss and Recovery

 The text below is from "Project Xanadu: Loss and Recovery," a side-bar I wrote for the AIMS (An Inter-Institutional Model for Stewardship) Project Final Report on the building of framework for archival processing of born-digital materials. The report was issued in Jan. 2012.  You can read about the project and get the final report here.
“What we're actually building at this point is only a part of Ted's original conception, though it's designed to be the first stepping stone to the whole thing.”
– Chris Hibbert, post to comp.multimedia newsgroup, 30 March 1992 (from file on XOR hard drive).
Ted Nelson’s Project Xanadu provided the original vision of hypertext as a system for document management, publication, linking and citation. Begun in 1960, the project to build Xanadu continued well into the 1990s. From 1989 to 1992, Autodesk funded Nelson’s Xanadu Operating Company (XOC) to complete software development. However, when a new group of programmers primarily from Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) joined the group in 1991, they abandoned the earlier version of Xanadu written largely by Roger Gregory and began a new version rewritten from scratch in PARC’s new programming language, Smalltalk. This forking of the project eventually led to the collapse of the Autodesk-funded effort. Keith Henson, an XOC investor, encouraged the Palo Alto-startup, Memex to pick up the project In 1994. Memex licensed Xanadu from XOC and brought the Xanada project to its office space on California Avenue. Before long, however, the arrangement collapsed. The team disintegrated, with Nelson and Gregory regaining control of Xanada, which would finally be released as the open-source Udanax system in 1999.

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