Yesterday I was reading up on Wikipedia about Audio Normalization, and I eventually found my way to the Audio Sequencer page, where I was enticed by an screenshot of an old version of the music-sequencer software Tracker:

Call this a sign of my youth and inexperience, but I had never really thought about how music software has been around for decades now (in Tracker’s case, since the 1980’s).  I was immediately somewhat attracted to the idea of playing around with some really dated music production software; but, alas, where would I ever get it?

Personally, I think that once software is no longer being sold by the company, it should be available for free download.  Instead, it’s typically phased out and eventually abandoned entirely in the interest of promoting new-and-more-powerful software.

This isn’t a new topic, and people have been chasing, emulating, and sharing Abandonware ever since it started being abandoned.  You can also find a Dinosaur Comics which touches on the topic here.

Still, I think there is more to it.  When we phase out old software in the interest of generating forced obsolescence, we’re really throwing away a big part of our history in the interest of selling a few more copies of a new software edition or game tier.  And not only that, but we’re severely limiting access to the software for people who cannot afford the newest versions.  For example, as much as I would love to purchase whatever Adobe’s latest Creative Suite package is (I stopped counting years ago), I probably won’t ever be able to afford it.

However, I still get by, for the most part, using my ancient Macromedia Studio MX (points to anyone who remembers this, or even remembers Macromedia).  However, MX died, of course, when Adobe bought out Macromedia and integrated its software platforms into CS (Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, for example).

I simply don’t believe it’s fair to hold copyright restrictions and diminish access to something as old and unused as Macromedia MX just in the interest of forcing people to buy the newest version of Adobe CS.  If it were up to me, I would organize a giant digital archive of old software for free access, and create an initiative to reconfigure software designed for earlier platforms (i.e. Windows 3.1 or SNES) to work with modern Operating Systems.  I mean, some of the greatest symbols of human achievement in the past have been our libraries, where we gather and archive thoughts and ideas to share them from person to person.  I see a giant abandonware archive as a modern Great Library of Alexandria.

(Note: There ARE abandonware archives in existence, though they often technically violate copyright laws.  You can find out more here.)