May 1, 2014
Digital Archeology Uncovers Lost Warhol Artworks And E.T. Games
So far no copies of Shakespeare’s rumored Love’s Labour’s Won have been found. While in fairness it isn’t even known if the play, which is the supposed sequel to Love’s Labour’s Lost, ever existed, as it has been searched for by fans of the Bard for centuries.
As it was likely written only on parchment – if it truly existed at all – it was lost before all those tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrows. Paper, in its various forms, does have a way of not exactly standing the test of time. Digital media has a similar problem. It can be easily erased and worse, if the hardware to run said software doesn’t exist, you might not even known what you have.
So imagine the surprise when dozens of lost Andy Warhol artworks were discovered on Commodore Amiga floppy disks from the late 1980s. While video has existed of Warhol creating the art when he experimented with the digital medium, it was thought the actual images were lost.
The Daily Mail reported “The artworks were commissioned in 1985 by pioneering home computer company Commodore, who wanted Warhol to demonstrate the graphic capabilities of its new Amiga 1000 as it went head to head with Apple’s popular Macintosh series.”
Talk about picking the wrong horse! While Apple had its ups and downs and nearly went away in the 1990s, the Amiga was Commodore’s last hope to remain relevant in the computer space, but the company didn’t realize it was pretty much hopeless from the beginning. PCs were coming down in price and consumers didn’t need so many choices. Commodore’s Amiga and Atari’s ST line of computers just couldn’t stay in the fight that the PC would soon win.
What is remarkable about this story, however, is that it shows the potential that the Commodore Amiga had back in the late 1980s – back when the PC offered EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) with 16 colors and resolution that maxed out at 640×200! PC World declared the Amiga to be the 7th greatest computer yet built and called it “Years ahead of its time, the Amiga was the world’s first multimedia, multitasking personal computer.”
Perhaps Warhol could have been influential enough to make people see the genius of the Amiga – but sadly he died unexpectedly in 1987. This was just two years after the release of the Amiga. In that time he created numerous works of art, including a digital take on his now infamous “Campbell’s Soup Can.”
Just as the Warhol’s work was unexpectedly found this month, so too were unsold copies of the Atari 2600 game E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, a video game that was so bad that it is largely credited with nearly destroying the video game industry.
NPR reported that the notorious “Atari Dump,” a long rumored graveyard for the lost-but-not-forgotten games, was finally discovered. So bad was the game that Atari supposedly buried it rather than release it.
Now it seems the lost treasure trove of games – if you can truly call an awful game treasure – have been uncovered.
“The Atari 2600 gear was found in a landfill in Alamogordo, N.M., where the city council voted in 2013 to allow gaming media company Fuel Industries to search for unsold boxes of games and other items that were allegedly dumped there by 14 trucks in 1983,” NPR reported.
Unlike the Warhol works the Atari cartridges were long-known to have existed, it was just where exactly these had been.
It is also a great sign that digital technology has preserved this works of art, even if only for 30 years. It does give hope that perhaps other “lost” pieces of work – whether it be lost silent films, Shakespeare plays or even just old games – aren’t truly lost forever.
Image Credit: Thinkstock