A goodly while back (think around 2003 or so) I purchased a service manual for my 2002 Audi A6 from Bentley Publishers.

2003 is a long time ago in terms of software. We’re quickly getting to the bits on the DVD being a decade old.

Now I want to install some hardware for work — some GPS devices. Additionally I’d like to be able to hook up some radio gear as well. To do this I need to get a good source of power in the trunk — ideally I’d have both switched and unswitched power to the tune of 20-30A in the trunk. (The GPS from Sage Quest will draw perhaps 50mA, but if I get a ham radio rig in there I might be drawing 25A with a 100W transmitter so I want to make sure I’m ready.

So I go to install it in my normal Windows 7 VM.

FAIL.

It’s still trying to install IE5.

W. T. F. ?

Therein lies the problem: information ages.

If I have, for instance, a negative from my camera (you know, pre-digital) then that is going to be readable as long as the plastic backing is around and the pigments last. If I’m talking about black and white film that’s even more durable — the “black” of the negative is simply oxidized silver. That’s not going anywhere fast. (Color films are generally based on organic molecules and are a lot easier to degrade)

In my case right now I’m stuck with a manual that is worse than paper. I have a disc of bits that I can’t readily use. As time passes it’ll be harder and harder to use them in the first place. Right now I’m installing a VM with XP, but how long is that going to be around?

Compared to my car?

Just put the damn thing in a bunch of PDFs and be fucking done with it.

PDFs are at least a standard of sorts. Even in the future I’ll be able to look at one. Things like those (JPEGs, GIFs, etc.) while not immediately obvious how to parse are common enough that they are nearly as durable as the media they live on.

I have faith that in 100 years I’ll be able to (ok, not me, but we) read and display a JPEG. It might not be the easiest thing to do, but I’m sure it’ll be possible and generally easy.

The fucking Audi manual?

Not a chance in hell.