The Dead Code Diaries
8 min read
When you find a weird program from four decades ago and realize that it's yours.
Tardigrade walking (Credit: Lisset Duran)

This is a cool video that someone recently took of a tardigrade walking. These little guys, sometimes called "Water Bears" are microscopic creatures known for their heartiness and ability to survive in extreme climates. The internet seems fond of tardigrades, and I always seem to see stories and memes involving them. But the thing about them that stuck in my head was how they can remain dormant for decades without food or water, and then be revived as if nothing had happened.

I thought a bit about what it would be like if people could do that:

"Susie this is your Uncle Joe. You never met him because he went dormant ten years before you were born. We're cooking a big dinner tonight though because he just woke up and he hasn't eaten in forty years."

But more appropriately for the article, I also thought about how software programs are like tardigrades. They could sit around dormant somewhere for decades, but then be revived, and run like they were just written.

I admit that this is kind of a fascinating topic for me, In my article about old storage systems, I speculated that there may be some old mainframe computers out there somewhere with non-volatile core memory in them, that are holding the remains of the last programs those machines ever ran.

Other people too seemed to like this idea, saying it would make a good premise for maybe a sci-fi story or something. I'd love to read that someday, or maybe I'd like to write it. But for now, I can tell those interested of a real-life encounter with this dormant program phenomenon that I had recently.

January 1982 edition of Popular Computing (photo by author)

One day last fall, I was looking through a pile of old stuff I had. Now if there were a packrat scale from "0" to "F", where "0" is Tibetan Monk and "F" is Subject of an episode of "Extreme Hoarders", I would rate myself maybe a "B" — Retaining an above-average amount of junk, but not worryingly so. (Non-nerds, sorry…
Mad Ned
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