Online Arcade

Time to play. You might think of historical collections as being locked away some place safe with the smell of old books to keep them company until a student turns up, desperate to add to their reference list. Not this week.


The Online Archive stores websites and new media to create the big data archives of the future. The Archive is a not-for-profit library created in 1996 to “provide Universal access to all knowledge”. Big goal. So far they have over 279 billion webpages, 11 million books, 4 million audio files, 3 million videos, 1 million images and 100,000 software programs.

Software programs are the latest additions to the collection. You can stream simulations of the games and even download some to play yourself. Playing a few MS-DOS games really takes ‘hipster’ to a whole new level, but it’s also a tribute to progress in technology. Looking back is useful in mapping out progress and potential improvements for the future.

Microsoft interface

MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) was created as a processing system for personal computers in the 80s. The first prototypes were developed by Seattle Computer Products, but bought by Microsoft in 1981. It went through eight redesigns and releases before being discontinued in 2000. The original software was held on 320KB floppy discs and produced a basic interface that meant file names were limited to eight characters. Specific commands had to be use, like typing ‘dir’ to list files (in a directory) and ‘del’ to delete file.

Online archive game

‘Conquest of the Longbow: the Legend of Robin Hood’ (1991) is one of a few MS-DOS games I found on the Online Archive that you can play…I got lost for a bit in the woods but somehow found may way into a longbow competition, which I lost…dismally. I hope you have better luck at this 90s medieval game.

On a more serious note, the Archive stores an incredible amount of information, but comes up against the question, “What’s the use of storing all that data?” I’m probably not the person to ask for a balanced answer (yay archives and collections!), but I’ll give you an example of one of the reasons why I believe it’s important. The Online Archive is a tool for holding world leaders to account in a time of political antipathy and fake news. With over 1,200,000 items in its news service archive and categorised search engines, it’s not difficult to draw back forgotten evidence. The Archive has been compiling a collection specifically devoted to news coverage of 21st Century wars. Knowledge might be power, but this gives it to you in a nicely searchable electronic form. Use it well.


Check out the Archive here.



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