back to article Imagine surviving WW3, rebuilding computers, opening up GitHub's underground vault just to relive JavaScript

Microsoft's GitHub on Thursday said that earlier this month it successfully deposited a snapshot of recently active GitHub public code repositories to an underground vault on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. GitHub captured every repo with at least one star and any commits dating back a year from February 2, 2020, and …

  1. logicalextreme Silver badge

    Could've spent that money on hiring QA staff

    Just sayin'.

  2. katrinab Silver badge

    "At the time, David Rosenthal, a veteran of Sun Microsystems and Nvidia and the co-creator of Stanford's LOCKSS [Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe] digital preservation program, expressed skepticism that anyone beyond the current generation will ever find the code useful."

    Future generations will be interested, especially in the more mundane examples. They probably won't use it it in production, but it will still be of historical interest.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or will this be like hieroglyphics with archeologists trying to figure out what it means?

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Not quite.

        Assuming that anything survives, future people (creatures?) would first have to recognise that the objects contained, or were, representations of information.

        1. Adam 1

          My money is on them assuming it is some sort of religious artifact.

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Isn't ritualistic purposes the go-to explaination for the unexplainable?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            That might explain all of the zealotry and religious flame wars regarding which programming language is best.

          3. Mike 16 Silver badge

            Religious artifacts?

            You mean like HeeChee Prayer Fans?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          When I am forced to review old Perl scripts, I sometimes fail to recognize that the code contained within was ever a representation of information. So good luck and godspeed to future data archeologists.

      2. logicalextreme Silver badge

        in b4 "hieroglyphs"

        1. bpfh

          You only get hieroglyphs

          When you display UTF-8 in ISO-8859...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You only get hieroglyphs

            Hieroglyphs are actually part of the UTF standard as of 5.2 in block 0x130. No conversion necessary.

        2. Glen 1


      3. E 2


        Future archeologists will figure out a way to construe Javascript as a method of torture practiced against microserfs of this age. They will not be too far off the mark.

      4. Col_Panek

        When they stop laughing.

    2. jelabarre59

      Future generations will be interested, especially in the more mundane examples. They probably won't use it it in production, but it will still be of historical interest.

      Historical, or Hysterical?

  3. Efer Brick

    Invaluable resource

    So civilisation 2 / aliens can have a good laugh

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: Invaluable resource

      After the "Rise of the Machines", they may try to run this stuff, and we will get our posthumous revenge.

  4. MacroRodent Silver badge

    DOS forever

    Of course, the collection also includes the sources of MS-DOS 1.0 and 2.0, which Microsoft released on Github a few years ago.

    (Don't worry, there is also a copy of the Linux sources).

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: DOS forever

      Scary to think that GORILLA.BAS will be to a future civilization what the Dead Sea Scrolls are to ours!

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: DOS forever

        A google search tells me it appeared only in MS-DOS 5.0. MS-DOS 2.0 does not appear to include any games. But I would like our civilization to be remembered for something better than EDLIN (the MS-DOS standard text editor that felt hopelessly primitive even back in 1983).

  5. gerryg

    Post apocalyptic visions of what?

    I am trying to imagine a post apocalyptic world in which, e.g., power stations survived, networking infrastructures remained useful, and enough computers remained intact. This would suggest to me a lot of other infrastructure of developed societies also remained intact. I can't reconcile all that with a need for the deep frozen GitHub. Similarly if there were a "need" for the deep frozen GitHub, what would it be needed for? I don't think 7nm line width fab would be a priority in a world destroyed that comprehensively.

    1. logicalextreme Silver badge

      Re: Post apocalyptic visions of what?

      In this new society, culture will need to be remembered or rebuilt. The only "comedy" media that survived were a scratched copy of the Jim Davidson DVD "Sinderella Comes Again: Live" and an overly-compressed torrented copy of the first four seasons of The Big Bang Theory on a thumbdrive that was inexplicably discovered inside a fridge along with seventeen sealed tins of baked beans, of every brand available for purchase in the United Kingdom of Greater London and Surrey at the time of The Event.

      The wellspring of Comedy 2.0 will be some of the particularly piss-poor code found in the archive, and comments containing the words "this should never happen" or "downloads the file at the URL using the HTTP client" above an HttpClient.DownloadFile(url); method call.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: "need" for the deep frozen GitHub

      Mostlyt self-agrandisement, with hints of appearing to look out for user assets.

      Look how important and great we are! Look how far we'll go to secure your data!

      Copying the data to tape (as long as any needed binaries aren't more than 100KB) and sticking it all in a deep hole is far easier than setting up globally and regionally redudant, resilient, fail-over capable storage with effective disaster recovery.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Post apocalyptic visions of what?

      Why do people always assume there has to be some kind of apocalypse for these kinds of projects to relevant? Throughout human history, civilisations have risen and fallen, technologies have been forgotten and rediscovered, but at no point has there been any world-ending apocalypse that wiped out our entire technology base and sent us back to the stone age. And yet we still find digging up artifacts from 1000 years ago to be interesting and informative, because while civilisation as a whole has continued uninterrupted, the details of exactly what was going on back then have been lost.

      It's silly to criticise things like this because cavemen wouldn't be able to understand it, or people trying to rebuild civilisation wouldn't be able to make use of it. Assuming it actually survives and is looked at in the future, by far the most likely scenario would be archaeologists with a higher overall technology base but lacking the actual details of how all this stuff works. In that case, a deliberately preserved archive is going to be far more useful than occasional scattered references found from digging through landfills, which is essentially what archaeologists have to go on today.

      Obviously if you don't find it worthwhile to preserve a bunch of Github code for future generations then it's still going to be a wasted effort. But that's a very different argument than simply dismissing it because it wouldn't be useful to cavemen after a nuclear apocalypse, which is simply not a scenario it's intended for in the first place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Cuddles - Re: Post apocalyptic visions of what?

        I would recommend you to read Isaac Asimov's Nightfall. It's frightening and depressing at the same time.

        As for Microsoft, I'll have to dispose of Flight Simulator CD because when my Windows XP PC will die, there will be no OS that could run the installer. 10000 years ? Surely you can't be serious!

        1. jelabarre59

          Re: @Cuddles - Post apocalyptic visions of what?

          I would recommend you to read Isaac Asimov's Nightfall. It's frightening and depressing at the same time.

          But **DON'T** watch the movie. A complete abomination on the premise that missed the point by a few dozen parsecs.

        2. Precordial thump

          Re: @Cuddles - Post apocalyptic visions of what?

          Spun up an instance of Win2k in a VirtualBox VM for precisely that reason. Zero installation hassles.

          Now pardon me, but my 737 is about to take off from Chicago O'Hare...

      2. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

        Re: Post apocalyptic visions of what?

        Recent undersea archeology tells a different story as 'something' happened at the end of the Lesser Dryas to wipe out civilization(s) by a several hundred foot rise in the sea level.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Similarly if there were a "need" for the deep frozen GitHub

      Should make it all safe from ransomware.

      Assuming GitHub wasn't already infected when they made the archives.

  6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Oh dear

    a chamber deep inside hundreds of meters of permafrost, where the code now resides fulfilling their mission of preserving the world’s open source code for over 1,000 years.

    It's a shame that permafrost will probably have melted, flooding everything, within a couple of centuries.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      Now now, these days it's too much to expect people to think ahead. Have an idea, run with it, ignore/shout-down/fire anyone who disagrees, because they clearly aren't with the programme.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Arthur the cat - Re: Oh dear

      Taking a page from Microsoft book, maybe the humanity needs a hard reboot.

  7. Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Maybe not such a daft idea

    Anyone remember the BBC Domesday project? Less than 20 years after it was published it was already becoming a fossil.

    1. gerryg

      Re: Maybe not such a daft idea

      The Domesday project suffered because the method of storage quickly suffered from the demise of devices capable of reading it? It wasn't a loss of data problem

  8. Ottman001

    Can we now consider Haiku to be part of Microsofts disaster recovery plans?

    All those Windows based projects will need something to run on in the post apocalyptic world.

  9. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    No binaries over 100KB

    Doesn't that potentially render a lot of the stored code unlinkable? Anything in with 3rd-party library/executable dependencies is going to be screwed.

    Pointless exercise IMHO.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: No binaries over 100KB

      It's basically Gentoo everything. First, you retrieve the source for an operating system, Linux for example. This needs various libraries, so you find those too. These need to be compiled, so you retrieve a C compiler. Then you realize that you don't have anything to run on and the compiler's also written in C. Then, you write your own language and compiler for whatever computer you have found, or you use whatever programming language is on the surviving machine available. So basically it would only be useful in a very weird catastrophe. Maybe we should have someone write a book called "How to build a computer out of rocks that knows how to execute some instruction set we designed for computers built with lasers" and put that in the archive too.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: No binaries over 100KB

        "How to build a computer out of rocks"

        We still can't boot Stonehenge up!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @John Brown (no body) - Re: No binaries over 100KB

          It seems there are some chips missing.

  10. HildyJ Silver badge

    Without kit it's crap

    You've got the code. Presumably there's a compiler in there. You run it.

    On what?

    Without similarly preserved computers, and peripherals, and power sources, whoever finds it won't be able to use it, even if they wanted to.

    1. Peter X

      Re: Without kit it's crap

      Plus, you've got to code something to read the QR encoded data anyway.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Without kit it's crap

        "for boot/usage instructions., just visit"

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see this in the future

    following an apocalyptic crisis, people will get out from their underground caves, grab their Windows PC and login to Microsoft acco... Oh, crap! License expired centuries ago. Let's send smoke signals to the support team. In the mean time, let's cut some trees to build a raft and send it to that darn island. We need that damn JS code by tomorrow.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: I can see this in the future

      Luckily it's all JS code because virtually nobody these days can read FORTRAN or APL, but in 500 years people will still be coding in JavaScript?

      Hopefully someone has added a programming Rosetta Stone to the collection, wait, let me pull some punched cards out of my coat pocket and add them to the archives.

  12. GrahamRJ

    Apologies to Percy Bysshe Shelley

    I met an engineer with an antique plan

    Who said, “Two vast and trunkless archives of Git

    Sat on the backup drive. Near it, on the wall,

    Half torn, a readme printout lies, whose text,

    And wrinkled paper, and sneer of cold command-line,

    Tell that its author well those manuals read

    Which yet survive, stamped on these pointless things,

    The hand that typed them, and the drive that sped;

    And on the printout, these words appear:

    My Github is 0zym4nd145, Coder of Coders;

    Look on my l33t Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

    Of that colossal disk store, crashed and burnt,

    The lone and level tunnel floors stretch far away."

    1. A Nother Handle

      "sneer of cold command-line"


  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "preserving the world’s open source code for over 1,000 years"

    Yes. Because, a thousand years from now, people will know to go to Svalbard and dig up a number of reels that hold code that was written by IT neanderthals.

    Honestly, in a thousand years, if anyone wants to actually consult this code, they'll likely need to rebuild the tape readers from scratch.

    Then they'll find out that the tape has decomposed beyond its ability to retain the data.

    Well done everyone. Great idea to use magnetic tape instead of optical discs. At least optical would likely last longer and wouldn't be subject to any modification of the position of the magnetic North Pole.

  14. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Not completely daft

    But a bit less daft might be to translate things like the Foxfire books

    to something like Ikea directions, print them on similarly robust media, and "plant" them in a number of places (physical LOCKSS archives).

    Not that it will help when the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything requires a .DLL (or .so) that somehow was missed.

    _maybe_ this time people will have become less of a laughing stock in the universe, but I wouldn't bet on it.

    Of course, it would require that the Disney lawyers haven't managed to extend copyright to "life of the solar system plus 70 years".

  15. Len

    If there ever is a WW3... will be Node.js that caused it.

  16. Smartypantz

    Code? really

    What we need to keep for posterity is knowledge, proven facts and plausible theories.

    Code... Pha!! i spit!! "If not then this, else this" bullshit. who the fucks has the inclination to sift through that clusterfuck in 30.000 years? Code is is worthless in it self. The logic behind it is better expressed outside of code, and might not be worthless, AND might be worth preserving for posterity.

  17. karlkarl Silver badge

    Haha, the very nature of "modern" web apps dragging in dependencies from NPM, PIP,, CPAN, etc... ensures that the bits of code in the vault will be incomplete and worthless.

    These dependencies rack up so much technical debt that these projects wont be buildable in 5 years, let alone 500+. Chuck in a bit of x86_64 Linux Hypervisor Docker images and it pretty much ensures the solution cannot run on the processors of the future.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      It doesn't need to be runnable

      to be interesting.

      Historians of the future will no doubt pore over this set of source listings, gleaning knowledge and theories about the lives of the programmers, managers and users of each project.

      It's no different to how archaeologists of today carefully sift through the baked, buried and shattered remains of clay tablets that were used to record daily transactions - originally intended to be wiped each day.

      From that, we know what people ate, drank, how much they paid (or were paid), some idea of the debts people commonly had and much more.

      There's a few thousand lines of my code and comments in there. It's unlikely anyone will read it, but if they do, I hope they learn something about the way we lived last year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Richard 12 - Re: It doesn't need to be runnable

        They will be surprised to find out programmers had lives back then.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: It doesn't need to be runnable

        If I was going to put 21 TB of data somewhere for the benefit of historians, it wouldn't be code, or at least relatively little of it would be. Code may tell some how a few of us thought, but it doesn't show much about how we lived except for the readme files. Similarly, if there are translation files in there it might help as a sort of rosetta stone, but that's getting to the goal by quite an inefficient path. A lot of code will look like all the rest of code, moving data chunks around. It won't help historians very much to have driver code for fifty open source hardware platforms that no longer exist. Here's what I would include instead:

        Translations of various texts into most languages, trying to ensure that most subjects are covered (technical, legal, scientific, narrative story, and the most important basic description of something likely to continue to exist later on such as the water cycle). This helps with the inevitable language problem.

        Dictionaries of all the languages we've included, which helps with extra words when they've figured out the basics.

        Books on geography and astronomy, which help clarify what the planet was like when we were around.

        Textbooks for most subjects at various educational levels which provide a summary of what we knew or at least what we thought we knew.

        Descriptions written of everyday life by people who have been instructed to provide every detail, and most likely to ensure this, describing the life of people who live quite differently to the describer.

        And, since I've probably missed several important things, let's just throw in the entire contents of Wikipedia in there.

        There's my suggestion, and that probably fits just fine in a single terabyte; at least text-only Wikipedia certainly does and that's probably the largest chunk in the set. It's not perfect by any means, but if I had to figure out what life was like a thousand years ago, I'd rather have had their encyclopedias than a library written in an invented language that reads from devices implementing an arbitrary communications protocol to read chips with another arbitrary protocol.

        1. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Re: It doesn't need to be runnable

          Don't forget art and music. The music should be both in the form of musical notation (when appropriate), uncompressed sound files, and at least part of it should be analogue recordings (like LP discs engraved on some ultra-durable material), so it can be played without having to reinvent advanced digital technology.

          Else we get the situation described in one classic science fiction short story: isolated colonists on a distant planet had an extremely rosy view of human culture, because they were supplied with glowing encyclopedia descriptions of art and music, not examples of the art itself.

  18. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    current generation?

    "expressed skepticism that anyone beyond the current generation will ever find the code useful."

    Hmmm, so he'll be releasing all his corporate code over 25 years old then? No, thought not.

  19. Scoured Frisbee

    > A human-readable index and guide have been stored too.

    And in which language are those?

  20. Grinning Bandicoot

    Back in the days when digital was which finger was used to move the beads on the abaci a short post apocalyptic story where visiting aliens come upon a site that was that was deemed by them as a holy site. In the investigation of these relics a flat circular metal container is found that rattles. The science staff after many checks and tests find the source of the rattle is an inner spool of some type. The challenge of what was on the spool is met and at an all-hands it is demonstrated. There is much discussion as to the meaning of what they and what they significance of the end where one of the characters pops into view and symbols "that's all folks' appears

    Could not it pass up since the description of the storage location matches the story and a shaggy dog was needed to break the serious mood.

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