Where have all my photos gone?!

Image courtesy of auggie tolosa under Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

A preservation expert recently told me that he and his team used to have trouble conveying the imperative for digital content preservation. There was no everyday story that made the issue real for the man on the street. Then digital photography took off, and people – everyone – started to store digital photos on their computers. Instantly there was a great example: everyone can relate to the fragile nature of beloved photos being stored on a computer, which is prone to breakdowns, viruses, non-compatible updates and other techno-disasters. Losing the only photo of that family gathering on the hot summer’s day when little Johnnie said his first words is a horribly vivid thought.

Persuading people to keep photos and other files in a non-proprietary format and to make regular backups has become much, much easier. In other words, it has become a whole lot easier to sell the concept of digital preservation. My question is: what’s the equivalent for software preservation? Is there any software so ubiquitous and so valuable that it can be used to sell the concept of software preservation? Not necessarily to the masses, but at least to a broader audience? Answers please on a digital postcard…