Sorry, what follows is a bit of a technical rant about the longevity of content on digital media and systems that rely upon dead or dying legacy hardware/software.
Originally Posted by old man
Has anybody written a book?
So let me rant about digital media and the impact on the history of modern F1! You hear talk occasionally about the difficulty of digital storage in that formats change and equipment no longer exists to read the data. There is that for sure, but there is also the situation in which I think a lot of modern history lives on the internet be it wikipedia articles, new stories, forum posts, whatever. However there is little guarantee that information will persist long term because the parties who currently host that information are generally "for profit" and at times have little incentive to maintain the information long term. I am sure we have all had the experience of clicking a link from an old article somewhere and it is just gone. So my hope is that yes, this stuff should be documented in a way that can last. Otherwise we may find that in some ways modern F1 will be the least documented in the long term.
Here is an example of digital decay... Before things like forums were popular, there was what is/was known as Usenet newsgroups. I think they are still in use today, but they were much more popular around a decade or more ago. At some point someone started to archive them, then that seemed to get consolidated into a searchable system by someone known as "DejaNews". Then eventually that archive was acquired by Google which was folded into their "groups" system. It continued to be searchable and you could read older content. Then at some point within the last few years the ability to search and view older content (pretty much all that was archived by DejaNews) was removed from the search interface. So all of that content is currently not available to anyone (unless they have made their own archive). Depending upon what a Google does with it, it may be gone forever.
So... oddly enough paper may last longer than some digital media. That is why I continue to buy paper books.
Originally Posted by old man
Actually this whole engine thing is a historic element in itself, the keepers of F1 history need to have a record of, even examples of, these complex and exotic engines. I know I for one would like to know more about what went into them, the power available and why they were so complicated to fire up.
I have two comments regarding the complexity of modern racing (and sometimes street) cars. First, I have to wonder how teams (and future owners) handle the situations in which they don't own the engines. So for example the car Williams gave to Massa. That car used a Mercedes engine which I assume was returned to Mercedes at the end of the season. I don't know the details, but I assume that Massa has only a chassis with "something" (highly likely completely non-functional) mounted in place of the power unit and maybe the transmission. The point being that unless you are someone like Mercedes, Renault or Ferrari... complete "modern" F1 cars likely don't exist when a season ends.
That is why everyone talks about those who have working cars have different (none original) solutions for the engines.
Second, there is the issue brought up above about the reliance upon older hardware. There is the story that has floated around for quite awhile how McLaren is reliant upon a 1995 Compaq laptop for work on the original F1 road car because of a unique CA card required to make it all work. The IT industry is littered with stories like this. Usually it is some type of unique hardware system that requires related ancient computer equipment. I think the US Air Force still uses a system as part of the nuclear deterrent that relies upon 8" floppy drives.
I do think that long term this can be solved, but it does require some work. Machine virtualization is one example. But special hardware interfaces makes that difficult (which I think is the McLaren issue). But I believe that even McLaren is biting the bullet and working on a replacement that doesn't require the ancient Compaq laptops.
This next bit is VERY esoteric
, but in 2014 a group established contact with a satellite named IEEE-3 that was from the 1970s. The satellite had long been retired and had a proprietary system for communication that was long gone. But it was still orbiting the sun and sending back data. Using some newer hardware and special software techniques (radio geeks will know about what is known as "Software Defined Radio") that were not really available decades ago, they recreated (relatively cheaply) the ability to to talk to the satellite without the original communication hardware.
My point is that, if someone wants to, they can solve the problem with interfacing with the older cars without having to rely upon the old associated computer hardware and software. It just takes someone who is dedicated to make it work.