I've always just called this "legacy" software, which by emphasizing that term implied (to me, at least) something that was more or less burdensome. Years ago I heard someone refer to it as "white elephant" software, the care and maintenance of which was the kind of crushing burden a white elephant was supposed to have been.

In the back of my mind I think there was some other dysphemism for burdensome legacy software, but I can't think of it now. Any ideas?

  • 3
    Zombieware. It needs BRAINS Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 20:50
  • Legacy systems are like inheritances: old, but not good or bad by name. The name may imply workhorse, dinosaur, or don't rock the boat cause it works. Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 21:01
  • 1
    Have you thought of asking here softwareengineering.stackexchange.com Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 21:38
  • 1
    If it comes complete with a mid-80s IBM PC to run it, for those three times each year where you break down and ask it something in spite of having sworn you'll never boot it up again ever, we call it an electric paperweight. There's always that awkward moment when you remove it from inventory and have to cover it with black trash can liners instead of the clear ones you had been using.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 21:39
  • 2
    Usually this is called "that #!$*&@#!!".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 22:53

4 Answers 4


Brittle is the word.

I have had people present me such programs as the wonderful, if old, solution or the current crisis. It all depends on what they were doing then and how they hope to keep doing it. All such solutions arrive by a compromise and can be done much better by anyone who was not there at the time to manage the forces at work.

To say it is too complicated to modify without ruining it we use the term Brittle. Changing any of it will always put new stresses on it that will show up in unexpected ways. It is the unexpected result that sensible coders are leery of. You can look up "Brittle Code".


At our office, we call it flip phone software, as in anybody with a flip phone must be using old stuff. But also is a nice way of saying that the software is old rather than calling it Legacy or archaic, which can sometimes be derogatory.

As in, the Flip phone version still was using Adobe flash which we know is problematic. Or that flip phone customer still hasn't upgraded to the latest version.

I suppose you could also use old school, or grandfathered version


I prefer the term crapware.

Software that has little value or that fails to work properly. Also called "lameware," the term often refers to the numerous trial applications that are pre-installed on a new computer (see bloatware). See crapplet and wares. (From PC Mag)



Abandonware is a fitting term here.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.