The Daily Parker

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Modern-day Howard Carter, corporate edition

One of my colleagues at another office sent an email this morning to basically everyone in the company with a screen shot and a brief cry for help. One of her customers had an app with our company's name on it that had stopped working, and could anyone identify the app or where it came from? Also, it seems to run on something called "ANSIC" which no one in the customer's office knows.

I should at this point mention that the dialog box was from a Windows NT 4 or 2000 computer, and was version 2.0.415—so it probably started life on an even older version of Windows. And "ANSIC" means ANSI C, a language almost as old as COBOL. So even before we get to asking whether my company can still support it, I have to ask: how is the computer it's running on still working?

To me as a software developer this is like meeting a 30-year-old dog on the street.

Update: the author of the email got back to me, after hearing from someone who recognized the app. Its author died years ago, and the only other person who might have worked on it retired in the 2010s. The only thing to do, then, is to reverse-engineer the business process and start fresh.

You know, I still have code I wrote in Applesoft in 1981, but it's on printouts. The oldest runnable code I have is from 1986, and I need to spin up a DOS 3.3 virtual machine to get it to run. I hope that my craft has matured enough since then that the code I write today will still work in 15 years, but 30? No way. I've recently had to give an old client some bad news about their 16-year-old app: we either need to re-write most of it, or I can only keep it alive for 4 or 5 more years, because Microsoft will stop supporting the language (.NET 4.7) someday soon.

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