You are here: The Oldskool PC/Site FAQ
Hi there. My name is Jim Leonard, and oldskool.org is my personal domain. While most personal websites are a hodge-podge of everything and anything that spills out of a person's brain, I've forged oldskool.org to be mostly dedicated to remembering and having fun with old computers -- old PCs, to be specific. There are tons of other websites dedicated to obsolete platforms, but since the IBM PC-compatible platform hasn't technically gone obsolete, it's hard to find information on classic PC gaming. (At least, until now.)
What does "Oldskool" mean?
What is oldskool.org for?
Why did you create oldskool.org?
Where's all the commercial software?
Disclaimers, Copyright Notices, and all that legal stuff
The Number One Questiontm I get asked is:
The concept of "Oldskool" is pretty much the entire foundation for this website. Specifically: Oldskool is my flavor of "Old school", a term commonly given to something that, while old, was (and still is) innovative, fresh, proper, clever, and generally correct and the right way to do things. The old school begets the new school (anything new and modern), for you certainly can't get to anything new without going through the old. For example: Robotron is the old school, while Quake III is the new school; Sister Sledge is the old school, while En Vogue is the new school; and so on. Old school is, ultimately, a term of respect.
Why "Oldskool" and not "Old school", then? That is easily understood if you know me and my background. I was a member of Hornet, a demogroup dedicated to preserving the history of demos, rather than making them. Before that, I was a member of INC back in '87 and '88 (definitely not a demogroup ;-). Both types of groups are known for keeping the bastion of hobbyist computing alive, with roots back to the beginning days of the "homebrew" computer clubs--achieving the impossible, and then sharing that information with the world:
DIVide instruction!)... and all with a fresh sense of style and conviction that asked only one thing: "Admire me. Admire this. I've achieved the impossible." It's hard not to admire.
While I have respect for the people who broke new artistic ground coding demos and discovering/cracking clever copy-protection schemes, I have even greater respect for the people who coded software for the early PCs--they were "elite" before elite was coined. They wrote compilers in assembler, they wrote assemblers in machine code, and they pushed the PC to new limits because they were clever and because they had to make do with what they had (unlike today, where you can program as lazy as you want because people will always upgrade in six months). They achieved the impossible because they didn't know it was impossible. That's oldskool.
I used to admire oldskool, continue to do so, and probably will until I die. Now that I'm older and educating the new blood with what I've learned from experience, people have commented that I myself have become oldskool. This website is that extension of myself.
Some of the younger folk in today's popular culture use "old school" as an interchangable term for "retro"; some even use it when making fun of the past. But oldskool is a term I proudly use with the utmost respect, and I hope you will too.
This site, www.oldskool.org, was created as a repository for essays, utilities, nostalgia, and general fun with classic computing. There is a 90% slant towards the PC -- and of that percentage, 90% of that is slanted towards gaming as opposed to general computing. But people should be able to find something somewhere that appeals to them.
At one point, I wanted oldskool.org to become "the definitive old PC resource". I rapidly found out that married life with two kids prevents any such lofty scheme from happening, so I decided to revise the site mission to "as definitive an old PC resource as I can make it". It's all about free time, and I don't have very much of it nowadays; that's why you'll also notice that the website doesn't get updated very much. When it does, it's usually a major update, with something worth reading, but there are still very many holes throughout the website where I'm still working on articles/features/essays and haven't put them online (and won't, until they're finished). But oldskool.org was designed to be around for decades, not be some fly-by-night revenue wannabe, so this is okay. I'm in it for the quality, not quantity.
At the various stages of oldskool.org's development, I planned on having the following:
We'll see if we get there, but for now I'm concentrating on MobyGames and Mindcandy instead.
Why do I want to do this? Because, as mentioned above in "What does Oldskool mean", I have great respect for the early days of the PC. With the current retro craze in full effect, I thought I'd put up my own bit of nostalgia for a personal computer you don't have to emulate.
The motivation for creating and adding to oldskool.org comes from my own experience. In 1997, I was searching all over the web for stuff like the CGA technical reference, sample source code to drive an IBM Music Feature card, a promotional letter from Ken and Robert Williams asking gamers to purchase a $300 sound device in 1988, and a walkthrough for Tass Times in Tonetown. I came up short for weeks on end, getting frustrated that this stuff simply didn't exist on the 'net in one central place or places. Today, I'm happy to say that I have all of those things in my possession; not all of them are on oldskool.org, but they will be eventually. And why the walkthough to Tass Times? Because, after 12 years, I still hadn't finished the game. (I'm pleased to say that I finally finished it in 1997.) So for those of you who found what you were looking for on oldskool.org, you're welcome. :-)
How I wish oldskool.org existed in 1997! Any site coming close would've probably spun me in a different direction, hobby-wise. Anyway; I'm rambling. Moving on:
This site is not a repository for common pirated software. While some obsolete software and their manuals may reside here, they are provided for historical reference and educational value only (as covered under Fair Use). You will not find any modern, viable, commercial software on this website. In other words: If you came here to leech warez, you've come to the wrong place.
The only exception to this rule is when the original copyright holder has given everyone permission to copy the software. For example: Mark Pelczarski, the founder of Penguin Software / Polarware, has given permission to copy Transylvania, The Crimson Crown, and other popular old adventure games created by his company in the early 80's.
The passage of time does not render a copyright or trademark obsolete. Just because a game is 12 years old does not mean that it's okay to make an illegal copy of it; in fact, some companies are reviving their old copyrights to republish old games modified to work on today's hardware, like:
Alternately, they want to develop entirely new games based on older ones that they still own the rights to. For example, older "dead" series may still have new life 10 or even 20 years later:
So, copying these can indeed hurt their revenue in the first case. The bottom line: If you distribute old software on a public resource, such as a web page, FTP site, or newsgroup, you will get contacted by a representitive of that company, usually holding a "cease and desist" letter in their hand.
If I could change this, believe me, I would. I am of the personal opinion that any game made before 1990 and/or officially off the market (not for sale anymore) should be available to the public so that they can appreciate all the hard work that went into making a great game on such limited hardware. But that still doesn't change the fact that doing so is illegal. So, as a result, you will not find any such infringing software on this website.
For a thorough discussion on both sides of the issue, consult the MobyGames Abandonware feature article I wrote in February of 2000.
Originally, all development was done by hand in a text editor--VI, to be precise. Later, I migrated the entire site over to Zope, using a custom framework that, through Zope's nifty object-oriented inheritance, allowed me to add content simply by creating folders and adding the content to it. No CMF, no Plone -- just raw Zope.
You also might be thinking, "Where are all the graphics?" Well, I believe in content, not flash. If you want flash, go somewhere else. I make websites with actual information in them.
It may also interest you to know that the entire website was constructed to be as friendly to blind computer users as possible. There is nothing on the site that relies on a non-textual element for either comprehension or navigation.