21 terabytes of open source code now stored in an arctic vault

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For those concerned about preserving the legacy of open source coding for future generations, rest assured, a repository of GitHub’s public repositories has been safely transferred to the World Arctic Archives.

According to a GitHub blog post, the code was successfully deposited on July 8, 2020 in the Github Arctic Code Vault, a data repository held in the Arctic World Archive, a data retention facility in Svalbard, Norway. The effort is part of the Github archive program and is the second Github repository made through the program.

“Our mission is to preserve open source software for future generations by storing your code in an archive designed to last a thousand years,” GitHub wrote.

According to the blog post, a snapshot of all active public repositories on GitHub was taken on February 2, 2020, resulting in 21 TB of repository data. In GitHub, a repository is used to organize a project and contains all the folders and files needed to run the project.

This data was then written onto 186 reels of piqlFilm, a digital photosensitive archival film. According to a spokesperson for Piql, the creators of the film, the technology is a completely autonomous medium and any files stored there will be recoverable in the future, regardless of the technologies available.

“All the information needed to recover the stored information is written on the film itself in human readable text, along with the file specifications and the source code of the recovery software,” the spokesperson told Motherboard in an email.

This is good news for supporters of open source coding who want to keep a snapshot of all of Github’s public repositories. GitHub says on its website that it has over 50 million users and over 100 million repositories.

“As today’s vital code becomes yesterday’s historical curiosity, it can be abandoned, forgotten or lost,” Github wrote on its website. “Archiving software in multiple organizations and forms of storage will help ensure its long-term retention. “

Each reel in the archives will include a guide in five languages. Information documenting the technical history and cultural background of the archives will also be included.

GitHub partners in the Github Archive program include Internet Archive, Software Heritage, and Project Silica.

According to its website, the Arctic World Archive was established in 2017 and contains a collection of digital artifacts and information from more than 15 contributing countries. The archives are located in the permafrost of an arctic mountain in the Svalbard Archipelago and are designed to withstand natural and man-made disasters.

Other artifacts kept in the archives include manuscripts from the Vatican Library and masterpieces from the National Museum of Norway.


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