We all know museums as those places full of old, fascinating relics which you can only look at and read up on, but not touch. They are a great way of storing precious information from the past and passing it to the future generation. But what about software? After all, computers are still new, compared to other major inventions. Is there a place where software is stored for future generations?
Of course there is. There’s a reason why people consider that once a picture is uploaded on the Internet, it’s there forever, and that works for software too. Besides official sites and efforts to store data online, there’s also another huge community contributing to the cause, but unwillingly: pirates. Every day, the newest video games and TV show episodes are being uploaded to big torrent sites, which will stay there for a long while, or until they’re taken down due to legal reasons. While this may sound short-term, it also helps, as gamers, for instance, are able to download games that may no longer be available for sale.
But let’s cut to the chase: you’re here because of the “online museums” mentioned in the title. They are the perfect medium for preserving software, as they’re easily accessible for free by anyone with an Internet connection. However, the best thing about them is that unlike normal museums, where you’re not allowed to touch anything at all, here you get to actually fiddle with the software and contents, as you can even download them!
The most popular online “museums” are run by a site called archive.org, which has a wide range of old things, from virtual formats of books to the recently added museum of malware.
The first and most used one is their WayBack Machine, which allows you to easily see old versions of websites, if they were ever archived. This way, you can see the Google homepage before it became well-known, or the NASA website from 1996. Simply type the address of the website you want, and if it has previous versions saved, it will show you a calendar. Click on a date, and you’re off!
However, there are some extremely interesting collections, available right in your browser, for your enjoyment. One such collection is the popular Internet Arcade, which allows you to play classic arcade games from the comfort of your browser. If you aren’t a fan of arcade games, or simply don’t like the available selection, then you should also check out the MS-DOS game library, which features popular games such as Wolfenstein 3D or Prince of Persia emulated in your browser.
Another interesting, recent addition to archive.org is The Malware Museum, a collection made by Mikko Hypponen which lets you infect a virtual machine (emulated in your browser) with the virus of your choice. These viruses aren’t modern ones, but the ones distributed in the 80’s and 90’s, which were often extremely creative.