Sunday, December 27, 2009

Surprises from an old zip archive

For years my personal data was distributed between DOS/Windows/XP and Mac Classic/OS X environments. It's really only moved to a single OS X share within the past six months, and I'm still sorting out the archives.

Which is why it was only today that I discovered that OS X couldn't open MS-DOS zip files from 1990. WinZip did open them, though it complained of an unspecified security risk each time I opened a file.

The funny bit is that unzipped files came out, total, to about 2MB. Zipped they were about 1MB. So I was zipping them in 1990 to to save 1MB.

No, not 1GB. 1MB, aka a millionth of a terabyte. In those days I guess that mattered.

I've expanded them all now. Most of the documents were written in WordPerfect. I can get the gist of them from a text editor, but Word 2003 opens them pretty well. (Since they go back to DOS they don't have standard file extensions -- back then I used ".LTR" for "letters" and ".TXT" for documents.)

The take home lesson, of course, is that compressed archives are very vulnerable to data loss. At least a WordPerfect file can be read in a text editor.
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