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Not My Dad’s Defender – What Is Bit Rot Anyways

Bit Rot Intro

One of the last times I was with my dad, I brought home a copy of his favorite game “Defender”.  It wasn’t the original arcade game for I didn’t have that kind of money nor the means to bring home an arcade cabinet.  It was an emulated version of the game on a game disc for a modern home video game system, “Midway Arcade Treasures”  If my memory serves me.

He smiled and played it for a good while.  I joked with him that he has lost his touch for in the 80’s his high score was legit.   He simply pointed at the controller and said: “This is not the same game”.

That is the best way I can explain “Bit Rot”.

Bit Rot is not a physical erosion of computer bits (the series of 1 and 0 that makes up all software, embedded systems, and smart devices) for bits can’t decay.  But rather the decay of software being usable or functional as it was originally created.

There are various factors that cause this phenomenon, such as Environment Change, Onceability, Dependency, and Unused Code.   Absorbing Pixels LLC will mostly focus on Environment Change within our organization because that is where we, the consumers, can mitigate the decay.  The other factors are mitigated by the software developers who create the software through sound development practices.

My Dad’s Defender

Defender Arcade Cabinet

Now let’s go back to my dad’s excuse for not getting anywhere near his highscore.   Is he right?  Is it really not the same game?  Actually yea.   It may look the same, it might sound the same but to expert Defender players, It doesn’t play the same.   Here is what is different

  • Dad was playing on a modern TV.   A TV which has a different frame rate and generates the picture screen differently than a CRT screen from those 80’s arcade cabinet.   Dad’s Defender game was programmed and designed for the CRT.
  • Dad was playing using a Gamecube controller.   A controller which doesn’t include a joystick and big arcade buttons he can quickly smash with his other hand.
  • Dad was playing from a Nintendo GameCube disc.   A disc which isn’t a full circuit board like the one built and installed within the 80’s cabinet.

Both games are Defender but to play actual Defender you need a circuit board, Joystick, arcade buttons, and a working CRT.

My Dad’s Defender and those 80’s arcade games are increasing undergoing Bit Rot every day, not because the software is decaying but rather environment is rapidly decaying.   Ask yourself when was the last time you went to Best Buy and bought a CRT TV to fix an arcade cabinet screen and you get the idea of why Absorbing Pixels has been established.

To mitigate Bit Rot not only do we need to preserve the software but rather the environment that the software was designed and programmed for.

Absorbing Pixels aims to preserve all digital art and media and the ability for them to played or viewed in the original environment they were intended for.

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Category:Bit Rot, Video Games
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