[TUHS] Sad news from IBM...

J. R. Valverde j at cnb.uam.es
Mon May 9 18:41:10 AEST 2005

I was reading Groklaw yesterday night when I came across this. It is a
very sad thought to know that possibly tons of old/ancient code is being
dumped in the trash bin.

More so now since the advent of software patents: it may become very
difficult to avoid a patent on a re-invention of the wheel if previous
knowledge has been dumped.

OK, the quote. It is from "the Todd Shaughnessy affidavit [PDF] from IBM 
that Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells requested they file when they turned 
over all the code and paperwork to SCO":

	28. As I have noted above, IBM does not maintain revision control 
	information for AIX source code pre-dating 1991. To the extent that 
	any code for the AIX operating system (that did not duplicate the 
	code already being produced in CMVC) was found during the search 
	described in Paragraph 26-27 above, it was produced. Paragraphs 
	29-31 below describe additional search efforts IBM undertook to 
	locate pre-1991 versions of AIX code. No versions of AIX pre-dating 
	1991 were found.

	29. In the 1980s and early 1990s, IBM prepared vital records backups 
	of AIX source code and transferred them to a remote storage location. 
	At some point in the 1990s, the AIX vital records tapes were transferred 
	to Austin, Texas. In late 2000, the tapes were determined to be obsolete, 
	and were not retained.

	30. The AIX development organization contacted other IBM employees who 
	were known or believed to have been involved with the development or 
	product release of AIX versions prior to 1991. In addition, IBM 
	managers and attorneys asked current members of the AIX development 
	organization whether they were aware of the location of pre-1991 
	releases of AIX source code. No one asked was aware of any remaining 
	copies of pre-1991 AIX source code.

Perhaps we should do something to raise awareness about the relevance of 
legacy (not only UNIX) source code. And in any case, it is a pity that all
that historical information had been lost forever.

I have always complained about this, and consider it the biggest drawback of
closed proprietary source code: it is OK that law protects developer interests 
with the goal of promoting innovation and the public benefit at large. But it
is a lose for everybody whenever any such "protected" code is dumped into the
bin banning anyone else from further benefitting from or exploiting it, and 
opening the road for opportunists to claim they "newly invented" it.

Sic. Sigh.
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