Digital archaeology of the microcomputer, 1974-1994

Jules Richardson julesrichardsonuk at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jan 17 14:04:50 CST 2007


Ray Arachelian wrote:
> /(Or, how to prevent the Dark Ages of computing through free software)/
> 
> In a few years time, it will be impossible to study the history of home
> computers since everything at the time was proprietary; both in terms of
> the physical hardware, and all the software that ran upon it since most
> of it is encumbered by software “protection” to prevent copying.
> 
> To compound the problem, the hardware is dying (literally) and (being
> proprietary) can’t be rebuilt in any equivalent manner. In some cases
> the software is physically disintegrating too since, in the case of many
> 8-bit micros from the 1980’s, the storage medium was cassette tape; a
> temperamental mechanism at the time, let alone now. It’s not that no
> computer innovation took place in the 1980’s, just that none of it will
> be recorded.

Hmm, I'm inclined to disagree. In a few years time it will be impossible to 
study the *current* generation of home computers because the expected lifetime 
of the hardware and software is much less now, whilst the complexity has 
increased.

Service information for modern equipment is harder to find, and the  parts are 
far more likely to be custom anyway.

Data sizes are much larger these days, making offline backups difficult for 
most home users.

Plus there's the nostalgia factor; vintage systems had real character and 
required an investment of effort on the part of the user - making them more 
likely to be preserved. Modern systems are grey boxes that are so cheap they 
get thrown away for a newer model when they are no longer needed.

So... I don't think there's anything like as much of a problem with vintage 
systems now as there will be in 20 years time with the systems of today. The 
article just smacks of typical "it's old, therefore it's a problem" writing to me.

cheers

Jules



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