Old Document Formats Still Readable?

Recently an author reported, with disbelief, his inability to open Microsoft Word documents created with the 1989 version of the software with the version used in 2017. I guess we all mistakenly assume our software versions are still compatible with all former versions. This individual is also unable to open musical scores created using old versions of Professional Composer, Deluxe Music Construction Set and HB Engraver, being able to only read scores that were printed previously. Even paper format is not meant for long range preservation either because all forms of paper deteriorate over time.

Inability to read various formats can prevent future generations from being able to open our "works of creation". This author reports that The Library of Congress has considered this worrisome situation and is digitizing its 70 million manuscripts, 14 million photos and 800,000 rare books. This multi-million-dollar project intends to preserve these works and make them available on the Internet for public viewing. The format chosen by The Library of Congress currently is TIFF due to its open format. Importantly, files need to be reconverted on a regular basis to take advantage of new formats and to ensure the files can continue to be converted to newer formats in the future.

Getting back to the Word problem mentioned at the beginning of this article, the author suggests that you open your old documents and re-save them periodically so they remain readable by newer software versions.

(David Pogue, "Fighting Format Rot: The Library of Congress has your back", Scientific American, Nov 2017, p.26)