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How will Debian someday remove ports of obsolete hardware?

In the Debian world to date, the experience of the Debian developer
community has been to add an ever growing number of hardware platforms.
With the release of Woody, Debian now supports 11 different CPU hardware
architectures. This extensive porting work, while bringing along some
problems, has payoffs too, and seems to be widely supported by the Debian
community. Therefore, lots of hardware support is a good thing.

However, CPU hardware grows older as time passes.  Some CPUs cease to be
produced, or shrink to miniscule market share; and some companies go out of
business, or get absorbed into a borg-like conglomerate.  This means that,
someday, a hardware architecture supported by Debian is going to become by
any rational standard, well and truly ancient and obsolete, i.e. not worth
supporting anymore.  For example, someday, the Motorola 68k chip is going to
be no more, and sadly, the same is true of the mighty Alpha CPU.  Someday.

How will Debian gracefully remove porting support for dead architectures in
the future?  While this is not an immediate problem, and possibly not one
for several years, shouldn't the Debian developer community draft guidelines
for deprecating obsolete hardware ports?  Shouldn't this be done now, while
there is no pressure to do it, so that a new deprecation policy can be
drafted methodically, fairly, and rationally?  If this issue isn't decided
now, it might become a bitter and emotional flamewar in a few years when
somebody calls for a perhaps obsolete m68k port to be dropped, and stalwart
m68k defenders object.

Luke Seubert

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