KEEP Emulation Framework

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KEEP Emulation Framework (EF) allows users to view and interact with digital files that otherwise would require obsolete hardware and software.
Content type:Software
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The KEEP Emulation Framework (EF) allows users to view and interact with digital files that otherwise would require obsolete hardware and software.  When confronted with a file, the EF identifies its format and determines what hardware, operating system, and software are needed for proper display. Using a suite of hardware emulators and an archive of software, the EF assembles the proper configuration of components so that users can view the file with its intended ‘look and feel,’ independent of current state-of-the-art computer systems. 


The KEEP (Keeping Emulation Environments Portable) project, which was co-funded by the European Union's 7th Framework Programme

Licensing and cost[edit]

Apache 2.0 – free.

Development activity[edit]

Version 2.1.0 of the EF was released in April 2012. The KEEP project ended on 31 March 2012; no information is available regarding further development of the software.

Platform and interoperability[edit]

The following tools were used to access, build and develop the project: Subversion (SVN) Source code revision control system; Sun Java 1.6 Java Development Kit (JDK); Sun Java 1.6 Java Runtime Environment (JRE); Apache Ant 1.7.x build system2; Apache Ivy 2.x.x dependency manager3; and H2 DBMS engine. Running an EF instance requires an x86 32/64 bit machine capable of 1.5 GHz or faster, with at least 2GB of RAM. The system requires 400 Megabytes of free available space for the base install, with upwards of 1GB depending on the number of emulators and software images used. No specific development environment is required; the system will run with Linux, MS Windows, and MacOS X, as long as it has a compatible JRE and network support.

Functional Notes[edit]

The EF relies on three external services: an Emulator Archive, which accesses certified Emulator Packages; a Software Archive, which provides software images of operating systems and other applications required for rendering the environment; and a technical metadata registry, which retrieves information about the platform dependencies of each object being rendered. The EF comes with a basic set of 7 open source emulators and a number of free software applications. These can be supplemented using graphical wizards, but the original software and license must be provided by the user. The emulators included with the current release of the EF can support the x86 computer platform, Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro and Thomson. The software performs automatic identification of file formats, and will expose the technical metadata associated with the file.

Documentation and user support[edit]

The EF website offers extensive documentation, including release notes, a system user guide, a system maintenance guide, and an architectural design document. The project advertises support through its sourceforge forum, but as of writing there have been only two topic threads.


The software offers two Graphical User Interfaces; one provides basic functionality, while the other has more advanced functionalities, including options to manage the Software Archive and Emulator Archive. Users may direct the EF to automatically choose the environment and software, or they may do so manually.

Expertise required[edit]

Users should be comfortable navigating earlier operating systems and software. Adding additional emulators to the process requires solid understanding of application design and technologies.

Standards compliance[edit]

The EF uses PRONOM and UDFR to identify required software.

Influence and take-up[edit]

The project Sourceforge site indicates around 250 downloads for the 2.1.0 release. The EF was nominated for the Digital Preservation Coalition Award for Research and Innovation in 2012.

User Experiences[edit]

Development Activity[edit]