Larry Niven's Altair

Eric Smith spacewar at
Thu Aug 20 23:50:27 CDT 2015

On Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 10:22 PM, Chuck Guzis <cclist at> wrote:
> Indeed, I've been contacted by an author for a copy of his own software to
> be licensed to another party, as he'd lost the code several years back.
> (Yes, I purchased a license way back when).

A few years ago, an engineer at a Very Big Corporation asked me if I
had their source code to the firmware in one of their best-selling
products, which has sold tens of millions of units over more than two
decades.  They had lost the source code, and they knew that I had some
familiarity with the internals of the product, so they thought I might
have the source code.

I had actually requested the source code from them many years before,
and had been willing to sign an NDA, but they had not been willing to
make it available to me.

A few years after they asked me, they did track down one of the
employees who originally wrote the firmware, and who had retained a
copy of the source code, probably contrary to company policy.

I've worked for several companies that lost source code and were saved
by employees having kept copies in violation of corporate policy. One
of those companies threatened to fire the employee who saved their
bacon by having kept the code. (No, it wasn't me.)

People have told me that big companies have good controls and don't
lose their source code. From personal experience I can say that you
can't count on that.

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