Post written by: Cynde Moya, Software Preservation Lab Manager, FCoP Project Lead
Living Computers: Museum + Labs (LCM+L) joined the Fostering a Community of Practice: Software Preservation cohort for the opportunity to test the Scaling Emulation-as-a-Service Infrastructure (EaaSI) tool in our museum setting. LCM+L’s original project goal was to integrate a few of our in-house emulators into the EaaSI framework. These emulators include:
Klaus Rechert and his team of programmers were able to integrate ContrAlto with the EaaS tool and see it working on their internal servers. However, after several rounds of tests, we determined that the EaaSI tool is currently too slow to render ContrAlto over regular internet speeds. See the YouTube video below depicting the ContrAltro with no optimization.
Fortunately, Klaus worked with us to add emulators from the later Middle Ages of computing. The EaaS sandbox we are working in now has emulators for the Commodore 64, the IBM 5150, DOS 6.20, Windows 3.11, and Windows 98. These emulators have proven very useful in testing disk images that we make at LCM+L, and using those emulations to demonstrate items from our collection. See the YouTube video below of an emulated environment in EaaSI featuring StorySpace running in Windows ’98.
Our catalog has nearly 10,000 catalogued software items, many in unusual formats like DECtape, punched paper tape, and diskettes. We use specialized controlled vocabularies developed in-house for browsable items such as material type (for example the realia is divided into categories like Computers/CPU, Keyboards, and Printed circuit boards; File types such as Music software, Operating systems, and Spreadsheets; and Platforms like Apple II, IBM 7090, and PDP-10. So we can refine a search to find, say, all 5.25 inch disk games for the IBM PCjr, and know whether we have a PCjr in the collection. You can search our catalog here.
Part of our FCoP project is to improve the descriptive and preservation metadata as we make digital images of software for use in our various emulators. Working with the EaaSI project has provided concrete examples for what information is useful to collect, what might be extraneous, and what is important to plan for as we continue to make metadata records. One goal of using EaaSI at LCM+L is to make the emulated environments available through a catalog system, such that users do not have to each do the detailed technical work of installing an emulator on their own computer system. Instead, that work is taken care of by the emulation service, leaving the user to focus on the experience of exploring the software and operating systems. Our work with FCoP has made LCM+L more prepared to achieve this ambitious goal.
LCM+L plans to install an instance of the EaaSI internally, and hopefully link up with the other nodes coming online in academic institutions. In this way, we can share our resources from the Middle Ages of computing with the larger network of emulated environments running interesting vintage software and operating systems. This is just one small part of the mission of LCM+L. Sharing the preservation and emulation of hardware and software is what we do at LCM+L. Our talented staff, — engineering, archives, education, curation, guest services, and the rest, are all committed to keeping this equipment and software running for public use. We have many workflows in place that demonstrate our unique capabilities to present and interpret vintage software, applications, and operating systems.