Open source software that lasts a thousand years? GitHub adds to its frozen Arctic Code Vault


Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

GitHub has put the finishing touches on its Arctic Code Vault with a nearly 1.5 ton steel box covered in AI-generated engravings that aim to inspire future generations to explore it.

GitHub originally uploaded its 21 terabyte snapshot on February 20, 2020 to all public repositories shortly after the pandemic began, but none of its employees were there to witness or participate in it due to the pandemic. He left that job to local contractors.

The snapshot, mostly QR-coded, is stored on more than 180 film reels which, since July, have been 250 meters deep in a mountain in Svalbard, Norway, in a former coal mine. The spot is cold, close to the North Pole, and also close to the World Seed Bank.

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GitHub never revealed which vault they were originally stored in, but either way, that wasn’t good enough to signify their importance to future generations who will likely have little knowledge of the vault. cultural and economic context in which the open source code was generated.

Given the 1,000-year goal of the archives, it is almost certain that none of today’s tech giants will exist then, nor the technology they produced – from networks to software, smartphones and programming languages.

The AI-generated engravings of the shiny new vault were created by the artist Alex Maki Jokelawithin the Arctic World Archive.

“GitHub’s Arctic Code Vault is now a veritable vault, with our archival film reels resting safely in its 1,400 kg/3,000 lb edifice. Even though its heirs centuries from now don’t know what it is, they will certainly recognize that it is something extraordinary, ” writes Jon Evans, founding director of the GitHub Archive program.

Evans says Alexander Rosedesigner and executive director of its partners, the Long Now Foundationtold him, “If you don’t make him look good, he’s bound to fail.”

While some may wonder what the vault is for given the long horizon, Evans has some ideas.

“A disturbing amount of global knowledge is currently stored on ephemeral media,” he notes, referring to hard drives and CD-ROMs. Someone in the future might also need software that would otherwise be lost.

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But also, future historians might see the widespread use of open source and its volunteer communities as well as Moore’s Law as historically significant. It also offers a bottom-up view of the tech world rather than just a top-down view.

“Our hope is that by storing and indexing millions of repositories, we have captured a cross section of the modern software world,” Evans writes.

Another potentially useful addition is what the project calls the Tech Tree – a selection of mostly human-readable works describing how the world uses software today.

The tech tree is divided into thirteen sections covering how computers work and how they are connected; algorithms and data structures; compilers, assembler and operating systems; Programming languages; networking and connectivity; modern software development; modern software applications; hardware architectures and hardware development, electronic components such as transistors and semiconductors; technologies before electricity; function, culture and history written over the past 150 years; and cultural context.


Image: GitHub


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