40 years ago I put a million pounds worth of Computer Aided Design into the Traction & Rolling Stock Division of the British Railways Board.
I scarcely need say that I’d now struggle to find similar kit dead in a museum, let alone up and running to read those old drawings.
Anticipating your email even back then, I insisted that the CAD drawings were Microfilmed and Archived on 35mm IBM silver-based ‘aperture cards’, in exactly the same way as Inked drawings were.
I then set about cataloguing them all on a massive database.
These days, when I pop into my old office to buy prints of Works Drawings, the CAD computer room has long been stripped-out. But the lads at screens still have the Aperture Cards and, as they still have the Database, they can find and scan those drawings onto PDFs and paper plots.
The digital nature of the ‘model’ has been lost, but at least Something has Survived, and luckily no worse than that from the previous reign of Tracing Linen and India Ink.
That isn’t a complete answer - it only works for computer-created Drawings, but not for the kind of digital data that goes direct to Manufacturing without a Paper Print.
Frankly, many aspects of the second half of the 20thC have been archived in far less detail than the second half of the 19thC. Once the colour snaps have faded, even family holidays will be less documented.
These comments do raise the question to me of how will researchers of the future deal with records from the current era where many records are kept electronically.
I know I’ve never been that rigorous in how I store my digital images compared to my slides. It strikes me that every time a program is upgraded or current technology changes things get lost. Who can read a floppy disc now and I
had to get an external DVD reader for my work computer.
I remember a comment about oral histories of engineers being recorded and someone asked are we archiving a machine to be able access the recording when technology changes.
At least I can read 100 year old printed books - only problem is when they are in a language I don’t understand! Maybe the modern equivalent is incompatible software languages! 🙄
One at least hopes that Government Archives at least have some rigour in record keeping and commit to keeping the data available and compatible with the future technology.
I run a virtual machine using VirtualBox for these situations, to run any flavour of windoze necessary for the job.
If you are running an esoteric system, install Linux Mint in an old box or laptop to achieve the same ends. All at zero cost... :)