LastChoice - A Zig Journey to Data Recovery

Oct 30, 2023 min read

The Genesis of LastChoice

In the realm of software development, sometimes the most niche projects can also be the most enlightening. This was precisely my experience with LastChoice, a command-line tool crafted with the purpose of recovering data from FirstChoice database files. For those unfamiliar, FirstChoice is a piece of vintage software, a relic from an era when personal computing was just starting to bloom in the late ’80s. It might seem odd to dedicate time to a database format that has long since fallen out of use, but this project was more than just an exercise in nostalgia.

The inception of LastChoice was driven by a personal request from my father, an early adopter of computers for both business and personal management. Over years of use, he had accumulated valuable data within FirstChoice databases (.FOL files), only to find himself stranded when his old computer gave out. Faced with the task of retrieving this data, I discovered that existing solutions were either paid services or too complex for someone not versed in technology.

Seeing an opportunity not only to assist my dad but also to delve into a new programming language, I chose Zig as my tool for building LastChoice. This project served as a dual-purpose venture: Firstly, it was about fulfilling a family commitment by salvaging digital memories and records. Secondly, it presented an excellent chance for me to broaden my programming horizons by tackling Zig–a language known for its performance and safety features.

Learning Zig Through Practical Application

Choosing Zig for this project wasn’t arbitrary. Known for its performance-oriented design and safety features, Zig seemed like the perfect candidate for handling data recovery tasks. However, diving into a new language through such a unique project came with its set of challenges and learning curves.

One aspect that stood out during development was Zig’s approach to memory safety and manual memory management without relying on garbage collection—a feature that demanded meticulous attention but ultimately led to efficient resource usage.

Beyond technical skills, this project honed my ability to translate real-world problems into programmable solutions—turning abstract needs (recovering lost data) into concrete features (reading .FOL files into an extensible format). It was a practical lesson in software design tailored towards end-user needs rather than just programming theory.

The Impact Beyond Code

While LastChoice may appear as merely a utility tool at first glance, its creation embodies several layers of impact:

  • Personal Satisfaction: Successfully recovering my dad’s lost data brought immense satisfaction—not just solving a technical puzzle but also preserving memories and information that would have otherwise been lost.

  • Community Contribution: By making LastChoice available publicly, I contribute back to the wider community. This tool can serve anyone worldwide who finds themselves in possession of .FOL files—aiding in digital archaeology efforts or simply retrieving long-lost family recipes.

  • Learning Growth: Engaging with Zig offered me invaluable insights into modern programming paradigms and practices—knowledge I can carry forward into future projects or professional endeavors.


LastChoice stands as more than just another portfolio piece; it represents the intersection where personal motivation meets technical exploration. Through this journey into Zig and data recovery, I’ve not only acquired new skills but also delivered tangible value rooted in real-world application—an endeavor that underscores why we code: To solve problems, to learn, and to make a difference, no matter how niche the challenge may seem.