Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bit Rot. Is it real?

Have you heard of bit rot before? It's the perception that software (the bits) will degrade (or rot) after sitting around for a long time. It will begin to malfunction despite no apparent changes in the environment. I've been writing software long enough to know that it doesn't change on its own, but I've experienced bit rot before. It sure seems real, despite the logical portion of my brain telling me that it can't be.

It sounds crazy, but a system that hasn't been used in a long time just stops working. We have a system at work which we use every few months for demonstrations or training and in between those times it sits idle. Every time we go to use the thing, we find it to be completely crashed in some weird way. Did it get lonely?

And what about the speed of a computer? Have you noticed that they just seem to slow down over time, even if nothing else changes? I had a computer that was new in 2008 and had no real upgrades performed on it for about 5 years. No new software, no upgrades to the operating system. At the end, it was so slow as to be practically unusable. Was it always that slow and I just didn't notice because every other computer I used was similar in speed? Or did it actually slow down over time? I'm fairly certain my cell phone is slowing down as well. Does that count as bit rot too? Or is that something else?

I have no explanations, but this phenomenon can't be ignored. It can be talked about in frog comics though. comic for 28 October 2015

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