Issue 62 Feb 04, 2024

Text files are forever (possibly)

I've written about the benefits of plain text plenty of times, so when I stumbled onto Steph Ango's essay File over app, it was a bit of preaching for the choir. Ango is, of course, known for the popular notes app (or whatever you want to call it), That made the essay even more interesting since it clearly states that readable text files are better than apps. uses files, so that makes sense, but it got me thinking.

Today, we can still open and read text files created in the early days of computing. Sure, there might be some encoding nonsense going on, but that's easy enough to fix, and a problem of the past thanks to established standards. It's a bit like HTML, the language that websites are built with: The standards makes it more future-proof than anything that requires software to run. Just look at all the Flash experiences we lost when Flash was deemed, and rightly so, a Bad Way to do things, and thus made obsolete.

Side-note: Some of those are saved thanks to Flashpoint Infinity.

But text files, much like the hieroglyphs of Egypt (as per Ango's reasoning), are equipped to stand the test of time. The essay you're reading now was written in a text-only editor, then sent and published through various services and tools (see the colophon for more). The web version is built, using Eleventy, from text files, which means that I don't have to worry about databases going out of styles. And should Eleventy stop working, I can just use something else that reads text files, as the original files are sitting there in a git repository (and backups, obviously). They're portable, they'll stand the test of time.

I've taken it further the past couple of weeks, finally moving my (up until now, absent) journaling to text files. One file per year, is my thinking, and plain text. Just about any app can read it, a year and a decade from now, I'm sure, and then some. That's more than you can say about diary apps and services, they could suddenly disappear, like the Ello social network did. No exports, no nothing, just gone. For a social network, that might not be the worst thing, but your daily journal, your diary, your innermost thoughts? It's like losing your photos, isn't it?

How long will text files be readable, realistically? I'd wager for as long as we have computers of any sort. I don't know of an operating system that can't handle text files natively, and no matter how much startups wants us to talk to AIs, the written language is tried and true.

Text files might very well be forever. And if you worry, hit that Print button, and start building your physical library as a backup.


💀 Study finds that Google is losing the fight with SEO spam, which surprises no one. AI generated content shows up here too, but it’s not the whole story as the dataset is old and use is already noticeable. Search is dying.

🤡 Trump vs. Swift, a popularity contest that might get the fans in trouble. What a clown.

🫡 Make a damn website. Preach.

👠 Got to love fashion: Flip-phone couture.

🕵️‍♀️ Remember when the NSA thought the Furby dolls were AI overlords or something? Well, the documents are now declassified, and it’s hilarious.

🥽 Comprehensive Apple Vision Pro review, asking, I think, a lot of the right questions.

👂 Tinnitus is horrible, so bad that the suicide rate among people afflicted with it is scary high. I know how it is, I’ve had it since I was 17, which is why I’m happy to see promising results retraining the brain using bimodal neuromodulation. I’ll be looking into these devices myself, although the studies cited were small and funded by the manufacturers, never a good sign.

📂 Another useful app making FTP servers available in Files/Finder for Apple users across all platforms, from the maker of Working Copy, which I like.

🗞️ Today in Tabs is a great newsletter that used to be on Substack, but isn’t anymore, for obvious reasons. Rusty shares the struggle of moving to Beehiiv, if you need additional help. I didn’t cover Beehiiv in my alternatives to Substack piece, but I’ve head great things about it.

🤑 The Vox piece Everyone’s a sellout now has gotten a lot of traction. It points out a lot of the problems facing creators in today’s world, but, as John Scalzi writes, this isn’t anything new. Being a creator has always meant you had to hustle and do all the things.

🐴 As promised, the linkage overspill from the last letter. I also wrote a piece on online handles.

Got something I should read? Send it to me, either by replying to this letter, hitting up on Bluesky, or any of the other means that appeal to you. Thanks!


📚 I’m between books at the moment, and have been deep in research, so for once I’ve got nothing to share here.

🎵 So Billy Joel’s back, that’s fun. ”Turn the Lights Back On” is the first single for a new album. Pretty good, I’d say.

📺 Watched Jeanne du Barry yesterday. Pretty movie, fun to hear Johnny Depp speak French (he was good), and a fascinating story. Worth a watch.

🎮 I had to see if ultramodded Oblivion was stable, and that was a couple of enjoyable hours spent in Cyrodiil. Still can’t get it to run in a stable for on my ROG Ally though, which is where the game would make more sense.

I skipped last week’s letter, as you can see. There are plenty of thoughts brewing, so expect some changes in the near future. Also, I’ve been under the weather for two weeks so that didn’t help. Better now though, and ready to get back at it.

Until next time, take it easy.

— Thord D. Hedengren ⚡

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