I happened to be scrounging through the supply cabinet at work and found this relic of the computing world, a 5.25″ floppy disk. Putting them in the cabinet may have just been someone’s idea of a joke, but it brings up the very real point of dealing with legacy data and compatibility.
If there was anything on the floppy, it was probably so old that it couldn’t possibly be important to us anymore, but if it was, the chances of finding a computer on the premises that could read it would be slim to nil.
Now as a mechanical engineer, I don’t typically encounter legacy operating systems (COBOL, anyone?), but I have had to dig up some very old technical drawings.
I was working on a radar system upgrade and had to pull up technical drawings from the radar’s original construction in the 1960’s. The drawings were stored on microfiche, and were readable, miraculously enough, by shining a light through them. All facetiousness aside, it was remarkable in a way, that I could still access information that was forty to fifty years old.
I brought this up with a senior engineer and he asked me if I thought today’s CAD models would be readable ten years from now. We were in the midst of changing CAD vendors, and already had problems changing from one file format to the other, and I had to admit that the data would probably become useless, if not in ten years then probably in twenty. Despite it’s bulk and it’s susceptibility to fire and water damage, I have to note that paper and vellum prints have excellent forwards compatibility. And really how well do hard drives hold up to fire and water?
The current solution to the CAD system issue was to maintain a computer with a handful of licenses for the old CAD vendor’s software for the foreseeable future. Perhaps not an elegant solution, but seemingly the best option for the moment. Is data compatibility an issue your company has had to deal with? What about in your personal life?