Larry Niven's Altair

Robert Ferguson rob at
Sat Aug 22 15:04:13 CDT 2015

I have had several similar personal experiences. Even in the face of extreme need, huge companies and major institutions sometimes can't find things you'd think should be at their fingertips.

When you think about it from a historical point of view, it's actually pretty shocking.

> On Aug 21, 2015, at 12:50 AM, Eric Smith <spacewar at> wrote:
>> 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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