Summa Contra Program Rot

Dan Bricklin’s essay Software That Lasts 200 Years is provocative.

We need to start thinking about software in a way more like how we think about building bridges, dams, and sewers. What we build must last for generations without total rebuilding. This requires new thinking and new ways of organizing development. This is especially important for governments of all sizes as well as for established, ongoing businesses and institutions.

I don’t quite agree with the analogies, but I am provoked.
Rather than thinking of ways to make software stable and useful for the long haul, I think that the better perspective is that data is long-term, so data design, data formats, interoperability are the important issues. It does not matter whether I can run ancient programs, it matters that the valuable data can reliably be exported, imported, or directly accessed via ever-better tools. One way to ensure stability of infrastructure is to freeze the tools forever; the other is to be prepared to use a different tool every day.
The fact that I can move my weblog back-end from Radio to Movable Type to something else makes the data itself more stable and valuable, not less.

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