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Can we liberate computer collections ?

Intervenant(s) : Jean Thiéry
Langue : Français Niveau : Débutant Type d'événement : Conférence
Date : Mercredi 7 juillet 2010 Horaire : 16h20 Durée : 20 minutes
Lieu : Bat. A22 - Salle 112


Jean Thiery Many computer users have kept their favourite tools. They have built up collections with an unquestionable interest for the tremendous history of computer science.

Some of these computers still work. Others could be easily repaired with cards or peripherals removed from contemporary computers. Even floppy disks, known to be fragile, are usually readable if they have been well stored.

Most of these computers use proprietary software. They also use shareware, freeware and public domain software but nearly no free software. Free software was developed later on, for Unix computers at the beginning.

Can we liberate the oldest computers with free software in lieu of the original software ?

Elimination of the original software would be as questionable as rewriting history ! Parts of the original software may have no free equivalent, specially for drivers. Who can pursue reverse engineering on antiquated peripherals ?

We propose a coexistence of original software components and free equivalent components loaded in separate directories. The computer can be run in its original mode or in free mode with appropriate paths. The original mode is more satisfactory for technology historians. People interested in the evolution of operating systems can easily notice that MS-DOS was behind its rivals (DR-DOS, Prologue, etc). Marketing and industrial considerations have prevailed on technical ones.

Free mode with no black boxes is preferable for education and research.

MS-DOS compatible free software can be easily found on Internet. We have given priority to FreeDOS and EpiJeux.

FreeDOS is a free DOS-compatible operating system for IBM-PC compatible systems ( It is distributed with classical games (Space Invaders, Game of Life, Hangman, Mines, Tetris, etc) reproducing the audiovisual environment at that time.

EpiJeux are distributed by the "Enseignement Public & Informatique" Association (…). They have a great pedagogical interest despite, or thanks to, their minimalist presentation avoiding all unnecessary details. They are appreciated by young children. Comparison with equivalent activities of GCompris or of the OLPC project is quite interesting.

We hope that enough old computers will be saved in perennial structures like museums and that they will be a source of reflection and inspiration for technology historians, developers, teachers and children at any age.

Thank you to the Life Science Direction on the Cadarache site of CEA which has encouraged and kept such a collection for more than twenty-five years.

Thank you also to the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris which perpetuates it.

We are grateful to all members of these institutions who participated in this project : they gave computers or storing space and found financial and legal solutions for its transfer.


Jean Thiéry develops the ModLibre Web site : "Free-Libre Scientific Software for Borderless Modelling"

He participates in the following associations
- Aful :
- Axul :
- OLPC :
- SFBT :