bit rot

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bit rot

(jargon)
A hypothetical disease the existence of which has been deduced from the observation that unused programs or features will often stop working after sufficient time has passed, even if "nothing has changed". The theory explains that bits decay as if they were radioactive. As time passes, the contents of a file or the code in a program will become increasingly garbled.

People with a physics background tend to prefer the variant "bit decay" for the analogy with particle decay.

There actually are physical processes that produce such effects (alpha particles generated by trace radionuclides in ceramic chip packages, for example, can change the contents of a computer memory unpredictably, and various kinds of subtle media failures can corrupt files in mass storage), but they are quite rare (and computers are built with error detection circuitry to compensate for them). The notion long favoured among hackers that cosmic rays are among the causes of such events turns out to be a myth.

Bit rot is the notional cause of software rot.

See also computron, quantum bogodynamics.

bit rot

The inability to access digital data because the formats are obsolete and compatible applications no longer exist to read them. The term is also used for software rot. See data rot.
References in periodicals archive ?
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Remove bloatware, junk files, temp files, cookies, broken code and other items that can hamper a PC's performance
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No stranger to writing about historical figures, Baxter also penned the Tribeca Film Institute/Sloan Foundation award winning screenplay BROKEN CODE about DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin which will begin production next spring with Peter Bogdanovich directing.
I've always felt a lot of pressure when going up to women, and the program gave me insights into how I can relieve that anxiety by taking an honest, straightforward approach to meeting a woman," says Sepehr Niakan, a Miami business owner who has been able to approach and date attractive women since learning "The Broken Code.
It was no problem, though, for Amsterdam police to come up with a laundry list of broken codes when they found a woman stopped with her car in the middle of an intersection, engine running.
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An American intelligence official, who refused to be named, said Chalabi told the Iranians the US had broken codes used by Tehran's spy service.