wasn’t the first spreadsheet to grace our screens, Lotus 1-2-3 was hugely popular during the 1980s and was the first spreadsheet designed to run on the IBM PC.
The length of usage is a testament to the spreadsheets design – 31 years is a good run for any product and a near impossibility in today’s market.
The Floppy Disk
Once an icon of the computer age, the 3.5in floppy disk was cleared from retailers’ shelves in 2007. Newer technology, the rise of digital photography and music rendered the floppy disk obsolete as it was unable to keep pace with demand.
A floppy disk doesn’t have the storage capacity to store one song or high resolution image file – unimaginable in today’s world where our handheld devices can store 32GB of data.
WordStar dominated the word processor market throughout the early 1980s. The software was deliberately written to make minimal assumptions about the underlying system, which allowed it to be easily ported across to other platforms.
As the computer market quickly became dominated by the IBM PC, however, this same portable design made it difficult for the programme to add new features, which affected its performance and popularity. WordStar was soon superseded by WordPerfect, a word processing application owned by Corel. However with a niche user community WordPerfect itself is now at the risk of obsolescence as Microsoft Word and Open Office formats have come to dominate.
So, what’s next?
Leading analyst firms such as Forrester and Gartner have been warning for some time that as file formats change, software is retired and hardware becomes obsolete, the vital data that organisations may want to keep could be lost forever. With the current pace of technology refresh and application decommissioning, software obsolescence is only set to increase. So, what’s next?
The days of desktop advertising powered by Adobe Flash .flv files are coming to an end, and agencies that don’t adapt their software now will soon find themselves left behind. Many users already need to opt in to view Flash on their desktops.
With the advent of streaming technologies the days of CDs are numbered, if not already over. Looking back at some of the software and media that has already become obsolete highlights the importance of digitally preserving files to ensure they can be easily migrated en masse to newer formats over time, and so remain accessible for decades to come.
Business is waking up to the risk of not being able to use or read critical information in the future and deploying digital preservation technologies that are more sophisticated than simply storing the “bit and bytes”. Since most large organisations have millions of long-term digital records in hundreds of different formats, spread across a wide variety of systems then having a preservation system that can operate at scale is a clear requirement.
The sooner these challenges are addressed, the earlier the value of, secure, well organised and accessible long-term digital information can be realised.
Mike Quinn, is the CEO at digital preservation specialist Preservica