The precarious state of classic software and hardware preservation

Chris Zach cz at
Sat Nov 20 10:37:49 CST 2021

>,, etc will all have to be converted too.  I say
> take it upon yourself to preserve whatever it is you deem worthy and make a
> plan and prepare for how it will be maintained after you're gone.  Family,
> computer, documents, whatever.  Don't rely on someone else to do it for
> you.

This was an interesting topic when I was at Science magazine: How to 
preserve the archives. Everyone wants to get your paper archives, rip 
them up, "scan them" and store them. However our first vendor who had 
only the digital stuff we made in the 1980's onward went and had a "hard 
disk failure" in their RAID drive that wasn't detected for years. Turns 
out all the thumbnails were all that was left; fortunately we still had 
the backup tapes but those easily could have been tossed.

Now I'm sure the "Google project" archived all the paper stuff but 
Google will eventually go away just like Jeeves, MySpace, Yahoo Groups, 
and so forth. Or they may forget and "lose" them in which case the data 
is gone forever.

But what do you store it on? Big optical laserdiscs (80's)? Those had 
bit rot after 20 years or so. Magtape? Sure, find the 7 track tapes from 
Apollo and find a 7 track tape reader. Taravan/QIC02/Exabyte 
Monster/Contemporary Cybernetics 8505? Good luck finding a working unit 
and if you took advantage of hardware compression you'd better have the 

Best way to store? Paper. I recommended putting everything on baked 
tablets and burying it in the center of a desert, they didn't go that 
way but it's a valuable option. Well, until someone digs it up, puts it 
in the "National Museum" and ISIS/Taliban/the usual book burning 
bastards burns the place down....


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