The Games People Played

Video-based games have been around since the middle of the 20th century. Consider Tennis for Two, created in 1958 and played on an oscilloscope at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Or Spacewar, thought by many to be the first shooter game, created in 1961 at MIT and played on a Digital PDP-1 mainframe computer. (And you thought the early Game Boys were bulky.)

But it was the next couple of decades when videogames really blasted off, with Computer Space and Pong fueling the arcade boom in the early 1970s. This lead into the microcomputer craze and the home videogame wave, Remember The Hobbit, Mystery House, Adventureland or Choplifter? If you played these in the early 1980s, you have some serious old-school gaming cred, emphasis on the old.

Now, thanks to the Historical Software Collection at the Internet Archive, you can actually re-play some of these cherished memories again. Dedicated souls have labored over the JavaScript port of the MESS computer software emulator, which gives users of any modern browser an almost instantaneous way to run these ancient programs. If you’re a fan of electronic games, it’s definitely worth checking out — especially if you want to see just how far we’ve come in a relatively short amount of time.

So what’s in the collection? You can revisit Lemonade Stand, an economics game popular on the Apple II in 1979, or the 1981 version of Castle Wolfenstein. From 1982, you can find the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man and KC Munchkin for the Odyssey2. How about 1983’s Chuckie Egg for the ZX Spectrum? There’s plenty more where those came from.

ETThe Internet Archive Software Collection itself is a vast trove of CD-ROM images, Linux distributions, shareware mirrors and more. You could spend an afternoon trawling the virtual exhibits in this online repository. A sub-collection called Classic PC Games lets you relive those old DOS and early Windows favorites as well. But it’s not just fun and games. The archive has other ancient artifacts like VisiCalc and even WordStar to download or try out in emulation.

Yes, you can even grab a bag of Reese’s Pieces and run a version of that horrible E.T. game from 1983, just to see how bad it was. You are, after all, a student of history and history is not always pretty.

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