But the data was saved on computer disks that were more than 20 years old—would they still be readable after all these years? Would it be safe to put them in an old disk-reader and risk losing the only copy of a classic game?
Sounds like a job for Tony Diaz and Jason Scott, two computer collectors and archivists who helped Mechner pull the data from the disks and in the process, save Prince of Persia.
In a great article over at Wired, Gus Mastrapa recounts how he was there when Diaz an Scott used their archival tools (and an old Apple computer) to thoroughly analyze and clean the disks, working through some of Mechner's other old prototypes as well. Among them, a stolen version of
As a young programmer, Jordan Mechner was keen to create something marketable. He looked at the best-selling games for the Apple II and saw that a clone of the arcade game Space Invaders was doing particularly well. So he knocked up a version of Atari's hit Asteroids. But by the time his version was ready, game publishers had begun to crack down on blatant copies, and he shelved the project.
The Asteroids restoration doesn't go as smoothly as the rebirth of Quadris. When Diaz loads the game, Mechner notices that the graphics aren't rendering correctly. The space rocks look glitchy and malformed. Is there an error in the original code? Is the configuration of Diaz' machine different than Mechner's college Apple II? Or has the disk just not held up well over time? Mechner's version of Asteroids has been saved, but it will need restoration.
Fortunately, Prince of Persia loaded fine; the source code is safe, and Mechner has made it available to anyone who wants it.
Man, I wish I could track down and scan all of the old game-copy disks and other floppies I had when I was a kid. I bet there was some amazing stuff on them.