Chris Rusbridge, retired Director of the UK Digital Curation Centre (DCC), sent an open letter to Tony Hey of Microsoft asking that they publish the specifications for older file formats. He has received a reply:
- Response to the Open Letter on obsolete Microsoft file formats, Chris Rusbridge, Unsustainable Ideas, (Nov 26, 2012).
- We do not currently have specifications for these older file formats.
- It is likely that those employees who had significant knowledge of these formats are no longer with Microsoft.
But the good new is that Microsoft is willing to work on the problem! The response from Microsoft continues:
- We can look into creating new licensing options including virtual machine images of older operating systems and old Office software images licensed for the sole purpose of rendering and/or converting legacy files.
- One approach we could consider is for Microsoft to participate in a “crowd source” project working with archivists to create a public spec of these old file formats.
Of course, this is a closing-the-barn-door-after-the-horse-is-gone solution, but such kludgy solutions are necessary when born-digital information is produced in proprietary formats rather than open formats — and when libraries accept these formats rather than insists on preservable digital objects.