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The 'holy grail' of lost Minecraft alphas has been found after a decade

A backup on an old USB drive held alpha 1.1.1.

On September 18, 2010, Minecraft version 1.1.1 was released with a bug that could lead to a grey screen. It was live for a period of only 3 hours and 25 minutes before version 1.1.2 was released, fixing the bug. For most people, that’s fine, the game now works and we can move on. But there’s a group of Minecraft cataloguers called Omniarchive who are trying to preserve every byte that ever passed through Mojang’s game, and version 1.1.1 proved to be an elusive target. It had been missing for over a decade.

That was until an Omniarchive member discovered a tweet celebrating the launch of a new Minecraft update within the timeframe they knew it was live. They got in touch with the tweet author, Luna, asking her to check for a backup of that specific version of the game. Could it be possible that they’d kept that file for this length of time?

Here’s the tweet, from over a decade ago.

As reported by Kotaku, Luna missed the first attempt to reach out to her, but a follow-up caught her eye, and she decided to have a look. She said: 'I booted up my PC, and looked. I couldn't find the backup. I knew I'd had a "Laptop Backup" folder in the root of one of my drives, but it wasn't anywhere to be found.'

Not to be deterred, she remembered an old USB drive she had. After writing a search script to find any 'minecraft.jar' files, it turned up lots of hits, including 'a file with the exact date they're after!'

It required verification, but it was confirmed that this was indeed the missing Minecraft alpha. And there was much Discord-based rejoicing. There was more to follow. Luna's drive also had the only 'clean' (unmodified) copy of version c0.29_01 that Omniarchive had come across.

It seems amazing that a game with the impact of Minecraft could lose anything, but this was back when developers Mojang were a one-man team, so it's an understandable error. And if it hadn't been lost, this story that spanned a decade and involved some remarkable coincidences and detective work would have also been lost. But thanks to Luna and Omniarchive, Alpha 1.1.1 is now preserved on archive.org for anyone interested in Minecraft's past.

Main image taken from the Java Edition Alpha v1.1.1 page of the Minecraft Wiki.

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