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NIST and Stanford University Have Finished Preserving The Cabrinety Collection

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 09:35AM

The name Stephen Cabrinety might not be one you recognize, but there is a chance you have heard about something he did before his death in 1995. He collected various pieces of software starting in the 1980s and this collection eventually grew to contain some 25,000 pieces of software and video games, even in their original packaging, and many pieces of hardware from the time, including the appropriate readers and consoles. In 2009 the Stanford University Libraries obtained the collection and it has been working with NIST to preserve it, only recently finishing the work that included reading floppy disks and audio cassette tapes.

While the nostalgia factor is obvious, this preservation work has been done for a different reason than enjoying classic games and using old software. There are several institutions that exist for collecting and archiving the different media cultures create, such as the Library of Congress that keeps a copy of every published work. The concept goes back to ancient times with the Library of Alexandria, but there is no single repository for software. The National Software Reference Library (NSRL), created and maintained by NIST, comes close, though it has a rather different purpose, and now the complete Cabrinety collection has been added to it. Currently the programs cannot be loaded up and used, as the data has only just been added, but the Stanford team wants to build systems so this will be possible in the future.

For those who are curious, the NRSL is actually for forensic investigations. The software it has archived has all had a digital fingerprint created for it, so when computers or other devices have been taken as evidence, these fingerprints can be used to quickly filter out what information may be important. For example, after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 the hashes for every flight simulator was requested, so that the FBI could discover the flight paths the pilot had practiced on.

Source: NIST

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