Yesterday, I mentioned that Voyager’s software isn’t lost yet and is still running. I had explored some of the reasons that was a couple of years ago in Long-lived Computational Systems. Since today is the 54th anniversary of the lunar landing, I’ll stay on the space theme.
In Tech Debt Happens to You I wrote that
[…] the main source of tech debt [is] not intentional debt that you take on or the debt you accumulate from cutting corners due to time constraints. [It’s] the debt that comes with dependency and environment changes.
So, maybe that’s why Voyager could run for so long. Its hardware is in space, so it’s shielded from environmental concerns that would eventually corrode unmaintained metal. And no one can change anything else about its hardware.
I don’t know how much control NASA has over Voyager software updates, but with such low bandwidth and high latency, it could not change much. This affects debt in two ways. The first is that you can’t add more, but the second has to do with how your current debt grows.
Since the cost of software debt is the interest payment that comes when you try to change the software, if you never change anything, your debt has no additional cost.
Note: The title of this post is a play on the promotional tagline for Alien. For more thoughts see Alien Movie Review: Display Technology.