How much old software do you really need to save?

Even after the great closet clean-out of December, 2007, my closet is still kinda full. Well, very full actually. One of the things it’s full of is old software program disks and manuals. In this corner, we have the game Master of Orion II for Macs, issued in the mid-1990s. That’s fine as there’s also a copy of the Mac OS 9 install disks not to mention Windows 95, 98 and 2000. In slightly more modern offerings there’s a disk to install the Palm Pilot version of the Zagat Restaurant Guide circa the year 2000 and every version of Microsoft Office going back to floppy disks. Speaking of floppy disks, I see a floppy for the game Railroad Tycoon. That’s the original issue, not even the first deluxe upgrade, that probably came out in 1989 or 1990.

Even my organizing scheme for fairly current software is a mess, with some stuff neatly stacked in my office, other stuff hidden away in drawers and the occasional scattered disks just hanging around the house waiting to be lost or scratched.

So what’s up? Why save old programs? I have two excuses. First, I have this vague theory that I’ll need one of those programs some day to boot up an ancient computer and retrieve a critical, long-lost file. I discovered this year, for example, that the current version of TurboTax can’t actually open tax files prepared in earlier years. Sure, it can read a little data from the previous year’s return, but that’s it. Want to see what you deducted in 2002 as a capital loss? Better have the paper print out.

But that doesn’t quite cover everything that’s saved.

I’m also prepared in case I find some cool, old hardware that one of the kids wants to play with and I need some of the oldies to get it working. That actually happened one time, when we found an old Toshiba hand-held PocketPC running an even more ancient version of Windows CE. It worked as a nifty wireless web browser for a few months until the battery stopped charging (even with a new battery) and we abandon it for the second time. I’ve also recently come back into possession of a seven-year-old Shuttle SV24 mini PC running Windows 98. I wonder what software we have in the closet for that baby?

Hmm — that still doesn’t explain everything, though. I guess in the end I have a nostalgic attachment to some of those oldies. I want to be able to take my future grandchildren up to the attic and show them how computers used to be, back when we had keyboards and mice and printers and fax machines, when computer games were filled with blocky, rectangular graphics and Wordperfect was the order of the day.

So tell me, what are you saving? What’s in your software vault? And what suggestions do you have for keeping things organized?

  • Pakrat

    Time to come out of the closet, my pack rat bro! :)

  • Rob Dern

    Back before school testing swamped everything a few years ago, I had, in my second grade class, a take-apart table with pliers, screwdrivers, etc. You should have seen the kids gawk when I brought out the Royal manual typewriter and the one piece 33-45-78 record player that I had dug out of my basement. “My grandma told me about them once,” said one of them.

  • Mr. Reeee

    This article hits home.

    I'd saved every piece of software and manuals since 1989. I forced myself to do a review.

    Did I really need WriteNow 2.0? Lotus 1-2-3 1.0? Excel 2.2? MiniCAD 2.0? Photoshop 1.0? Canvas, UltraPaint, PixelPaint Pro, MacRenderMan, tons of utilities, fonts, games, etc.. Original installer disks for EVERY Mac System software release from System 6.0.2 all the way up to Mac OS X10.5. I had them all, even Mac OS X Public Beta. I'd even made disk images of lots of older installers stored on magneto-optical disks.

    Did I REALLY need this stuff? Would I EVER use it?

    SO… I threw everything away except the most recent stuff, manuals and all.
    It was at least 7 or 8 bankers boxes full of floppies, CD-ROMs and manuals.

    I DID keep some things that directly related to my work or being able to update files at some point. I keep an old Titanium PowerBook around to boot into Mac OS 9, if I need to.

    It was liberating.

  • Wow! Everything? But it sounds like you went through it all carefully,
    first?

  • Mr. Reeee

    One more thing…

    I've used VectorWorks for years, since MiniCAD 2. I kept telling myself, someday I'll translate all those files.

    So, I sat down one recent rainy weekend, found and translated EVERY design project file I'd worked on since 1991! I had to run every file through 2 or even 3 translations (for the really old ones).

    MiniCAD 3 to 5, MiniCad 5 to VectorWorks 7. VectorWorks 7 to VectorWorks 2008.
    Luckily VectorWorks 2008 has an extremely smart batch file translator.

    It really wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be.
    Now I don't have to think about those what-ifs any more. And it was pretty cool to see all the stuff I'd designed and projects I'd worked on over all that time.

  • Mr. Reeee

    I have my files archived and installers for current versions of software, which can usually open old files. Archives of disk images and a database of all my serial numbers.

    I found an old utility, CanOpener 5.0 which can actually crack into old text, image and sound files. I was able to look into old WrtieNow word processing files to see what was there.

    I flipped through the boxes, got aggressive, went through it again and chucked 90% of of the stuff. It took a few hours. I had printed lists of the stuff in the boxes when I packed it, so some of the sorting and identifying had been done whenever.

    It's surprising how much of the stuff was beyond useless.

    Did I really need software that would only run on pre-PowerPC Macs? NO.
    Would I ever find an old Mac IIcx and resurrect the stuff? NO.
    Did I really need Classic Mac OS software? NO.

    Manuals… gone. Did I EVER even open them?
    Floppies… gone.
    CD's of old versions… gone.

    The other bonus? My girlfriend was VERY happy to see all that junk GONE!

  • My resistance is lessening. Anything older than 30 years goes. :)

  • This article I so true, keep on writing like this, enjoyment to read :) 595

  • visit

    http://old-versions.org/

    Old Versions Softwares- Old-Versions.org is an archive of old versions of various programs.

  • PatrickN

    Oh, all software program disks and manuals I always collect. And now I have a huge collection of them despite of the fact that some of them are not working now. Well I like to compare old programs with news because I am very interested in computers, programs and other technologies. Your post was really interesting for me. Thanks for it and I will be waiting for other great ones from you!

    Sincerely,

    Tony Samson from software application development

  • PatrickN

    Oh, all software program disks and manuals I always collect. And now I have a huge collection of them despite of the fact that some of them are not working now. Well I like to compare old programs with news because I am very interested in computers, programs and other technologies. Your post was really interesting for me. Thanks for it and I will be waiting for other great ones from you!

    Sincerely,

    Tony Samson from software application development

  • I’m also experience this. Most of my software are outdated and never used in today’s modern technology.