n.a component of a digital preservation strategy in which obsolete file formats are rendered accessible by replicating their original digital or hardware environmentUS GAO 2002, 45A proposed approach to the problem of software and hardware dependence is emulation, which aims to preserve the original software environment in which records were created. Emulation mimics the functionality of older software (generally operating systems) and hardware. . . . This technique seeks to recreate a digital document’s original functionality, look, and feel by reproducing, on current computer systems, the behavior of the older system on which the document was created.McAlister 2007, 23A final strategy is emulation. It seeks to mimic the original technological environment of a digital object and to allow it to behave as it did with its original platform, software, and hardware. It employs programs to translate one computer environment into a newer one. Emulation attempts to imitate the original functionality and look-and-feel of a system.Marshall 2011, 94Emulation is a sophisticated solution for keeping digital objects alive. Through emulation, current hardware and software may exactly imitate the behavior of legacy hardware and software; full emulation of the architectural layers beneath the application allows the application software (or an emulated version of the software) to run just as it did originally, and allows this software to interpret and render the digital file exactly as intended.Thomas 2011, 292The library does not expect to provide researchers with access to functioning obsolescent hardware or media to access “originals,” but is considering providing researchers with access to emulators. These tools simulate earlier computing environments and permit the viewing of digital files in their original formats. In order to provide such access mechanisms, BEAM will require ongoing access to some of the software elements (such as operating systems and application software) associated with digital archaeology. The development of “emulation services” suggests that such infrastructure could be shared between archival institutions, although software licensing issues may hinder this.Williams and Berilla 2015, 85We decided to migrate the Curriculum Committee’s digital files to standardized file formats to create long-term sustainable records. Some sentiment for keeping the files in their original form and using emulation in the future existed.Rosenthal 2015, 3Emulation is a technique for implementing a VM on a host computer whose instruction set is different from the host computer’s. None of the instructions executed by the VM are directly executed by the host computer’s CPU; all are translated by host computer software from the VM’s instruction set to the host computer’s instruction set by host software before being executed. Emulated systems run unmodified software binaries.O’Meara and Stratton 2016, 15Build basic environments for emulation of older formats. This would involve running a virtual machine with an older operating system to view files that do not have a common migration path into a modern file format.O’Meara and Stratton 2016, 25For emulation, an archivist or user would need to know the hardware and software needed to render the file in its original environment. For migration, the archivist or user would need to know about the structure of the object in order to determine a viable migration path (e.g. Rich Text Format to PDF).Cornell and MIT 2022Emulation combines software and hardware to reproduce in all essential characteristics the performance of another computer of a different design, allowing programs or media designed for a particular environment to operate in a different, usually newer environment. Emulation requires the creation of emulators, programs that translate code and instructions from one computing environment so it can be properly executed in another.
Frequently discussed together in the archival literature, emulation and migration are two different methods by which access to records in obsolete file formats may be obtained.