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Retrocomputing as preservation and remix

Yuri Takhteyev (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Quinn DuPont (University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 7 June 2013




The paper's aim is to describe the world of retrocomputing, a constellation of largely non‐professional practices involving old computing technology. It seeks to show how retrocomputing serves the goals of collection and preservation, particularly in regards to historic software, and how retrocomputing practices challenge traditional notions of authenticity. It then seeks to propose an alternative conceptualization and suggest new avenues for collaboration between retrocomputing practitioners and memory institutions.


The paper is based on extensive observation of retrocomputing projects, conducted primarily online.


Retrocomputing includes many activities that can be seen as constituting collection and preservation. At the same time, it is often transformative, producing assemblages that “remix” fragments from the past with newer elements or joining together historic components that were never combined before. While such “remix” may seem to undermine preservation, it also allows for fragments of computing history to be reintegrated into a living, ongoing practice, contributing to preservation in a broader sense. The seemingly unorganized nature of retrocomputing assemblages also provides space for alternative “situated knowledges” and histories of computing, which can sometimes be quite sophisticated.

Research limitations/implications

Retrocomputing challenges established notions of collection and preservation. A “situated knowledges” perspective provides a possible resolution.

Practical implications

Retrocomputing presents memory institutions (and libraries in particular) with an opportunity for new forms of collaboration in collection and preservation of software applications.


The paper puts at the center the ways in which retrocomputing challenges the established notions of collection and preservation. It offers alternative conceptualizations that suggest new forms of collaboration.



Takhteyev, Y. and DuPont, Q. (2013), "Retrocomputing as preservation and remix", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 355-370.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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