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Adventure game source codes rescued by baking

Magnetic Scrolls data rescue

Digital data can be easily lost with no chances of bringing it back. Sometimes you can do miracles, though. The British game developer Strand Games managed to rescue the original source codes from Magnetic Scrolls by baking the data in an oven.

Magnetic Scrolls was a British adventure game developer active between 1984 and 1990. The company was a pioneer of adventure games and was the most acclaimed European developer of interactive fiction. The company published games such as The Pawn, The Guild of Thieves, Fish! and Wonderland.

One of the founders of Magnetic Scrolls, Hugh Steers, later founded Strand Games and started re-creating the original games for modern platforms. The problem was that the original game data was still stored on old and unreadable magnetic backup tapes. After experimentation the company was able to read the TK50 tape cartridges and restore the original data, including all the assets of the Magnetic Scrolls’ adventures. This was achieved by actually baking the tapes and modifying the tape drive.

“Heating the tape for several hours at a relatively low temperature (for an oven) dried out the tape for long enough for it to be read without sticking”, Steers explained.

Digital preservation is not an easy task and Magnetic Scrolls’ example shows how easily you can lose the old data. Even if there are backups you need to refresh them regularly to new formats.

With successful data recovery Strand Games aims to re-create the original adventures on modern platforms, bringing back old pieces of digital art and interactive fiction for modern gamers.

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