TL;DR: Tech archivist Jason Scott has announced a tool that allows users to rediscover media that might have otherwise been lost to Father Time. It’s called Discmaster, and it’s a digital archivist’s dream come true. At present, the searchable database is comprised of nearly 92 million vintage computer files ripped from CD-ROMs and floppy disks. It’s a hodgepodge of music, videos, images, software, fonts, screensavers, magazines and yes, loads of adult content.
The content was sourced from the Internet Archive where Scott is employed, but it isn’t affiliated with the organization. Think of it as a search layer on top of data already available on the Internet Archive.
In fact, Scott mostly just named the tool and is hosting it. He told Ars Technica that an anonymous group of history-loving programmers is responsible for 99.999 percent of the project, all the way down to the vintage gray theme used on the site.
Getting your hands on vintage media can be a challenge and is often compounded by incompatible file formats. Fortunately, the Discmaster handles most of the conversion on the back end to make files more compatible on modern machines. For example, you can play low-res 90s videos in obscure formats right in your browser without having to install any additional software.
The service is most compatible with modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge.
Scott said he believes Discmaster is one of the most important computer history research project opportunities of the last 10 years, and it is nowhere near complete. They’ve already analyzed more than 7,000 CD-ROMs and have another 8,000 in the queue.
The search feature is down as of writing due to an influx of traffic, but the team hopes to have it back up and running within a few hours.
Discmaster could be incredibly useful when working on a research project, although I suspect others will simply enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and seeing what sort of weird and obscure content they can unearth.