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Ask Slashdot: How To Get Old Commercial Software To Be Open-Sourced? 234

Posted by samzenpus
from the set-it-free dept.
First time accepted submitter Optic7 writes "Many gamers have probably dreamed about the idea of an old favorite game or other no longer supported or developed commercial software being converted to an open-source license so that it could be updated to add new features, support new hardware, other operating systems, etc. However, this type of change of license seems exceedingly rare, unless the copyright holder itself decides on its own that it would be beneficial. The only examples I could think of or was able to find in a brief internet search were Blender (3D animation software that had its source code bought from creditors after a crowd-funding campaign) and Warzone 2100 (Game that had its source code released after a successful petition). With those two examples of different strategies in mind, have any of you ever participated in any efforts of this kind, and what did you learn from it that may be useful to someone else attempting the same thing? Even if you have not participated, do you have any suggestions or ideas that may be useful to such an effort?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Get Old Commercial Software To Be Open-Sourced?

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  • The google's way ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:07AM (#40560989) Journal

    Google did open-source some of the commercial-wares - by acquiring the company
     

    • Google releases a very small percentage of the code they buy up, compared to RedHat. Both do keep some of the code behind, but RedHat only does that for enterprise management tools, they throw everything else in open source. Google keeps their whole search engine, filesystems, Linux distro and stuff we don't even know exists in closed source.
    • The submitter also missed Marathon, which Bungie open sourced years ago.
    • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Friday July 06, 2012 @07:23AM (#40561997) Journal

      Sigh, I just wish I had saved the emails from when I tried talking to some of these defunct game rights holders, because it would have been a perfect example of why we need shorter copyrights and a "use it or lose it"clause but frankly after spending nearly 6 months TRYING to deal with them frankly they just made me wanna puke.

      I probably better explain...anybody remember those old shareware discs we got during the days of Win3.x-Win98? You know, those ones filled with cheesy little games from all over the place? Well me and a buddy had the idea that because you can't play those anymore without major hoop jumping that is frankly beyond most, and that is if you can even find the games in the first place, that we'd cook up a nice little GUI frontend to DOSBox and sell flash sticks with these shareware games on them, just to let folks who never got to have that see what it was like and for old farts to have a trip down memory lane.

      Now we of course never expected to make any money off of that, any changes to DOSBox would of course been GPLed and the price we were gonna go for was a few bucks over cost plus shipping with the few bucks being split between the guys that had wrote the shareware titles. For us it was strictly a labor of love thing, both me and my friend had kids and we wanted to let them see what it was like when we were their age, so what happened?

      We quickly found out that even with games that hadn't been in print in 20+ years and that frankly never sold worth a shit in the first place (we're not talking Doom here folks, we are talking those cheesy knockoffs and platformers and puzzlers) that when we found the owners the amount of sheer fucking insane levels of greed was beyond nuts. There were several wanting 4 and 5 figures up front NOT for the code, NOT for even the complete game, but just for the right to use the original shareware! And many wanted the rights to OUR code on top! The sad part is we also found that we could just go the Chinamart route and say fuck the IP bullshit and get it done that way.

      In the end we just gave up, and likely that is what they'll have to do in TFA. With copyright law as it is your grandkids will be in the nursing home before these games are PD, if they EVER are, and the ones that end up with the rights act like every 5th rate game that was placed on a floppy or CD with a dozen other games should bring in the kind of revenue it would have if it was Ms Pacman. Good luck dealing with these greedy bastards friend, because they would rather not do a damned thing with it than settle for less than what a AAA game would go for, I swear its fucking insanity!

  • Become Rich (Score:4, Informative)

    by ilikenwf (1139495) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:07AM (#40561001)
    Buy the rights, and then release it... Honestly, looking back, very few instances of these things happening have been the case...I mean, there are the cool companies that sometimes do it like the rare instances mentioned, and there's other companies that roll them out after their initial profitability has died (Quake, etc).

    That said, short of buying the rights to the source, I doubt you'll get very far even with a petition. Look at us Linux users asking nVidia to fix the problems or opensource the blob...
    • Re:Become Rich (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:54AM (#40561217)

      And even "buying the rights to the source" may be easier said than done: it only works if the complete source is copyrighted by that company.

      It is very well possible that they use bits and pieces of software written by others, for which they do not have the right to redistribute the source, but only the binary linked to their own software. This I have seen before as argument why a source could not be released, or if released, only incomplete and would not compile.

      • It was the case with a few games that were open sourced, but that doesn't always matter. I think WarZone was an example, Homeworld definitely was (although not a very successful one). In a lot of cases, the sound library is licensed form a third party and can't be released, but the game can be released with stubs for the sound code and someone else can later add it. The same often happens for cutscene playback, where they licensed a codec for use with the game (more common with older games where the host
    • Re:Become Rich (Score:5, Informative)

      by jellomizer (103300) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:55AM (#40561661)

      Releasing a previously closed source project to open source is much harder then people realize.

      1. You have to deal with many copyright owners. If you look at some titles you may see mutable companies connected to it. Some of these companies have been closed or acquired however there is someone who still own some copyright. You need to get all those parties to agree.

      2. You might open source it. But it probably can't be GPL. Sometimes you will find that they used third party libraries. That are closed source and those companies are active in the developments libraries. Assuming these library owners allow you to release the source with there reference in them.

      3. Companies will sometimes hold onto the title to make a remake/reboot/sequel later. Or they will sell a package cd of all the games. So they will not want to open the game up.

      In general even if you own rights to the source you may not be as free as you thought.

      • If you look at some titles you may see mutable companies

        Nasty cold you have there.

      • by pipatron (966506)

        3. Companies will sometimes hold onto the title to make a remake/reboot/sequel later. Or they will sell a package cd of all the games. So they will not want to open the game up.

        I think this is one of the things they are the most afraid of, and the most ridiculous thing to be afraid of. Take for example the case of Diablo III. Wouldn't it have been seriously cool if they had released the source code to Diablo I just before the release of Diablo III? It would be all over every geek blog and new site, and it wouldn't hurt a bit.

        It's stupid to think that someone wouldn't buy Diablo I in a collectors box just because they have shown how it was made. And they still have whatever rights

  • ID (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:08AM (#40561009)

    ID Open sources most of their stuff after a few years. Further than that, John Carmack goes through to add comments, clean up code, and in the case of a feature that was settled after a patent dispute with someone else, re-implemented the offending bit of code prior to release. (Seem Doom 3 engine)

    Cheers
    Kactus

    • Re:ID (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:13AM (#40561035)

      Yes, but they develop everything in-house. Once you start contracting for the engine, art, sound, etc., it becomes more difficult.

      And what company wants to release code today in our litigious environment. Patent trolls would have a field day. It is safer for most companies to keep their code locked up than to allow these patent trolls to freely search and find 6 lines of code that they think violates a patent.

      • Re:ID (Score:4, Informative)

        by Eraesr (1629799) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:41AM (#40561167) Homepage

        And what company wants to release code today in our litigious environment

        The Doom 3 engine source code was released in November last year and John Carmack has already said that when the time is ripe, he'd do the same with id Tech 5 (the engine that powers Rage). So there's still (high profile) people that believe in it.

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        Well, you could always contract an engine from a company that agrees to open source it after a time... ID for example.

        Open sourcing can even extend the profitability of a game... The original quake for dos would be pretty much abandonware by now, running only in dosbox... But because it got open sourced, there are modern versions which run on modern hardware but you still need the original data files to play it. Obviously you could pirate them, but many people wouldn't because not only is it cheap at least

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Not if the person contracting it has a brain.

        Contract out the Graphics, the contract states you own all assets code and copyright 100%. My company does that all the time. any company making a game or application that they are going to sell is ran by fools if they dont do the same.

    • by polymeris (902231)

      ...John Carmack goes through to add comments, clean up code, ...

      That should be part of the deal. [github.com] Or maybe it's a reason why we don't see more open sourced commercial software?

  • simple.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by metalmaster (1005171)
    reverse engineer it, change a few lines of the code, call it your own and release.....it's worked before, right?
  • The Ur-Quan Masters (Score:5, Informative)

    by tonique (1176513) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:11AM (#40561019)
    One further example is Star Control II whose source code was released by the developers. The result is known today as The Ur-Quan Masters [wikipedia.org]. And, of course, Wikipedia has a whole category for formerly proprietary software [wikipedia.org]...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:20AM (#40561073)

      I seem to be missing one of the most famous examples in that wikipedia article. Famously, Netscape open sourced their formerly closed-source browser, because it made business sense: It permitted them to stay competitive in the marketplace.

  • Abuse (Score:2, Informative)

    by Xanni (29201)

    Another example is "Abuse": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abuse_(video_game) [wikipedia.org]

    • by Xanni (29201)

      Yes, I realise that's another case where the developer decided to open the code themselves; unfortunately /. doesn't allow me to delete or moderate my own post down.

    • by CRC'99 (96526)

      One game I would love to see hit an Open Source license is Theme Hospital.

      The game is great by itself (I just finished playing it again!) although there are many bugs and things that could really be improved upon.

      There are attempts at an open source version - but having the original code would be orders of magnitude better...

  • by lindi (634828) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:19AM (#40561065)

    I liked Triplane Turmoil, and old shareware DOS game, a lot. When I met the original developers by accident I offered to help port the game to SDL and managed to convince them to release it as open source: http://triplane.sf.net/ [sf.net]

  • Allegiance (Score:5, Informative)

    by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:30AM (#40561121)

    I can't answer the question either, but yet another game that has been open sourced that's missing from the Wikipedia list is Allegiance. http://www.freeallegiance.org/ [freeallegiance.org]
    The game was originally published by none other than Microsoft. Shocking, I know, but way back in prehistory (1999), Microsoft actually released some complete open source software. A game.

    I'll pause while our older members grab their portable defibrillators....

    Yes, Allegiance is open source and has enjoyed ongoing software development as well as a community-contributed texture "face-lift" to improve the look of the game. It has not made its way onto Linux because it was originally implemented with Microsoft's orphaned DirectPlay, and no one has been interested in replacing the entire network implementation. Its anti-cheat system, which was community-developed, is also dependent on Microsoft libraries unavailable on Linux. (Though possibly Mono has advanced far enough that's no longer true. Regardless, it's anti-cheat geared for Windows, so it's not especially portable.)

    For those interested, it's an arcade-style space combat game (think Wing Commander, or the original X-Wing and Tie Fighter games) where two teams fight to control the arena. The added wrinkle is the addition of RTS elements, including a single human commander for each side who plays in RTS mode. Yes, it's that holy grail of games, an RTS/FPS hybrid. As it turns out, RTS/FPS is a hard game to learn and a hard game to play, so it has never enjoyed great popularity (contrary to the popular opinion of a million vocal wannabe game-designers on the forums of the Internet).

    As with most small, insular Internet communities, the players tend to be snobbish and stand-offish to newcomers. Goes with the territory.

  • Value to the company (Score:5, Interesting)

    by humanrev (2606607) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:32AM (#40561123)

    A software company might (and I emphasize MIGHT) be willing to open-source some old commercial software they own if it can be shown to be of benefit to them. Simply doing it for philanthropic purposes is unlikely to sway most companies, but if, say, a newer and better version of their software is coming out and the old, discontinued version people are asking for is of no threat to their profit margins, then that might be enough of a motivation as it would increase publicity, improve the image of the company (good PR is always helpful), and all the side benefits as well.

    John Carmack open-sources all the engines he writes for iD software after a while, once the engine is no longer deemed commercially viable. It's unlike anyone will use the Doom 3 engine (technically id Tech 4) for example in a commercial game as it's been superseded by modern engines, and virtually no-one plays Doom 3 online so the threat from exploits is redundant. This is a great idea since it means projects such as iodoom 3 can be born to improve the engine and allow hobbyist developers to use it in their own games. I wish Valve would open source the original Goldsource engine used for their Half-Life 1 based games, but that will never happen as long as Counter-Strike is still actively played.

    • Mod up. If you want a company to, effectively, give away an asset then you need to give them a reason to do so. This typically means either offering them money (which can be counterproductive, as it may make them think that the software is worth more than it is) or persuading them that the goodwill is worth more than sitting on some copyrights for a thing that they're no longer distributing.

      The iD case is a bit more interesting, because they make most of their money from selling commercial licenses. The

    • by Waccoon (1186667)

      A recent example of this is Death Rally. While the game wasn't actually open-sourced, someone did offer to make a native Windows port of the title, and Remedy Entertainment gave the port the green flag. The ported game was then released as freeware. It was very well-received.

      A couple years later, an all-new Death Rally became available as an iPhone/Android game, which was also well-received.

      I believe the reason the game wasn't open-sourced is because they were using a proprietary video player for the mov

    • by Narishma (822073)

      It's unlike anyone will use the Doom 3 engine (technically id Tech 4) for example in a commercial game as it's been superseded by modern engines

      If somebody wants to make a commercial game with id Tech 4 (or the previous ones) they will still have to license it from id Software, unless they're happy releasing the game under the GPL.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:33AM (#40561125)

    A lot of folks wanted IBM to open source OS/2 after its sunset. One of the stated reasons why they didn't open source it, was because parts were jointly developed with Microsoft and others, who had joint copyrights. There would have been too many legal and copyright hassles necessary to get open sourcing done. Device Drivers were especially a big problem.

    This could be true with a lot of other dormant software. Maybe nobody really knows what potential copyright issues are involved, and nobody wants to take on the liability by open sourcing it themselves, because it might cause litigation grief later.

    • The problem with OS/2 is that it's still making money for IBM - Serenity Systems bought a source license (with royalties) and continues ecelopment of an OS/2 based operating system called eComStation, which is still actively developed. It's far from dormant software.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Transfer rights in full to a separate company: a shell company set up just to hold those rights. Say all the rights IBM has in it they transfer to this "OS/2 source holding ltd" company.

      Have the OS/2 source holding ltd. release the whole thing - put it on ftp and let the world back it up.

      Close that company.

      Now who you gonna sue?

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightworks [wikipedia.org]

    Lightworks is an NLE (nonlinear editor, of video) which was recently open sourced due in part to its commercial decline and transfer of ownership.

    • by dan_bethe (134253)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightworks [wikipedia.org]

      Lightworks is an NLE (nonlinear editor, of video) which was recently open sourced due in part to its commercial decline and transfer of ownership.

      Oops. I see now that its source code release date has slipped again. Oh well, for the purposes of the conversation, you can see the historical process and you can see the fact that it's probably coming.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      It also sucks horribly. I have been in the Video Editing Biz and have used everything professional out there and Lightworks is a toy at best. I spent 4 days messing around with it and dismissed it as less complete than the OSS Cinerella that is also a giant steaming pile of goo.

      No stability, crashes a LOT, incredibly limited tool set, and the deal killer, does not support ANY modern file formats. Noboy edits in AVI.. it's AVCHD for 99% of home video and MPEG2HD for 99% of professional right now wi

      • by dan_bethe (134253)
        Yeah I'd never heard of it outside of the announcement of the source code. I have read a lot of comments from its fans. In all of my intensive research over the history of NLEs, I find it hard to believe that there'd be a whole NLE that I'd never heard of!

        The original poster is asking about abandonware, and I guess Lightworks is a sort of epically twisted abandonware.

        Well thanks for your feedback. It was most LOLworthy.

        AVI? Worse than Cinelerra? o m g

  • by anilg (961244) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:44AM (#40561179)

    For small to medium software, the reason it isn't sold anymore is that it was probably not successful commercially. Find a way to reach out to them and see if they would be interested in releasing the code (and if they own the entire copyright).

    I recently helped revive a 5 year old screenwriting software (http://www.trelby.org), which is a niche editing field, ruled by 200+$ alternatives (Final Draft/MMS). I work on this simply because this will more than serve the need of most of the market, and it's fun to program. I could do that because the original developer had opened it when it was not successful commercially.

  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Friday July 06, 2012 @03:46AM (#40561185)
    Plenty of games, even old ones are not entirely inhouse developed, why reinvent the wheel when plenty have already done it before you. Hence they buy 3rd party engines and routines that they have no rights to open source thus dooming the game to never be open sourced even if the game developer would not mind doing so.
    • by cbope (130292)

      +5 insightful. This is the most likely reason why so many old software projects do not go open source. Hardly anyone completely writes all their own software in-house and a lot of software depends on licensed third-party libraries, drivers, etc.

  • by flimflammer (956759) on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:11AM (#40561275)

    It's not always easy for a company to just up and release the source code to their games, as many aspects of it may be entrenched in proprietary licensing. Physics, sound, rendering engine, etc. Entire sections of the code that can't be released, which makes much of the game what it is. It's hard to convince a company to spend resources going through their old source code, plucking out the code that can be released, and then letting it go. It might give them public good will, but it costs them money and the return could end up being very little.

  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:18AM (#40561301)

    The original Prince of Persia was recently open sourced [wikipedia.org] after the developer found the once thought lost source code on a floppy hidden away somewhere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One of the authors of the original Elite (on the BBC Micro) released the source [clara.net] years ago. Sadly, it's pretty much incomprehensible. I used to program on that platform, but endless pages of uncommented assembly language with multiple instructions per line are actually harder to read than a well formatted disassembly.

  • I think this was the reason for the existence of the Public Domain, where copyrighted works were available royalty free to the public after 50 years. I'd really like to play Redneck Rampage. For that reason I'm really just sort of spinning my wheels until I'm 74.Of course, they could open source it sooner. I'm not sure if Xatrix still exists though. Or if any of todays paridigms will apply at that time.
    • Just a little nitpick: Public Domain is a naturally occurring state of intellectual property (as well as Trade Secret), not something that came into existence via government granting it.

    • Though in the case of software, developers should be required to deposit the source code somewhere. A binary blob in the public domain is still quite useless.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Friday July 06, 2012 @04:50AM (#40561415)

    Reasons why getting companies to open-source stuff is hard include:
    1.They may not have the code anymore (or it may be in some archive vault somewhere and difficult to find)
    2.3rd parry copyrights on the code (e.g. licensed game engines, licensed middle-ware etc)
    3.3rd party patents (e.g. anything that supports any flavor of MPEG or e.g. the Creative Labs patent that ID hard to work around in releasing the Doom 3 source code)
    4.Licensing (e.g. movie or sports tie-ins)
    5.Cheating or hacking (publishing the code may make it easier to cheat or hack the program)
    6.NDAs (e.g. the NDAs for platforms like the XBOX 360, PS3, WII or the hardware NDAs for things like PowerVR GPUs or the NDAs for anti-piracy solutions that may be integrated with the code)
    7.They may still be using some or all of the code (or derivative versions of it) in current software.
    8.They may not want to open source something old and not-sold-anymore if the result would be competing against things they are still selling.
    9.They may not want to give their competitors an edge by opening up code that their competitors might want.
    and 10.Cost to review the codebase and make sure that you are free of the above items

    It depends on the company, smaller companies are more likely to be willing to either release the code or to do a deal (as happened with Blender) whereas larger companies are less willing to entertain either open sourcing directly or to sell the rights (either to the software as a while or to the codebase but not the data/game/whatever).

    For example, it would be almost impossible to convince a large company like Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Atari or Ubisoft to open source any of their stuff. (or in many cases to even support modding of their titles or share information/tools modders would need)

  • ... as an incentive to get the company to pick one that seems most compatible w/ their business interests, and publish it under that. That way, the old commercial software can be liberated, even if partly, and can either be developed further, or forked. Also, some old commercial software is fully functional, and if released, is good enough on its own w/o requiring any feature updates.
  • by jones_supa (887896) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:00AM (#40561441)
    Even though it's a far cry, I would be excited for Minecraft to be open sourced. First of all, the performance issues could be fixed (by using a native language) and after that, the possibility for interesting modifications would be almost endless. Another gem is the first Rollercoaster Tycoon, which according to Chris Sawyer was coded in pure assembly.[1 [chrissawyergames.com]]
  • I've been toying with the idea lately. Create a Kickstarter-type website where companies could ask certain amount of money for a game/program and if the goal is reached they will release the source.

  • by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:08AM (#40561479) Homepage Journal

    That is a space pilot multiplayer first person style shooter. A bit like a flight simulator.

    • by f3rret (1776822)

      That is a space pilot multiplayer first person style shooter. A bit like a flight simulator.

      Also gave me so much motion sickness back in the day.

      Fun game though.

  • I wonder who owns Total Annihilation: Kingdoms since cavedog became gravedog?

    I used to love that game.

    • by Lotana (842533)

      Well the graphical assets and the rights are probably owned by Atari.

      However, check out Spring [springrts.com] open source engine. It was developed to run Total Annihilation, but expanded to be quite an impressive RTS engine in its own right.

      Perhaps if enough interest, someone will champion porting TA: Kingdoms assets to run under Spring.

    • by macraig (621737)

      All the IP for the game is now in the hands of those greedy Frenchmen (Infogrames) who call themselves Atari but really aren't.

      Although Spring is an open-source game engine specifically designed to be compatible with all the game resources from Total Annihilation, the TA source code has never been released nor substantially reverse-engineered (there's actually still work being done). There's a game hosted at SourceForge called Zero-K which was built with the Spring engine and lobby, and is practically a kn

  • by Tim Ward (514198) on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:27AM (#40561545) Homepage

    Are we expecting that the source code still exists, and that the build system still exists, and that anyone ever wrote down any instructions for how to build it (let alone document the design)? Sure *some* old games will be properly documented and archived, but the way of the world is that this won't include *your* favourite game!

  • by ddt (14627) <ddt@davetaylor.name> on Friday July 06, 2012 @05:28AM (#40561551) Homepage

    I'd probably set up a website where all these games can be found in a nice, attractive setting that makes them look like the museum pieces they should be- nicely lit, oak frames, black velvet, that sort of thing. Use all procedural textures for the wood grain, velvet, etc, so that they remain resolution independent and always look delish. Get the credits engraved in said wood next to every piece of framed box art, and inlay those credits with gold.

    Look for the dudes who did the work, the actual developers. And then approach the authors and explain that the site is going to be organized from top to bottom by which games have well-maintained source and which don't. Instead of rating them numerically, you'll just do it by turning the knobs on the degeneration on the procedural textures, so that the wood looks all rotted out, the inlay half-flaked away and over everything there's a thick patina of dust. So still looking classy but in an increasingly forgotten way.

    Then put a classy old collection cup somewhere in the frame there. If clicked on, it'll prompt for donation amount and then animate a corresponding number of coins that make a satisfying clinky sound and animation as they drop into the collection box, and then all the collections are split according to ranking. And you can donate directly to games by dropping coins directly into little miniature collection boxes right next to the lovely framed pictures with the lovely credits. And they'll be sent to the IP owners. If the IP owners are confirmed to be split the proceeds with the actual authors, you'll give that picture extra sexy lighting, finer woodwork for the frame, a richer, lusher, redder velvet.

    Give it a nice, pretentious name like The Gallery Eternal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 06, 2012 @06:53AM (#40561877)

    As a collector and researcher (of regular software, not games)...

    Forget it. Most companies are not still around. If they are around, they're not the company they once were, and probably no one there even remembers the old software. If they are still around and remember their old software, they'll ignore you if you ask about it.

    This is a great tragedy. It's technically illegal to do research into 1980s software, because the only way you can get it is by violating copyright. Something has gone horribly wrong when doing history is illegal.

    Borland started releasing old versions of their software (not open sourcing them, just releasing the old binaries) but the usual happened: Whoever started this effort was quashed by the company changing hands.

    WordPerfect blew me off totally when I asked about 4.1, 4.2, and 5.1 - I found these at a "pirate" site.

    Will historically important programs like Turbo C, WordPerfect, etc ever be open sourced? Never. A whole chapter in the history of computing is essentially being lost. Only historians who know software very well and can set up emulators can even preserve this software, and only if they can find it.

    Even shareware versions are lost to history. Some "shovelware" images of old shareware BBSes have old shareware, but disk space was tight back then and historical versions are gone for good because the new version always replaced the old version. Very difficult to find 1980s shareware for any package with versions released in the 90s.

    • One companies said that there old ver of some software was not up to there standers but they no longer offer there old mac 68k of it and they say that downing it from a "pirate" site is illegal.

  • Just pay the original developer(s) enough money to let them retire early with the lifestyle of an A-list actor or pro sports boffin. Then they'll be happy to hand you the keys to the coded castle and bid you good luck.

    Hey, I said the answer was easy... the implementation is a bit thorny.

  • Give companies that open-source their old software a percentage of their initial investment costs back in tax deductions; the sooner they do it, the more they should be able to recoup as the greater the benefit will be to the open-source community. This can be paid for by leveraging open-source software in government functions to save operating costs.

  • You could ask these guys how they go about it:
    http://lostclassics.apple2.info/ [apple2.info]

  • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday July 06, 2012 @07:52AM (#40562127) Homepage

    While not directly an answer to the question posed, gog.com's community wishlist ( http://www.gog.com/wishlist [gog.com] ) is one way of reviving old games. Not all companies are willing to open-source their creations, no matter how exceedingly good arguments you make, but they might be willing to revive these old games if there was a way of getting even one dollar of profit out of it.

  • by Frans Faase (648933) on Friday July 06, 2012 @07:57AM (#40562157) Homepage

    URU in the Myst sequel of games has been open sourced by Cyan Worlds. See openuru.org [openuru.org].

  • FYI, SC2 was also open sourced by the creators, can be found at sc2.sourceforge.net. In cases like this, it's a case where the creators that hold copyright over the work love the work itself. They see nearly zero opportunity to continue monetizing it, so they release the work to let it continue living. In many other cases, however, the copyright holder will refuse to do *anything* like this if there is no money to be made. Especially since a significant amount of money has been made in the console world

  • by pruss (246395) on Friday July 06, 2012 @08:51AM (#40562585) Homepage

    I very politely asked the developer of the PalmOS 2sky astronomy app for this. In asking, I emphasized that (a) all I needed was his agreement to license under GPL2+ and a copy of the source code, that (b) I would do all the maintenance and support and that (c) I am an experienced PalmOS developer, and I think I listed my shareware and open source credits. He agreed, telling me that he turned down an earlier request. I thanked him very much for his generosity. I think my emphasis on how little work he would have to do with the release was important. Before release, I had to rewrite and/or use an open source library as an alternative for some SDK example code that was being used and that was under an incompatible license, and then update some of the data. He even sent me a dump of his old website, which I updated and put at open2sky.sf.net .

    In this, the hardest thing was actually tracking down the author and his email address. Then there was a lot of gruntwork rewriting code with an incompatible license, but that was fairly standard UI code.

  • liberatedgames.com (Score:4, Informative)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday July 06, 2012 @10:31AM (#40563805)
    For games, there is already a site working on getting old products open-sourced: liberatedgames.com [liberatedgames.com]. They don't update super often but they do seem to still be active.

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