Last month, the original source code for Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia was found in a cupboard, stored on a bunch of old, old Apple II floppy disks — we're talking over two decades here. While a floppy disk is hardly a difficult piece of media to access, getting the data off the disks wasn't something Mechner was prepared to leave to chance. Enter the professionals.
Mechner employed the help of Tony Diaz and Jason Scott to help him recover the only remaining copy of Prince of Persia's source code. Diaz, a "vintage computer collector" who can "field strip an Apple II floppy drive and refurbish the thing in under an hour" supplied the expertise and the hardware, while Scott coughed up a "KyroFlux" reader, a USB floppy controller "designed specifically for reliability, precision, and getting low-level reads suitable for software preservation", according to the manufacturer's website.
Reading the data itself involved a program called Locksmith (version 6.0 to be exact). Locksmith was originally designed to make backups of copy-protected disks, but because of its ability to duplicate whole tracks — something that couldn't be done with standard copy commands — it proved the perfect utility for grabbing every piece of info stored on the delicate media, regardless of how accessible it was to the operating system.
After getting everything set up, retrieving the source code turned out to be less harrowing than first thought. In fact, Mechner's already put the code up on Github. All things considered, compiling the game might take more effort than the actual recovery.
Prince of Persia wasn't the only piece of Mechner's past that was stored on the floppies — Diaz spent an entire day saving his older work, which included a Tetris clone called Quadris. In the end, the data amounted to just 2MB... or 10 years, as Mechner pointed out on Twitter.
Wired managed to take some great shots of the process. If thoughts of the original Prince of Persia do little to trigger your nostalgia glands, then these pictures of an Apple II, its guts open for all to see, should do the trick.
Images: Wired / Dan Krauss.