The Internet Archive Software Collection is the largest vintage and historical software library in the world, providing instant access to millions of programs, CD-ROM images, documentation and multimedia.
The collection includes a broad range of software related materials including shareware, freeware, video news releases about software titles, speed runs of actual software game play, previews and promos for software games, high-score and skill replays of various game genres, and the art of filmmaking with real-time computer game engines.
Some highlighted collections:
The Old School Emulation Center (TOSEC) is a retrocomputing initiative dedicated to the cataloging and preservation of software, firmware and resources for microcomputers, minicomputers and video game consoles. The main goal of the project is to catalog and audit various kinds of software and firmware images for these systems. TOSEC catalogs over 200 unique computing platforms and continues to grow. The project has identified and cataloged over 450,000 different software images/sets, consisting of over 3.60TB of software, firmware and resources. The goal of the TOSEC project is to maintain a database of all software and firmware images for all microcomputers, minicomputers and video game consoles. In addition to this, the project also catalogs other computing and gaming resources such as software and hardware manuals, magazine scans and computing catalogs.
The CD Archive collects thousands of Shareware and Cover CD-ROMs from the heyday of the CD-ROM (late 1980s to mid 2000s) and provides ISO images as well as links inside these collections of software. With over 2,500 discs now hosted, the archive allows access to a wide range of historical collections, including curations by defunct groups like Walnut Creek and Linux/Unix distributions of the past. Other CD-ROMs include images and digitized music, documentation sets and game modifications. Most of these CD-ROMs can be downloaded as .ISO or .CDR files, as well as browsed online through the Internet Archive's file listing interface.
The DEMU collection is a curated collection hosting over 4,000 classic PC-based games from a quarter century. The collection contains shareware, freeware, and demo programs, all DOS or Windows-based.
The FTP Site Boneyard is a collection of various FTP sites from around the internet, gathering what were once the dominant form of file transfer online but which have fallen to the wayside in favor of other update servers and cloud-based storage. From the mid 1980s to the late 2000s, FTP sites would gather various needed patches, programs, utilities or information and make it available in a quick, seamless fashion. This boneyard contains many prominent FTP sites of the past, including MPOLI.FI and its ancient machine drivers, ftp.netscape.com and ftp.lotus.com. In all, many gigabytes of historical files are located here.
Many times, contributions and collections come in the form of a disk drive, or the output from a single hard drive's contents. Instead of delaying these items until they can be curated, the Disk Drives collection provides access to these large file repositories. In most cases, these collections can be browsed online, allowing access to all manner of user-created software writing dating from the 1980s-1990s period.
Built from the cache of an ISP that stopped providing a mirror after many years, the Linux Distributions collection contains many Linux and other Free OS distributions going back to the dawn of open-source operating systems. The collection primarily contains ISOs of the original CD and DVD-ROMs.
Many other groups are working hard to save and provide easier access to vintage software. Besides preserving the data off the original medium, these groups also classify, curate, and describe the software for historical context. In some cases, additional programs are provided to analyze the works and allow modern computers to access the material. The vintage software contains the many different efforts put out by these groups.
Be sure to browse the Software Sites collection, which gathers a number of now-dormant mirrors and collections to allow continued access to the older materials. Among the highlights are a 2004 TUCOWS mirror, a 2012 GITHUB gathering of deleted files, and others.
Finally, do not miss the Open Source Software Collection, which is the default contribution space for the users of the Internet Archive to keep copies of software available to all. Tens of thousands of programs, distributions and provisions are located here.
The Software Collection primarily provides the actual binary data for programs, as well as the original storage archives for files. If you are looking for manuals, books, or printed information, there are a number of other collections at the archive, including sections for manuals, computer magazines, computer newsletters and computer books.
Please contact Jason Scott, software curator at the Internet Archive, with questions, suggestions or possible donations to the collection.