Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring 2015 – UT iSchool Project: George Sanger Collection

This month we are excited to have a guest blog written by three University of Texas, School of Information students who had the chance to work with part of the George Sanger Collection. Their work focused on imaging a hard drive and outlining the process of their work.

 

Archiving George Sanger’s Workstation

By Heather Hughes, Ali Dzienkowski, and Graham Austin

Within archives, hybrid collections containing both paper and digital materials pose challenges in terms of preservation and providing access to researchers. This past spring semester, as ischool students in Dr. Galloway’s Digital Archiving and Preservation class, our group was assigned the task of retrieving data from George Sanger’s Macintosh 8600/300 workstation. George Sanger, a notable video game composer and local personality, has donated an extensive portion of his papers and artifacts used to compose music to the Briscoe Center.

Opening the computer revealed that we had two hard drives to work with: Sanger had added the second hard drive to increase storage capacity. Since the computer we were working with had probably not been turned on for the past ten years, we were uncertain as to whether the hard drives would boot up, or whether the data would be corrupted. Although we were very eager to image the drives, we initially spent a lot of time researching to learn more about Sanger and the technology we were working with. Our computer was part of a MIDI workstation, so we assumed that we would encounter a significant amount of MIDI files on these hard drives.(More information about these MIDI Files can be found here). We also needed to be certain that we had the right tools to ensure that we could take images from the disks without altering any data.

An image of the Sanger HD.
An image of the Sanger HD.

Taking images of the hard drives involved the use of digital forensic software on the Forensic Recovery Evidence Device (FRED), a laptop preconfigured with write-blocking devices,  in the UT School of Information’s Digital Archaeology Laboratory (DAL). The write-blockers ensured that no data was overwritten, and that no dates were changed. Once everything was connected, we were all relieved to hear the disks spin up. As soon as the software detected the drives, we were able to take full images of the two hard drives.

After successfully obtaining the disk images for both hard drives in the Power Macintosh 8600/300, we now had a lot of data that we needed to make sense of in order to think about how future researchers could explore these materials. Visualization software allowed us to get a sense of file distribution on the drives and the quantity of the different kinds of files. As we had predicted, a significant portion of the files were MIDI files. Probably the most exciting part of this project and the potential for future access was through our forays into emulation strategies. Using SheepShaver, an open source software, we were able to access Sanger’s desktop as he had last opened it. This offered insight into Sanger’s workspace and composition process.

SheepShaver emulation of George Sanger's workspace.
SheepShaver emulation of George Sanger’s workspace.

While all the materials we obtained and created were uploaded into the UT Digital Repository, ethical and privacy concerns lead us to take a cautious approach in considering future access. We decided to restrict access to the disk images of the hard drive, as well as the visualizations and textual representations of each hard drive, until a further analysis of the contents of the hard drives was conducted.

Although we were unsuccessful in our attempts to ask Sanger specific questions related to his use of the Power Macintosh 8600/300, it is crucial to begin a dialogue with him so that issues of privacy and accessibility of the files on the hard drives can be adequately addressed.

Although developing an emulated workstation for accessing these materials was not in the scope of our project, we believe that a Salman Rushdie style workstation is certainly a viable option for the Briscoe Center to pursue as a way to provide access for researchers interested in Sanger’s work processes. However, our group recommends that future archivists avoid tampering with the materials on the Sanger workstation to ensure that the original order is maintained. Another option that could be utilized to provide access to materials on the Sanger workstation is Emulation-as-a-Service, which would allow remote users to view these materials.

Based on what we discovered and learned during the course of our project, emulation should not be completely ruled out as a way to provide access to born-digital materials for researchers.

 

Our complete, final report can be found at: https://ford.ischool.utexas.edu/xmlui/handle/2081/32088.

UTVA Exhibit Creation for the Fine Arts Library and Beyond

This month the UTVA welcomed Rachel Simone Weil, a lecturer in the Art and Art History department at UT, to the archive in preparation for an exhibit at the Fine Arts Library. Rachel curated a selection of items from the David Rosen collection, and the FEMICom Museum, for her exhibit: “Hardware Not Responding.” , a visual history of Sega videogame consoles and electronic toys in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The exhibit includes items such as the SEGA Pico, Sega WonderMega, SEGA Pocket Arcades, and SEGA Pods.

The creation of exhibits involving archival materials from the UTVA provides individuals with the opportunity to engage with items they might not otherwise know exist in a form of public history.  The National Council on Public History  believes that “public history describes the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world.” Exhibits bring together public history and curation to create a compelling narrative. The ability to weave in an element of storytelling bodes well for communicating with visitors and researchers. Connecting with more people is vital to the success and appreciation of archives. Due to the nature of the materials within the UTVA, exhibits represent one of the best ways to showcase the archive and its parts.

In an attempt to help create exhibits for the future, my capstone this Spring involved creating an exhibit for the UTVA.

The Experience Gained! exhibit for the UT Videogame Archive (UTVA) at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History seeks to portray a portion of the economic, societal, and creative growth of the video game industry spanning three decades by using selected materials from the archive:

  • Online and Internet Games Report published by Jupiter Communications in 1996.
    Online and Internet Games Report published by Jupiter Communications in 1996.

    Economic: The economic theme speaks to the individual inventors and programmers who developed games on their own and the transition into larger companies developing and publishing their own games.

  • Societal: From individual disks passed around and single player games to mass production and
    Wing Commander "Bible" containing information about the WC universe.
    Wing Commander “Bible” containing information about the WC universe.

    multi-player elements. The societal and community growth portion of the exhibit will focus on the development of the impact video games have had on individuals and communities as a whole.

  • Creative: Simple shapes, colors, and objectives evolved into fully immersive worlds with compelling stories. The infusion of the
    2nd Edition Players Handbook of AD&D
    2nd Edition Players Handbook of AD&D

    tabletop element and high fantasy worlds pushed videogames into uncharted territories. The paradigm established during the early days remains even today and reveals itself in the continued success of high fantasy games.

Exhibits utilizing archival materials from the UTVA offers up the opportunity to reach individuals who visit the archive and tell an interesting story with the materials. By allowing access to these materials the archive can continue to to preserve and make available to researchers records documenting videogame history from developer, critic, artist, publisher, gamer and designer perspectives.

 
Check back with us in a couple of weeks for more information regarding the hardware cataloging and preservation project currently in the works.

We’re Back!

Greetings!

Continuous Play is back after a bit of a pause but we are excited to bring you news about the University of Texas Videogame Archive (UTVA), which seeks to preserve and make available to researchers records documenting videogame history from developer, critic, artist, publisher, gamer and designer perspectives.

WC_Booklet
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans Booklet from the Gary Slanga Collection.

This update is a timely one and gives us the chance to talk about one of our newer collections given to us by Gary Slanga. Twenty years and two weeks ago saw the advent of a unique and revolutionary real-time strategy game (RTS). A game which helped to spawn multiple intellectual properties (IPs) and pushed a fledgling videogame development company into the limelight. I speak, of course, about Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Blizzard Entertainment. The Slanga (Gary) Videogame Collection, contains not only a copy of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and its manual but a preview of Blizzard Entertainment’s future titles Starcraft and Diablo.

Blizzard Preview booklet from the Gary Slanga Collection.
Blizzard Preview booklet from the Gary Slanga Collection.

It is hard to believe twenty years have passed since the release of this game. In that time, itseffect on video games has been quite substantial. Warcraft changed the way RTS games handled multiplayer modes, created a world filled with lore that would spawn multiple sequels and a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), and paved the way for the Starcraft RTS franchise.

A screenshot from Warcraft orcs & Humans from Mobygames.
A screenshot from Warcraft orcs & Humans from Mobygames.


The Spector (Warren) Papers show the development of Ion Storm games and the Deus Ex franchise. A Guide to the Taylor Brown Videogame Collection presents videogame history through the perspectives of both gamer and producer. Brown’s gaming materials date from the 1980s and materials document his work at NCSoft date from the early 2000s. The rise and development of videogame production companies like NCSoft, Ion Storm Games, and Blizzard Entertainment is represented in each of the collections previously mentioned.  


Each of the UTVA collections and the history and information they contain provide valuable insight into the world of game development. And for The Slanga (Gary) Collection the materials do not just document the beginnings of a developer, they represent the emergence of the RTS and the beginnings of the world of Azeroth.


Happy 20th Anniversary to Warcraft: Orcs & Humans and Happy 10th Anniversary to World of Warcraft!


Be sure to check back in for more highlights from the University of Texas Videogame Archive.