Unlike games from the early 1970s (delivered on solid state ROM-modules) and games from and after the mid-1990s (delivered on replicated optical media like CD-ROMs and DVDs, which are supposed to last for decades), computer games from the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s were delivered on magnetic media like tapes or floppy disks and are now at the brink of extinction.
From a preservation point of view, tapes and floppy disks are a nightmare for several reasons:
1. Tapes and floppy disks constantly degrade, in two ways. First is the physical degradation of the orientation of the metal particles which form the magnetic field and store the data. This process is slow, and given the fact that the data is encoded digitally, it may be too late to do anything when reading errors occur. Reading errors happen when it has become difficult to decide if a particular bit is 0 or 1. Preservation should occur before it becomes a gamble to get a good read.
2. Second is the chemical degradation. The metal particles bound to the plastic platter of a floppy disk or the surface of a tape can come off. In fact, in most cases the bonding will simply fall apart after years of temperature changes, moisture and other issues of improper storage. Record companies struggle with this problem when remastering old recordings and have developed a process called baking where the original master tape is actually put in an oven to rebind the coating to the transport material. After baking, playback is a one try only process because the media will fall apart after passing the playback head of the machine. While similar to the original is sufficient for analogue material, even a single misinterpreted bit in the digital world means instant failure.
3. While no user can actually press industry standard vinyl recordings, CDs or DVDs at home (recordable media can be spotted by simply looking at it), tapes and floppies can actually be written and modified with consumer-grade equipment. It takes a lot of expertise to distinguish a professionally replicated medium from a home made copy. Even if a disk was produced by a commercial replicator, it does not necessarily mean that disk is still authentic and appropriate for preservation. Apart from a game possibly being copied over the original (as we have seen many times to „fix” a broken disk), many games themselves persist some kind of save state or high score, thus changing or erasing data that was available on the disk in the first place. As soon as the disk has been modified in any way, the authenticity of that copy is put into serious doubt.
With KryoFlux, you can take on the challenge and create a snapshot of the magnetic information on the disk's surface. Start imaging today, before it's too late.