Seeking reverse-engineers - Apple II VisiCalc

Holger Veit holger.veit at
Thu Jan 29 10:22:09 CST 2009

Jules Richardson schrieb:
> John Foust wrote:
>> No matter how many times I hear stories like this, or lived through 
>> stories like this, I still shake my head and can't understand how the 
>> source code gets lost.
> I think typically it just gets misplaced, not lost :-)  If a company's 
> churning out new products once in a while then it stands to reason that the 
> older, obsolete stuff gets pushed to the back of a cupboard... then buried... 
> then moved to a different cupboard...

I have actually seen it happen that software was discarded, rather than 
moved to some later forgotten place. The mechanism usually works in the 
following way:
1. The developer and curator of the software leaves the company (job 
change, retirement, etc.), of course telling everyone that the work is 
an important piece to be kept.
2. The media and the documentation is put into some archive locker, the 
hardware - obsolete anyway - is discarded.
3. Long time, three new generations of employees later, someone finds 
the locker again, regards it interesting for archival of own stuff, and 
sees big old black squares and supposedly worn-out brown adhesive tape 
on large reels. He has no knowledge what this has been once, does not 
even know what floppies are at all, leave alone 8" ones, and for reel 
tapes noone even has a reader anymore in the close environment. Some 
binders read 1973, long before he was born. Surely it is not for Wintel 
4. Most importantly, the whole crap occupies space in the place that is 
5. So the stuff goes into the dump.
6. Usually, some months, later some former customer asks for 
support...has even still the original system to restore the media.

> I bet it still exists in a lot of cases, but everybody's forgotten exactly 
> where, simply because it's been such a long time since they last needed to know.
> The picture's perhaps a bit brighter these days, because the storage is so 
> cheap now that there's less incentive to dump things from corporate 
> fileservers every once in a while (storing them in the aforementioned cupboard).

Storage on corporate file servers isn't cheap. You don't put 10 1TB-USB 
drives at $100 each together and then have a serious and reliable 
corporate storage system,  even if such USB-SANs exist.

The main point though is called 'digital dilemma'. Data on CDs will 
survive maybe 10, 20 years, so they need to be copied before, e.g. to 
DVDs which give another 5/10 years, or BlueRay (which I give 2 years 
until the next technology will be thrown on the customer obsoleting the 
format). Data on tapes will survive as long as the corresponding tape 
drives are still in use; before EOL data must be copied. Data on RAID 
disks will survive as long as the base disk is available which might be 
5 or 10 years.

Before retiring an old storage, data must be copied. This requires time 
and effort, compared to a simple "remove *" because the #3 effect also 
applies ("What is that VISICAL.ASM junk anyway - doesn't even load at 
all in Visual Studio 2008 although the name implies. Shred the junk!")


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