In September 2009 I wrote a post about the future already being here and now. I then read a post by Steve Johnson (from Perth, Australia) called, "Trusting Autodesk? Contemplating a New Product" on his blog Blog Nauseum.
I'll let you read his post there but the essence of his post was how can we be certain that the software we use today will be able to support our needs far into the future. His post was focused on the new Plant 3D product. It was this part that caught my attention (my emphasis in bold):
In a word, it comes down to trust. Each drawing used or issued by this utility is a legal document with a potentially very long life ahead of it. I showed the Autodesk person a drawing issued in 1901. The assets documented by that drawing are still in use today; indeed, many thousands of people daily depend heavily on them. Before we invest our money, time and training in Plant 3D, we need to know that the electronic drawings produced with it are going to be fully functional in the long term.
My reaction was, what software can boast that it will support a legacy file format that is as ancient as the document he pulled out of a drawer? I dare say none can. The first software I used to produce drawings was MAC Draw on a Macintosh Enhanced with an internal 800 kb hard drive AND an external 800 kb hard drive. Good luck opening that file today. The television studio equipment that my drawings documented was installed in 1988 and the drawings were probably never needed again, they were installation/shop drawings.
I've met firms that (a few) are actually upgrading every project they have done in CAD/BIM to the latest version of software they use each time they start using the newer version. Just think what committing to this means on a practical level as a task for each project. The thing is, unless you do this, you must continue to rely on the printed documents (or perhaps pdf versions) forever because you may not be able to open the project files in five, ten, twenty, thirty years from now if you don't upgrade them (current and old) routinely.
What if the software ceases to exist as Steve suggests in his post? What shall we upgrade to then? We can keep the software but we'd also have to keep a working computer available indefinitely that could run the software too! A trip to the DigiBarn perhaps?
Something to mull over...