software laser = S = softwarily

software rot n.

Term used to describe the tendency of software that has not been used in a while to lose; such failure may be semi-humorously ascribed to bit rot. More commonly, `software rot' strikes when a program's assumptions become out of date. If the design was insufficiently robust, this may cause it to fail in mysterious ways. Syn. `code rot'. See also link rot.

For example, owing to endemic shortsightedness in the design of COBOL programs, a good number of them succumbed to software rot when their 2-digit year counters underwent wrap around at the beginning of the year 2000. Actually, related lossages often afflict centenarians who have to deal with computer software designed by unimaginative clods. One such incident became the focus of a minor public flap in 1990, when a gentleman born in 1889 applied for a driver's license renewal in Raleigh, North Carolina. The new system refused to issue the card, probably because with 2-digit years the ages 101 and 1 cannot be distinguished.

Historical note: Software rot in an even funnier sense than the mythical one was a real problem on early research computers (e.g., the R1; see grind crank). If a program that depended on a peculiar instruction hadn't been run in quite a while, the user might discover that the opcodes no longer did the same things they once did. ("Hey, so-and-so needs an instruction to do such-and-such. We can snarf this opcode, right? No one uses it.")

Another classic example of this sprang from the time an MIT hacker found a simple way to double the speed of the unconditional jump instruction on a PDP-6, so he patched the hardware. Unfortunately, this broke some fragile timing software in a music-playing program, throwing its output out of tune. This was fixed by adding a defensive initialization routine to compare the speed of a timing loop with the real-time clock; in other words, it figured out how fast the PDP-6 was that day, and corrected appropriately.

Compare bit rot.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

Windows 95, as old as it is, suffers from it's own interesting form of software rot.

Over the past 2 years, and in over 6 different machines (one of my own posession, and 5 of friends and family), I have noticed a similar behavior in many machines with Windows 95 installed.

At any point, during a period of no less than one up to three years after it was installed (regardless of the amount of use), Windows 95 (A, B, and C!) will eventually "forget" that the machine has a CD-ROM drive.

Yes, the OS will one day up and forget, forever, that your machine has a CD-ROM drive. Nor will it ever see a new installation, should you add a new one. You can take a boot disk with DOS, generic CD-ROM drivers, and MSCDEX, and see the drive just fine.

I'm not aware if this problem is documented, but I do know that it is irreversible (loading DOS drivers before windows loads does not work, nor does reloading the windows driver), and the only fix is to reload the OS. The irony in this being that Windows 95 was the first Microsoft OS to be distributed primarily on CD-ROM

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