Software That Lasts For Years And Years

from the forget-that-quick-and-dirty-stuff dept

We were just talking about the rise of quick and dirty programs as a way for individuals (not necessarily programmers) to solve specific needs. However, as was mentioned at the time, that would be a different “tier” of software programming, and there would still be a need for programmers to do higher level “big” projects. In the past, we’ve also discussed the problem of data extinction, where old computer systems and formats die out, leaving content and applications virtually useless on ancient media. This is a big problem for many applications, and Dan Bricklin is now suggesting that people need to start designing “Societal Infrastructure Software” that can last for centuries, not just a few years. The idea is that this type of software shouldn’t have to worry about new computers or new formats or new anything… but will be able to just keep on working. In order to build this, though, Bricklin believes it will require embracing open source programming, though not necessarily the way people view open source programming today. It’s a fascinating concept, but getting people to think long-term is so difficult these days, that you wonder if such ideas will actually catch on.

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Comments on “Software That Lasts For Years And Years”

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Anonymous Coward says:


sorry, it’s been a week. I think a new version of glibc is out, but I hae to go get this week’s GCC to compile it because it’s not compatible with anything but this week’s gcc, autoconfuse and pkg-config tools, and I don’t have this month’s info reader just to read the may-as-well-be-proprietary INFO format.

You were saying something about longevity? If we can get these apparent Visionairies to plan for longevity past 2 weeks, I’ll be pleased.

thecaptain says:

Re: longevity

Yeah, but right now you’re talking about programming libraries and apps.

However, if the standards are open (ie: instead of that closed kludge of a format Microsoft uses, everyone uses a format that is well documented and available to everyone) then anyone can write software that reads it in whatever language/environment is current. This will virtually eliminate data extinction.

I find the idea put forward by the article interesting, but the thing is that technology and methodology when it comes to IT moves so fast that you can’t program applications for the long term because around the corner there’s always something new…either a new methodology, a new language, a new OS, new hardware etc…

The reasonable option we have right now (until IT slows down and becomes stable, which I’m not sure would be a good thing anyway…because it would essentially mean progress is stopped) is to focus on making DATA available. Making sure that, while apps can be closed or open (I prefer open, but there’s room for both), the DATA FORMAT read and generated by these apps is publicly open and available…allowing someone 200 years down the road to read it.

Using a closed format is like using learning/using a language that only allows you to look at the dictionaries and grammar books if you pay the company…and once that company’s gone (or its focus changes) those dictonaries and books are burned, destroyed never to be read again.

thecaptain says:

Re: Re: Re: longevity

Thanks…the thing is that its more than just an analogy, with some formats like .doc and some programming languages (maybe, although programming language standards tend to be open) IS literally a language to know how to read data. That’s all a standard is in the end when it comes to data, its a dictionary that tells you how to make sense of the ones and zeros.

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