(Or, how to prevent the Dark Ages of computing through free software)
In a few years time, it will be impossible to study the history of home computers since everything at the time was proprietary; both in terms of the physical hardware, and all the software that ran upon it since most of it is encumbered by software “protection” to prevent copying.
To compound the problem, the hardware is dying (literally) and (being proprietary) can’t be rebuilt in any equivalent manner. In some cases the software is physically disintegrating too since, in the case of many 8-bit micros from the 1980’s, the storage medium was cassette tape; a temperamental mechanism at the time, let alone now. It’s not that no computer innovation took place in the 1980’s, just that none of it will be recorded.
What follows is a ten-point plan outlining the primary issues of digital archaeology, the methods necessary to preserve the legacy, and how free software can lead this endeavour.