Stanford University Libraries and NIST Utilize Digital Forensics to “Rescue” Retro Video Games and Software
Starting in the mid-1980s, a young man named Stephen Cabrinety filled his home with video games and software. Unopened boxes were piled to the ceilings—everything from early word processing programs such as WordStar to vintage releases of Pong, Doom and SimCity. Although at the time some might have thought he suffered a peculiar obsession, today the Cabrinety collection is considered a priceless snapshot of our culture—one captured just as the digital tsunami that would forever change our civilization was hitting our shores.
Cabrinety did not live to see what would become of his efforts—he died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1995 at the age of 29—but his collection has achieved a sort of digital immortality. The Stanford University Libraries, which acquired the collection in 2009, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have just completed a multi-year effort to rescue the collection’s digital content from the Atari game cartridges, 5-1/4 inch floppy discs, magnetic tape and other deteriorating storage media that held it. That salvaged data is now safely archived on servers at the Stanford Digital Repository and has been added to NIST’s National Software Reference Library, a resource that supports digital forensic investigations.
The Cabrinety collection includes some 25,000 software and video game titles, as well as the original box covers and other period artwork they shipped with. The collection also includes game consoles, magnetic tape readers, bulky hard drives, and other relics of the era.
This collection has obvious appeal for retro gamers, but its value is much more than nostalgic.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.