Software Collection Committee

The first meeting of the Software Collection Committee of the Computer History Museum was held November 19th. The purpose of the committee is to help the museum, whose mission statement is “To preserve and present for posterity the artifacts and stories of the information age”, bootstrap its software activities. Expected activities include establishing standards for categorization, preservation, etc., testing these standards on some representative software, establishing priorities for software to collect, etc. The committee was launched partly as a response to a workshop on Preserving Classic Software moderated by Grady Booch and held October 16-17.

The discussion of what software would be worth collecting first was quite interesting — people proposed various criteria, but clearly age and historical significance are key. At this meeting, or shortly thereafter, I began thinking about the first Fortran compiler, and my friend Alex Stepanov reinforced this interest. Fortran was arguably the first higher-level programming language, and its compiler was the first optimizing compiler.