The rise and significance of emulation can be attributed to a hobbyist, do-it-yourself community outside of a formalized, professional sphere: video games and their enthusiasts. With enthusiasm comes a need for the access of digital artifacts industry-driven changes in technology have provided little to no options for—a call both archivists and gamers can agree with.
This foundational history brings us to the role of emulation within digital preservation practices. Per traditional dictionary definitions, to emulate means to strive to equal or imitate. An emulator is the means that allows us to do exactly that. The practice of emulation is a tool all archivists should learn more about for digital workflows.
Jon Ippolito, a Professor of New Media at the University of Maine who has spoken extensively on technological obsolescence and the preservation of media art, defines emulation as “a computer program that ‘fools’ the original code into assuming that it is still running on its original equipment, thus enabling software from an out-of-date computer to run on a contemporary one” (116).
Simply stated, the act of emulation can allow archivists to access digital artifacts that are considered obsolete according to today’s technologies. Emulation provides avenues for challenging obsolescence by enabling other means of access.