IT from the past — how are “digital archaeologists”

Drawings of long-forgotten processors, initial codes of programs or games legendary, unknown works of art – all these rarities today quickly become costly Antiques. So, like any other Antiques, it is possible to earn.

We live in an age where information is practically unable to get lost – as once digitized, the data will always remain in electronic form. But the standards and formats change, storage media have a limited life or simply become obsolete. Together with them “obsolete” and sent to the shelves of the pearl of great data.

“Digital archaeologists” in the world so far, the unit, and as complicated as that of the seekers of antiquities. Only one ton of earth dug up, and others shuffling a lot of data. If someone bought at auction an ancient Apple I computer and digital artifacts is the demand.

“Processor Terminator”

What is lost in the vast Network; for example, the drawing processor MOS 6502 in the mid – 80s of the twentieth century he was the most popular processor in the world due to the low prices and incredibly high for the time of performance. At the time of its appearance, it was worth $25 — this is 4-5 times cheaper than competitors like the Intel 8080 and Motorola 6800. All, I mean who saw the movie “the Terminator”, will remember one of the first scenes: with a view “from eyes” of a cyborg. Running there lines of code is the MOS 6502 assembler. After the release of the processor from use of his drawings disappeared, since the MOS 6502 was created by a pencil on Whatman paper.

The restoration drawings have attended three American “digital archaeologists” – Greg James, Barry Silverman and Brian Silverman. A digital copy of the MOS 6502 might be the analogue sources on HDL and used for simulation. The researchers chose the most difficult way is reverse engineering. Melt a phosphoric acid packing of the chip, they took a picture of the chip under a microscope and got about 200 Photos. Their glued — and got a digital copy of a resolution of IC 342 MP.

The autopsy, Photographing and creating the simulator of the CPU took about half a year – from November 2009 to may 2010. Since then, the developers managed to add a simulator of the Motorola 6800 and want to continue working with technology to expand its collection.

“Prince Of Persia”

Established in 1989, the game “Prince of Persia” today is deservedly considered a classic – the adventures of Prince, which is selected from the dungeons of the Palace to save his beloved is not seen, perhaps, just lazy. For a long time the source code of this blockbuster game was considered lost developer Jordan mehner and he didn’t know where it hit.

During the preparation of the continuation of the game “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” for the PlayStation 2 developers Studio Ubisoft decided to embed it as an “Easter egg” the ability to run the original game. The idea was supported by Mehner and eagerly rummaged through all the boxes with your old floppy disks that were never ejected. However, it was waited by failure – the floppy disk with the source disappeared.

Codes found only in 2012 . when the developer suddenly father called his son and announced that he had found a box with some old floppies. Mehner Jr. took digital treasures – among other things in the box and find a floppy disk labeled “Prince of Persia, source code, 1989”. There was one small question: in the modern world at all to do with the old five inch floppy disk? Mehner turned to “digital archaeologist” is a fan of old computers, which gave him a few good systems. The source code was extracted, copied to the hard drive and published on the web. The famous developer decided that the favorite game of millions must no longer be lost.

The Legacy Of Andy Warhol

Another interesting story related to the lost paintings of Andy Warhol . At the time, he was a pioneer in the use of digital technologies in art. In the mid-eighties Warhol was actively buying the available computers and used them graphics capabilities in their work. At some stage, some pieces were lost – by the time the name Andy Warhol has brought six figures. Before 2004, he lost – and, hence, more desirable – digital paintings have been inaccessible to the public.

In 2004 in one of the USA archives has digitized a regular old VHS tape. It was Recording the presentation of the new Amiga computer, which was invited Warhol. Using a digital camera he took the Picture sitting in front of him Debbie Harry (singer of the group Blondie) and turned the Photo into a picture on the computer screen. By the time of digitizing previously unknown work of art worth more than $10 million Digital archaeologists rushed to find.

The disk was discovered in the Warhol Museum, among other personal belongings of the artist. Specialists on old computers got access to them and restored 28 files, among which such interesting titles as campbells.pic, botticelli.pic, marilyn1.pic and so on. Most of the data was restored and donated to the Museum. The financial side of this transaction was not disclosed, but rumor has it that the team received solid compensation with six zeros.

Soviet ternary computer

“Digital archeologists” are found not only overseas. In 2014, one such community was returned to IT world Soviet development of ternary computers “Setun” . Unique computer was designed to work with the data in the ternary representation – instead of bits (0 or 1), he operated on a tweet – they are denoted as -1, 0 and 1. Instead of bytes in the ternary computer traity: they consist of six trits and take the value from -364 to 364. Is a computer that works easily with negative values.

Achievements obtained during the creation of the ternary computer, useful even today. The ternary logic system greatly simplifies the comparison of numbers: if a similar binary operators can return only a value “greater than” or “less”, then the ternary comparison takes into account the possibility of equality of numbers. This feature is invaluable when creating set of encryption or other cryptographic solutions.

“Digging up” in warehouses and private individuals of the old systems of the 70-ies of XX century, the activists of the step-by-step reproduced the ternary computer in digital form. As the ROM “Setun-70” existed only in hard copy in machine code (the existing pages are not numbered and are mixed, and some even lost), enthusiasts had a lot of sweat to restore the entire sequence. Today emulator computers “Setun” can be run directly in your browser. It is expected that with its help modern programmers can find a lot of interesting ideas for their designs.

Let the “digital archaeology” seems to be the lot of a limited number of fans, and yet (with rare exception) does not earn a lot of money, these “archaeologists” preserve the rich legacy of IT industry in previous years. Their efforts unusual and obscure ideas do not die with his age.

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