While most of us may consider stockpiling food for the end of days, Microsoft are preparing to save some of humanities most important work – computer code.
Microsoft’s GitHub which stores masses of open source code has started to stockpile open source software code which can be accessed by those who survive an apocalypse.
“The world is powered by open source software. It is a hidden cornerstone of modern civilization, and the shared heritage of all humanity. The mission of the GitHub Archive Program is to preserve open source software for future generations,” explained their website.
GitHub have placed their repository in the already established Arctic World Archive. It is hidden in an abandoned mine in the Arctic next to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, where seeds are being stored in the case of the same tragic event.
Since 2017, this digital archive has been storing records of important world information including movies and the Vatican archives. GitHub has begun adding open source code to this collection.
GitHub explain that future historians will be able to learn about us from these open source projects and metadata.
“We are already partnering with Stanford Libraries to help archive curated repositories along with the cultural and other context in which they are set, as key elements of wide-ranging historical and social research and analysis,” they said.
How is it stored?
According to Bloomberg, these resources aren’t stored on our standard hard rives or USB’s. In order to withstand the cold, the data is encoded onto hardcopy old movie style reels, sort of like microfilm.
The company who make the film, Pigl AS, ensure these special films will make it through the apocalypse by coating it in an iron oxide powder. They say that the material should hold up for 750 years in normal conditions and possibly even longer in a cool, oxygen-low cave.
GitHub explain that to be able to store an incredible amount of data without ruining its integrity, much of it will be stored QR-encoded.
How will those who find it know what it is?
In order to make sure future humans who retrieve the films from the vault can access and understand what is in them, there will be a human-readable index and guide to identify the location of each repository and how to recover the data.
This will include a technical guide on QR decoding, file formats, character encodings, and other critical metadata so that the raw data can be converted back into source code. GitHub also explain that they will include a Tech Tree, this will be a quickstart manual on software development and computing.
“It will describe how to work backwards from raw data to source code and extract projects, directories, files, and data formats,” they explained.
Archive as a safeguard
While this does sound a little bit unhinged, it also is part of GitHub’s overall emphasis on storing information for the future.
“It is easy to envision a future in which today’s software is seen as a quaint and long-forgotten irrelevancy, until an unexpected need for it arises. Like any backup, the GitHub Archive Program is also intended for currently unforeseeable futures as well,” they said.