National Videogame Archive - Game Preservation & Public Access Solutions

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National Videogame Archive - Game Preservation & Public Access Solutions

Detailed description

Data Extraction

It is extremely important that this is done as soon as possible. Media degrades over time (bit rot, etc.), so the longer the wait, the higher the chances of failure when reading the original data.
Note: this is one way to prove old software is 'near death'; getting the data off the media may be difficult due to the unavailability of drives, or the inability to connect these to current systems.

Possible solutions:

  • Kryoflux: A highly precise (using "magnetic flux transition timing") USB-compatible device to read data from 3.5" / 5.25" disks. Ideal for creating images that contain copyright protections schemes (e.g. relying on bad sectors, etc.) for use by researches. Listed at €109.95 for the hardware, but for commercial institutes the price of the image reading software, not listed on website, may be quite high (the Dutch Library was quoted in the thousands of euros), although a special price may be negotiated for "research" purposes (e.g. several hundred euros). YMMV
  • FC5025: a simpler USB device to read 5.25" disks. May not read as low level as Kryoflux or be able to read copyrighted disks, but should provide images for repay/emulation value. Listed at US$55.25.

For large collections, creating disk images can be labor-intensive, e.g. up to 15 minutes per disk. Not aware of any reliable multi-disk reading stations.


Metadata: you want as much information as possible (of course!), but at a minimum enough to deduce the required 'environment' (stack of hardware/operating system/application/file type, e.g. rendering a PDF requires x86/Windows XP/Adobe PDF). A lot of videogame metadata is already available online, see for example Moby Games, Home of the Underdogs. For more general metadata regarding file formats, software, etc, there is PRONOM, UDFR.

Indispensable is also the historical context, such as input (controllers, specific keyboards), manuals (including copyright protection keys), specific instructions (such as the WordPerfect Fx commands, OS commands to start games/applicatsions).

Relevant software components of the environment stack (OSes such as DOS, Windows, Mac; applications such as PDF readers, Office suites, supporting drivers for video/sounds cards) will also need to be archived, and might be of interest by themselves.

TBD: Set up networked, backed up digital storage drive - similar to BR-RPS. Produce audit of digital files. Work with ICT and procure storage - £2000 for 1tb, can grow over time. How will this be funded?

TBD: Link data to MIMSY - work with ICT/CCI staff to add new fields within the cataloguing software to hyperlink/reference digital files and supporting materials.


At the time of writing (20-09-2012), the following emulators where known to provide reliable rendering of images. Note that this list only contains open source emulators (unless noted); there may also be good proprietary emulators available.

Platform Emulator Further infomation
The de facto x86 emulator. Can also emulate other platforms, but is used mainly for x86. Configurable via command line. No shared folders. Comes with useful converter tool for system images (qemu-img).
Hatari Offers shared folders to host system
Commodore 64 VICE  
Commodore Amiga
The Windows version (WinUAE, v. 2.4.1) is far more stable/advanced than the Linux version (E-UAE, v. 0.8.29), although they seem to come from the same code base
Amstrad CPC JavaCPC  
BBC Micro BeebEm Very responsive developer, who was quick to bugfix/implement requests
Sega Megadrive Gens/GS Quickly tested with Sonic, and seems a good emulator, multiple platforms available.
Atari 2600
Tested with Combat (which works), but unable to run Pong! (but this may be an issue with the image)
Thomson T07
bnftowin (proprietary)
Popular (French) computer platform from the 1980s, similar to the BBC Micro
Mattel Intellivision
Super Nintendo (SNES)    
Nintendo 64    
Sega MasterSystem    
Sega GameGear    
Sega Dreamcast    
Nintendo GameBoy    
Nintendo Game & Watch    
Dragon 32    
Atari 400/800    
Acorn Electron/Atom 6502EM
Emulator costs £10-£15
Magnavox Odyssey    
Magnavox Odyssey 2    
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)    
Nintendo GameCube    
Sony PlayStation    
Sony PlayStation 2    
Microsoft Xbox    
MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) MAME Powerful; supports many platforms. Quite fiddly to set up (requires specific image file name and files with specific hashes). Tested and works successfully with many games. Some games require additional files that need to be organised properly for game to run.

Non-hardware emulators (these require an operating system, such as Windows/Linux to run):

Guest Emulator Further infomation
MS-DOS / Windows 3.11
DOSBOX Built-in DOS with relevant drivers. Uses the host filesystem to run out of. Makes it easy to pre-configure the target software
SCUMM / other games
SCUMMvm Multi-platform, application level emulator for Lucas Arts and similar games

The Emulation Framework, part of the EU-funded KEEP project, provides a platform-independent front-end to several of these emulators (Dioscuri, Qemu, VICE, UAE, BeebEm, JavaCPC, Thomson), including file identification, automated configuration of emulators and setting up of the emulation environment. It is freely available, open-source.

TBD: Develop dedicated visitor friendly emulation archives with individual control mechanisms for different platforms/games

Solution Champion

Bram Lohman, Dirk von Suchodoletz Tom Woolley

Corresponding Issue(s)

National Videogame Archive Dataset
National Videogame Archive - issues with preserving games for public display

Any notes or links on how the solution performed.

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