I recently had a discussion about the accessibility of today's computer content in the future. We started asking ourselves how well the support in current software is to read and use old legacy data formats - graphics, videos, text, layout documents, whatever may still be interesting today.
I remembered having such a discussion some years ago and back then, Works documents were mentioned by someone as a somewhat difficult format. Back then, libwps existed with some command line tools to convert to staroffice format (which could then be opened by openoffice) and experimental patches existed for openoffice itself. Seems at least here the situation has improved. The current version of libreoffice reads Works documents out of the box.
Free software projects play an important role in keeping old data accessible. Just to name two, ffmpeg does a great job in supporting a large number of old and exotic video formats. It's used by a bunch of popular video players like mplayer and vlc. For graphics files, there is imagemagick, which provides a conversion tool to up-to-date formats like PNG.
In some upcoming blog entries, I'll try to explore things, will look for old files and see if I am able to use them.
A call to my readers: Do you have any old stuff laying around that you'd find interesting to access today? Which file formats are difficult to access? Are you searching for tools to open / convert them? Do you have something old that might be worth publishing to others as well? Send me your stuff, I'm very interested.
I have some files laying around as Corel Draw vector graphics, file extension CDR.
Those files were created with some demo/tryout versions of CorelDraw 3 to 6, back in time when CorelDraw was the de facto standard for vector drawing on Windows. I never managed to open or convert those files with any free software.
(Recent Inkscape claims to open these files but I don't get valuable content.)
Besides the free software thing: CorelDraw is still available but has lost its major market share. So it's even hard to find someone who has CorelDraw installed.
I think that one of the most absurd file formats that I tried to open recently has been Microsoft's "MDI" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Document_Imaging_Format for details).
It's a bastardization of TIFF, and as far as I can tell no Linux software seem to be able to transcode this to something more useful; I had to go through a Windows install with Office to open and convert them to TIFF for a customer two months ago.
i recently had trouble opening a video (avi) with the IV50 codec (read: vlc wasn't able to open it ;.) ), solved it by converting it with some strange mencoder magic only possible on 32bit systems.
can hand you that file if you are interested :-)