Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you doing this?
Currently, there is no central repository of information about software written or published locally. Software does not easily fit into the collecting schema or taxonomies of many institutions. As such, it is generally individuals and various online communities who hold the knowledge about local software history. We want to provide a repository for this knowledge to be centrally collected, and will make this openly accessible so that it can be used for public good purposes.
Software history is a notoriously underdeveloped field, with many histories tending to chart only particular genres, or remembering just the commercial success stories and flops. Most of what makes it into history books are stories from the UK, US and parts of Asia. Australia and New Zealand have their own computer and software histories, of course, but it is difficult to write local software histories without comprehensive records. We are keen to see these stories recorded and told more often, and the products of local innovation documented and hopefully preserved. Making informed judgements about what is historically significant and what ought to be kept requires knowing what software existed in a particular period.
Given the lack of existing centralised records of locally developed software, we are throwing the net wide and asking people to enter information on local software from any historical period, from the birth of digital computing to the present day.
Who cares about early software?
We do! And lots of other people do too. Software - even from the 1980s and 1990s - is at risk. It is deteriorating. Already some of it does not work. We don't want this material to be lost forever.
Early software matters. Increasingly it is recognised as part of our digital heritage.
So what can I do to help?
This database is compiled by the public, that is, you.
Share what you know with the wider community, by entering it in our web form. We have kept it simple. Just enter as much or as little as you know or can remember. There is room to tell us more in the description and notes fields.
You can upload files that you own, such as screenshots or cover art, and even source code if you have this. If you are uploading files, please nominate their IP status. We have incorporated a way for you to complete a licence for any content that you own, so that it's clear what your intentions are regarding its use, etc.
Provide a way that we can get back in touch with you, such as an e-mail address, in case we need to clarify anything.
"But what I know is not very important"
You might think this, but when a number of people pool their knowledge, it starts to take on a wider significance. We want to hear what you know, however trivial you might think it.
Perhaps you had a friend who wrote programs and shared them with you, or you were at school with someone who wrote a game and had it published (or not). Did you dabble in programming, or make early demos? Were you a budding computer artist or composer? Or did you develop and sell software yourself (or know someone who did)?
Help us to assemble this information by posting what you know about these titles and works. Don't worry if you can't remember everything - other people might be able to fill in what you don't know.
How else can I help?
We're after information and documentation on all local software, so please pass the word on to your networks -- friends, family, colleagues, etc. Retweet, 'like' us, link existing videos to our youtube channel, and pass the word onto people who might have something to contribute.
If you know more about a title that's already entered, please help to make the record more complete by submitting what you know. It will then be added to the record.
We also have an "Information Wanted" page with details of specific software or periods we are particularly curious about.
How did this project start?
It began with the "Early NZ Software Database", one of several inter-connected projects undertaken by the NZTronix team, based at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Inspired by the work of several collectors in documenting software, the prototype database was concerned with documenting New Zealand's early software history. It was piloted in 2007-08.
What are your plans for this project's further development?
This project began as a software preservation project. Software preservation is not easy work, but intellectual property and copyright laws make it even more difficult. We spent many frustrating hours trying unsuccessfully to trace copyright owners to get permission to undertake software conservation work. In many cases, companies from the 1980s and 1990s had disappeared, leaving few records on who currently owns what. In most cases, this early software will not be worth any money, given it runs on obsolete systems, but it is certainly of historical interest. Current commercial copyright laws make the preservation of such "orphan works" difficult.
This is why we are suggesting that as people upload their early software, they make their wishes about what they want to happen to the work clear. If they want their work to survive and are happy to have preservation work done on it, then selecting a licence that makes this possible at the time the work is uploaded will make the whole process much easier.
Read more on IP and licences here.
Why is licensing important?
Software preservation is not easy work, but intellectual property and copyright laws make it even more difficult. We have spent many frustrating hours trying unsuccessfully to trace copyright owners to get permission to undertake software conservation work. In many cases, companies from the 1980s and 1990s have disappeared, leaving few records on who owns what. In most cases, this early software will not be worth any money, given it runs on obsolete systems, but it is certainly of historical interest. Current commercial copyright laws, however, make preservation of such 'orphan works' difficult.
This is why we are suggesting that as people upload their early software works, they make their wishes about what they want to happen to the work clear. If they want their work to survive and are happy to have preservation work done on it, then selecting a licence that makes this possible at the time the work is uploaded will make the whole process much easier.
Stay in touch
We'd like to be able to tell you how this all develops. If you follow us on facebook or twitter , you'll receive automated status updates when a new entry is added, and occasional updates sent to you by a researcher."
We will keep your contact details confidential, and only use this information for heritage, archival and directly related purposes. If you find that any of the information about you on these pages is incorrect, please contact us, and we will happily correct it.
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