Interesting article on "Popular Mechanics" recently:
In case you skipped reading the whole (or part) of the article, the basic concern is that in the future society may lack the information necessary to un-archive information from the present time. This is partly due to the proprietary formats in which people or entities (commercial, government or private) store their data.
If, in the year 2030, Microsoft Windows 98 has been retired, will people be able to recognise or disseminate data which was saved in the format of an Office ’97 Word file?
This is something I hitherto hadn’t acutely thought about, but upon realisation, has a very personal context for me, personally.
I spent a good deal of 2001 and 2002 working for an Anti-virus company reverse engineering binary file formats (for the purpose of extracting macro or programming code). In other words, I have first hand experience in the pain and torture of maintaining and/or understanding long forgotten or upgraded file formats.
It’s probably safe to assume that very open or popular formats (like JPEG for images, or PDF for publications) will be still "known", but how about flash files, or that MS Works spreadsheet? How can we generate a solution for this problem, even though it’s compounded by at least a good 15 years of mainstream and widely used technology (not too mention a lot of well protected and copyrighted formats)?
The problem is there isn’t really a clear sense on how to find a solution. Having said that, what is the likelihood if needing to read about someone’s tax statements from 1994? Al Capone might like that sentiment?