operating systems

From: John Foust <jfoust_at_threedee.com>
Date: Sun Jan 4 11:20:58 1998

John Higginbotham <higginbo_at_netpath.net> wrote:
>Which brings up an interesting point: Why do the self appointed software
>cops go after software archives of "abandonware" that most of today's
>computers usually run too fast anyway? Do these ancient games really hurt
>todays software market? Anything 10 years old or older should be
>freeware/public domain as far as games are concerned. They don't increase
>productivity, and the collectors of these old games aren't doing any harm
>are they?

So let me get this straight: on one hand, you're saying there's a bunch
of people out there who like to play old computer games, but you think
the software owners shouldn't be free to sell to that market because
there's no gain in productivity or increase in "harm"? What about
learning or enjoyment?

I think this list proves there is some small level of demand for old
stuff... and certainly game makers like Microsoft and Atari have done
well by selling relatively inexpensive pre-made collections of
either the exact old games or updated emulations. I'm stunned by
the amount of software that has been collected and redistributed
(largely illegally) for the very good software-based emulators
for old computers. Many of these emulators have become commercial
products, again proving there's a bit of profit left in old software.

On the other hand, I agree with some of your sentiment - it would be
nice if there was a more formalized, established and accepted method
that antique computer collectors could secure the rights to redistribute
software that the owners have in fact abandoned.

For example, I've tried to track down the rights to the Terak computer,
as described on my web page. Terak was sold to CalComp, then a Sanders
company, which was later assimilated by Lockheed-Martin. Try to wind
your way through that bureaucracy to find the long-time employee who
*might* be able to track down those assets - if you could convince
them of the good intent of your interest, and that they should take
time out of their day to help you.

Similarly, I tried to clarify the rights to UCSD Pascal's p-code system.
The UCSD licensing agency has stated that the license is non-exclusive,
but in reality they have only one licensee, Cabot Systems in the UK,
who are actively trying to sell the P-System as an alternative to Java
for set-top boxes and embedded applications. Ken Bowles, author of a
well-known early book on Pascal and one of the original designers of
the P-System, believes that at least the early versions should be
public domain because they were developed by the university with
government funds, or something like that.

You can see the problem: as soon as you *ask* about the obscure software
and claim there's hundreds of people interested in using it, someone
sees dollar signs and doesn't want to simply give it away. Non-profit
collectors feel they're a "good cause" and that they'd take really
good care of the stuff, but there are collectors and publishers out
there who do seek to make a profit.

- John
Jefferson Computer Museum <http://www.threedee.com/jcm>
Received on Sun Jan 04 1998 - 11:20:58 GMT

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