No one will be able to access your data in 20 years

Hardware changes all the time requiring new software to use it even for the ‘same’ program.

 

Consider my history with HyperCard, a great Apple program I started using in 1987.  Apple didn’t support it after it moved away from Operating system 9 — new hardware managed memory differently.  So I was left with OS  X which still had a way to access OS 9 even though the processor was a 2.1 GigaHertz PowerPC.

Then newer hardware no longer accessed even the power PC, so as long my iMac G5 held out I was OK.  But hardware doesn’t last forever, so I tried to migrate my database to FileMaker Pro, another Apple product (although they tried to keep this quiet).

Filemaker documentation is simply horrible. Example: they don’t tell you what the reserved words are believe it or not.

So I’m currently trying to migrate my HyperCard database to Mathematica.  I had bought Mathematica 10 and the computer it runs on in 2015.  It was a macBook Pro with a 2.2 GigaHertz Intel Core i7.  But this year the battery started swelling (which Apple offered to replace for free), and worrying about exploding batteries in cars, I decided to move on.

So I bought the latest macBook Pro, which has 64 bit hardware instead of the 32 bit hardware of the old macBook Pro.  This means that Mathematica10 won’t work on the new computer so I must upgrade to Mathematica 12.

Well  what you get when you actually try to open a Mathematica notebook written in Mathematica 10 on the new machine is something like this.

(* Content-type: application/vnd.wolfram.mathematica *)

(*** Wolfram Notebook File ***)
(* http://www.wolfram.com/nb *)

(* CreatedBy=’Mathematica 10.0′ *)

(*CacheID: 234*)
(* Internal cache information:
NotebookFileLineBreakTest
NotebookFileLineBreakTest
NotebookDataPosition[ 158, 7]
NotebookDataLength[ 69720, 1756]
NotebookOptionsPosition[ 63597, 1546]
NotebookOutlinePosition[ 64410, 1576]
CellTagsIndexPosition[ 64240, 1569]
WindowFrame->Normal*)

(* Beginning of Notebook Content *)
Notebook[{
Cell[BoxData[
RowBox[{“(*”, ” “, “W645″, ” “, “*)”}]], “Input”,
CellChangeTimes->{{3.8400255875558558`*^9, 3.840025593274387*^9}}],

Cell[CellGroupData[{

Cell[BoxData[
RowBox[{“newList”, ” “, “=”, ” “,
RowBox[{“ReadList”, ” “, “[“, ” “,
RowBox[{
“\”\</Users/lewisrobinson/Desktop/ Cards 9461 to 9462\>\””, ” “, “,”,
” “, “string”}], ” “, “]”}]}]], “Input”,
CellChangeTimes->{{3.8400252429862013`*^9, 3.840025260918976*^9}, {
3.840025304055138*^9, 3.840025325036539*^9}}],

Hardly readable or usable is it?  Presumably the as yet unpurchased Mathematica 12 will be able to read this notebook and put it into recognizable form on the new machine.

Now let’s move 20 years into the future.  Further new hardware, further new software.  Will you be able to find a machine like my new computer

  Model Name: MacBook Pro
  Model Identifier: MacBookPro16,1
  Processor Name: 6-Core Intel Core i7
  Processor Speed: 2.6 GHz
  Number of Processors: 1
  Total Number of Cores: 6
  L2 Cache (per Core): 256 KB
  L3 Cache: 12 MB
  Hyper-Threading Technology: Enabled
  Memory: 16 GB
  System Firmware Version: 1554.100.64.0.0 (iBridge: 18.16.14556.0.0,0)
  Serial Number (system): C02G8AS4MD6M
  Hardware UUID: 28C836B3-C406-5215-AB85-A25653ADF226
  Provisioning UDID: 28C836B3-C406-5215-AB85-A25653ADF226
  Activation Lock Status: Disabled

 

In 2041 will you (or your grandson) be able to find a copy of Mathematica 12 to run it on, as the newer versions are unlikely to run on such an old computer (as just happened).

 

I seriously doubt it, cloud or no cloud.   So maintaining your data is a never ending process.
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Comments

  • Vincent Wong  On September 13, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Record keeping is a real problem. My wife is a physiotherapist and she has folders and folders of patients files stored in the basement. Some are well over 10 years ago.
    The same related to SAVA allegations with articles traced back over 10 years. How realistic it is to go back some long ago and expect original data, diagrams and notebooks in particular to image quality?

  • Brian Mathews  On September 18, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    Data delving and recovery along with maintenance to current specs is going to be a thriving industry going forward…

  • Gustavo Delfino  On October 4, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Have you seen the video “Software Archaeology: Mathematica 1 Thirty Years Later”? I think you will find it very interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJt2KeCWy5o&t=1956s

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