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Collecting all of the publicly available source code

April 6th, 2017 2 comments

Collecting together all the software ever written is impossible, but collecting everything that can be found would create something very useful (since I have always been interested in source code analysis, my opinion is biased).

Collecting together source available on the internet is easy. Creating a copy of Github is one of the first actions of anybody with ambitions of collecting lots of source (back in the day it was collecting shareware 5″ 1/4, then 3″ 1/2 floppy discs, then CDs and then DVDs).

The very hard to collect items “exist” on line-printer paper, punched cards, rolls of punched tape and mag tape. These are the items where serious collectors should concentrate their efforts (NASA lost a lot of Voyager data when magnetic particles fell off the plastic strips of tape reels in storage, because the adhesive had degraded).

The Internet Archive is doing a great job of collecting and making available ‘antique’ source code (old computer games is a popular genre; other collectors concentrate on being able to execute ROM images of games), but they are primarily US based.

Collecting the World’s source code requires collection organizations in every country. Collecting old code is a people intensive business and requires lots of local knowledge.

A new source code collection organization has recently been setup in France; the Software Heritage currently aims to collect all software that is publicly available. So far they have done what everybody else does, made a copy of Github and a couple of the well-known source repos.

I hope this organization is not just the French government throwing money at another one-upmanship US vs. France project.

If those involved are serious about collecting source code, rather than enjoying the perks of a tax-funded show project, they will realise that lots of French specific source code is dotted around the country needing to be collected now (before the media decomposes and those who know how to read it die).