I’ve just been reading a really interesting article by Matthew Kirschenbaum about issues re preserving computer software for the future. I’m a former computer scientist, and now academic historian, and this is a subject dear to my heart. On a very personal level I’m painfully aware how much recent software no longer runs on modern computers, and that’s just from the last decade and a bit more. Extrapolating out to more decades and even longer raises the issues still further.
Anyway I would strongly recommend that others with an interest in these issues read the article. It’s remarkably wide ranging. For example there’s quite a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of emulators versus original hardware, including a rather nice analogy about 18th century reading habits. Also addressed is which software should be saved – see also the companion piece about this. There’s also the alarming revelation that the US Library of Congress didn’t generally preserve computer magazines before 1990, regarding them as too ephemeral – aarrgghh!