There are many old defunct software products that are no longer marketable. Is there any organization or group who helps to get these valuable codes released as open source?

For example, DEC had a product, VAXELN which ran on 32-bit VAX hardware. When they came out with the 64-bit Alpha, they did not port the product to the new hardware. They continued to support for decades but I presume long term government contracts have expired and it is now just rotting somewhere.

Such a group could help the companies understand the benefits to taking the action such as to society or their reputation.

  • 1
    Unless there is money why would a company give out source code?
    – SmallChess
    Jun 7, 2018 at 13:55
  • You would need to buy the code. No free lunch.
    – SmallChess
    Jun 7, 2018 at 13:56
  • I wonder how much money would convince e.g. Microsoft to open source an old product like Windows 3.11.
    – Brandin
    Jun 7, 2018 at 15:22
  • Creating a company that acquires the rights to such 'old' software and open sources it has been a personal dream of mine for quite a while.
    – 3D1T0R
    Jun 7, 2018 at 16:34
  • Check with people on the usenet comp.os.vms newsgroup, who seem to know just about everything about Digital and VMS. But offhand, I seem to recall those government contracts don't expire until about 2020. (P.S. Speaking of punched cards, which I see on your profile, do you still recall how to prepare a drum card for an 026? And do you think I should take that off my resume now?:) Jun 10, 2018 at 9:58

1 Answer 1


You appeal to the one thing that motivates most companies, their bottom line. You’d need to show them that their investment would give them a return. Microsoft didn’t open source the Win 3.0 file manager out of the goodness of their hearts. They did it because it buys them publicity and loyalty. In that case, they decided the cost of open sourcing that old code was more than offset by the marketing value of doing so.

If you want a company to open source an old product, you need to contact them and convince them that they’d have a positive ROI on such a project.

  • 2
    If anyone is thinking of taking on this type of project, be aware there are existing groups that do this kind of work. The internet archive is probably the largest one: archive.org/details/historicalsoftware
    – xzilla
    Aug 5, 2019 at 23:30

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