Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Reinforcing my point

Reinforcing the point I have made over and over and over again, that the threat of software and format obsolescence is vastly over-blown, here is a year-old Slashdot story pointing to a contemporary blog post listing a selection of ancient operating systems that simply refuse to die, with comments providing many more examples.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I'm not sure how much that blog post re-inforces your point. But it depends on exactly what the point is. That blog post is mostly about how old O/S's evolved into future versions and forks that are still with us.

But if the point is about, say, what do you do if you have a data file from an application that ran on, say, BeOS -- will you be able to read it with Haiku? That ran on CP/M, will you be able to do anything with it on DR DOS? Etc. Some of the examples on that blog post have current versions which are 'closer' to their original versions than others.

But if you've got some 20 year old data, you need to first get it off the media it's on (perhaps find an 8" floppy drive and a way to use it), then you've got to find an application that will read that data that will run on an OS that can be installed on a machine you've got. The fact that there's an open source clone of BeOS called Haiku doesn't neccesarily mean it's going to be easy to do anything with your 20 year old data. Althouth it is one avenue worth exploring.

You still raise valid questions about whether the cost of trying to prepare for actual obselescence is worth the risk of obselescence, balanced with the value of the data you are trying to preserve. But I think the risk is non-zero, if perhaps not as high as some people think.

Some actual real world experiments would be useful. Who actually has some 20 year old BeOS or CP/M or Amiga data or software, and how hard was it to _actually_ extract or run today? More reports of that would be useful.