Preserving Past Programs for Posterity
Right now I likely have more copies of movies that had to be restored and remastered before being re-released on DVD or Blu-Ray than modern movies. While those restored movies were preserved in part for sale, many I own and many I do not are being restored simply because if we do not restore them, they will be lost. Movies are not the only media being lost to time and now researchers at the NIST have gotten involved with archiving software from the early 1980s.
The software for this project comes from a collection at the Stanford University Libraries, which is also working to preserve these programs before the media they are stored on degrades too much. Of course how much the media has degraded will also be learned in the process because we simply do not know how well the data survives on these older technologies. More than just the data of the programs, mostly games by the way, are being archived as the original packaging is also being digitized.
Ideally the information within the National Software Reference Library, which is to contain the images of the old programs, will be made available for access, but there are some intellectual property rights issues still to work through. Once that is done though, researchers will be able to study software from the early days of microcomputing and potentially learn how software has affected culture from its early days to now.