There could be good news on the horizon for accessing old obsolete file formats. The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is developing a new search engine named Brown Dog that will convert defunct computer files into accessible formats, PBS NewsHour recently reported.
Kenton McHenry, a senior research scientist at the NCSA, explained that a user will be able to feed a file saved in an obsolete format into the cloud-based search engine, which will transform the file into a format the browser can read. It will also be able to assign metadata to images that were previously unreadable, making them keyword searchable.
Development of Brown Dog is funded by a $10 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation as part of its Data Infrastructure Building Blocks program. McHenry told NewsHour that the search engine will likely be available on a limited basis and for testing in March 2015.
Though the initial focus of this project has been on scientific data, it is not hard to see potential for applying this approach to corporate data sets and legacy data that are not easy to access.