backward compatibility

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backward compatibility

[¦bak·wərd kəm‚pad·ə′bil·əd·ē]
(computer science)
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

backward compatibility

Able to share data or commands with older versions of itself, or sometimes other older systems, particularly systems it intends to supplant. Sometimes backward compatibility is limited to being able to read old data but does not extend to being able to write data in a format that can be read by old versions.

For example, WordPerfect 6.0 can read WordPerfect 5.1 files, so it is backward compatible. It can be said that Perl is backward compatible with awk, because Perl was (among other things) intended to replace awk, and can, with a converter, run awk programs.

See also: backward combatability.

Compare: forward compatible.
This article is provided by FOLDOC - Free Online Dictionary of Computing (

backward compatible

Hardware or software that is compatible with earlier versions of the product. Also called "downward compatible." Contrast with forward compatible.
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References in periodicals archive ?
"To tackle this issue, Huawei's FBB Innovation Lab used the core solution TDD-OFDM, which simplifies the physical-layer architecture and the AFE design, while at the same time making it possible to be downward compatible with traditional ADSL/VDSL2 technologies," he said.
The Profile enclosures are designed to accommodate sleek or custom-sized PC peripheral bays, and the latest SAS models are downward compatible with SATA drives.
Additionally, these drives are typically downward compatible with CD-R and CD-RW recording capability.
The new 15 and 25 million character cartridges include ribbon motion sensing and are downward compatible to select printer models replaced by this introduction.
This prompted a consortium of other personal computer makers, led by Compaq and nicknamed the Gang of Nine, to develop a bus standard that would be downward compatible with all the existing ISA boards.