Apr 24, 2012

Video Game Archaeology

I dabble in archaeology and I play video games so consider my nerdsplosion when I recently read an  article in Wired about Jordan Mechner, one of the original developers of a classic game from way back in 1985, Prince of Persia.  The source code for the game had been lost, so the game was essentially gone forever until
When he was working on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in 2002, the new game’s programmers wanted to add Mechner’s classic to their PlayStation 2 update as an Easter Egg, and asked if he had the source code.
No problem, Mechner thought. I saved everything.
The finished Apple II game was easy to find on the internet, but the source code — the original program that Mechner had written himself on his old Apple II — was nowhere to be found. Mechner looked everywhere, asked anyone who might have ever had their hands on it, to no avail.
A decade later, Mechner’s dad sent him a box of old stuff that was buried in one of his closets. There, stuck in between in piles of still-shrinkwrapped European editions of Prince of Persia and covered in dust, were floppy disks that read: “PRINCE OF PERSIA Source Code (Apple). ©1989 Jordan Mechner (ORIGINAL).”
Disks: found. But what about the data?
This is where Jason Scott comes in to rescue the the data.  Jason works for the Internet Archive (home of the Wayback Machine the one where you can see what Facebook looked like in the 90's) and carries a KryoFlux disk reader, a tool that makes an image of old magnetically stored data.  Also enter Tony Diaz a vintage computer collector.  He can strip an Apple II floppy drive and refurbish it in under an hour. Did they save Prince of Persia from the nether? Yep and it's on the web and hopefully there will be more chances for white actors to play Iranians in mediocre movies (Yes, I'm talking to you Jake Gyllenhaal). OK so it's not exactly archaeology, but close enough.
Source Wired

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