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William Payne

Industries still using ancient computers.

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Posted · Original PosterOP

(Disclaimer: I completely understand why this happens and what the justifications are. I just think this is a neat nostalgic topic.)

 

While the consumer industry is very much centred around the latest and greatest must have thing. 

 

In business and industry however things can be a little behind the times. Mostly due to special softwares that are perhaps older and written for legacy operating systems. Or hardware limitations of critical machinery or whatever. 

 

I just recently saw a photograph of a relatively recent fighter jet engine being worked on. What was amazing though was the computer was a mid 90's era machine running Windows 95. 

 

Also I remember when Windows was doing that forced Windows 10 update a while back, the US military had to pay Windows some horrendous amount of money to continue supporting Windows XP as they needed XP to run their software. 

 

I also see it in science and medical fields. I had eye surgery earlier this year and the clinic was all running iMacs with bootcamp windows (the iMacs were an image thing, it was a fancy place). But the Windows they were running was old as the software they use required legacy OS. 

 

My day job is in a machine shop and the Cnc machine there takes Compact flash cards that are still in megabytes. I always laugh at that. 

 

I got a bit nostalgic about this as I was born in 1988 and remember being a little kid playing with Atari consoles (I still have a few of those somewhere). The first computer I used was in 1993. I went looking online at examples of old computers still used today and I found this page. 

 

https://www.google.co.nz/amp/s/www.pcworld.com/article/249951/computers/if-it-aint-broke-dont-fix-it-ancient-computers-in-use-today.amp.html

 

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The motto in such applications is "don't fix what is not broken".

Does it really matter if your CNC machine uses MS-DOS? Will it work any worse because of that?

Should avionics that will be flying over 100 people around be really updated to a new OS just because the old one is an anachronism? Is it worth risking a deadly bug in the software just so you'd be able to brag "our plane uses the latest OS"?

It's old, but it works. That's what matters.


 

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Servo in the shitty little town I grew up in, in the middle of butt fuck nowhere ran the pump pay system on an old commodore 128. I mean that's fine just don't argue with the old arsehole that you cant put 60ltrs of fuel in a 40lt tank and that your not paying for it. 


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I work for a large company which runs mainframes, up until a few years ago we still had a punch card reader hooked up to one, it wasn't used of course and i dont even know if the new mainframes could even interact with it (it wouldn't surprise me if they could, they are built to work with code thats 30years + old), but it was still plugged in for memories sake. 


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13 minutes ago, juretrn said:

The motto in such applications is "don't fix what is not broken".

Does it really matter if your CNC machine uses MS-DOS? Will it work any worse because of that?

Should avionics that will be flying over 100 people around be really updated to a new OS just because the old one is an anachronism? Is it worth risking a deadly bug in the software just so you'd be able to brag "our plane uses the latest OS"?

It's old, but it works. That's what matters.

Here in the UK, many of our NHS / Police computers use Windows XP. The operating system not supported anymore. The operating system with numerous security flaws. To protect confidential data. We saw what chaos an attack can do. Just because it appears to work doesn't mean it doesn't have bigger flaws which aren't immediately visible.

 

EDIT: I agree on the CNC point, if it works go for it, but in other circumstances, keeping with the times is important.

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Posted · Original PosterOP
10 minutes ago, juretrn said:

The motto in such applications is "don't fix what is not broken".

Does it really matter if your CNC machine uses MS-DOS? Will it work any worse because of that?

Should avionics that will be flying over 100 people around be really updated to a new OS just because the old one is an anachronism? Is it worth risking a deadly bug in the software just so you'd be able to brag "our plane uses the latest OS"?

It's old, but it works. That's what matters.

 

Absolutely. The use case is completely justified. I just find the whole thing very nostalgic and amusing. 

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The majority of industrial businessess dont usually upgrade their PCs because they do what they need them to do. As long as the business has reliable computers (whether they run windows XP and have terrible hardware) that work for their needs, it isnt necessary for any upgrades because it just adds more cost to what the business has to pay for other things when the PCs are functional and reliable for that particular businessess needs. Some businesses and the tasks that they perform dont require a lot of performance from their PCs, so upgrading wouldnt be neccessary because since the PC is functional and works well for their needs, nothing is required to improve the performance of the old machine because it suits the job just fine for the tasks they are doing.

 

I am currently in high school and we have a server that gets upgraded every 5 years, I walk into my local cheap as chips store and when I am at the check out, I see them using windows XP for the cash register.

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In engineering windows xp is used on expensive machines that outlast the software, but they don't need the internet so only problem is really finding replacement hardware.

In medical industry they really don't like changes and they too have expensive machines that need to last longer than the proprietary software.

In electrical transmission they are trying to move away from proprietary systems as it is a state security issue to be running 20 year old software to prevent high power components from melting.

John oliver has a video on YouTube about Americas nuclear arsenal running on those really big floppies.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
2 minutes ago, SCHISCHKA said:

In engineering windows xp is used on expensive machines that outlast the software, but they don't need the internet so only problem is really finding replacement hardware.

In medical industry they really don't like changes and they too have expensive machines that need to last longer than the proprietary software.

In electrical transmission they are trying to move away from proprietary systems as it is a state security issue to be running 20 year old software to prevent high power components from melting.

John oliver has a video on YouTube about Americas nuclear arsenal running on those really big floppies.

We do in fact have a computer controlled milling machine where I work that is running Windows XP

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Just now, William Payne said:

We do in fact have a computer controlled milling machine where I work that is running Windows XP

Most are. Last time there was significant investment in engineering in nz was when Auckland hosted the Americas cup. After the FTA with China a lot of firms closed and there are still machines sitting in storage from liquidated companies


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3 minutes ago, SCHISCHKA said:

In engineering windows xp is used on expensive machines that outlast the software, but they don't need the internet so only problem is really finding replacement hardware.

In medical industry they really don't like changes and they too have expensive machines that need to last longer than the proprietary software.

In electrical transmission they are trying to move away from proprietary systems as it is a state security issue to be running 20 year old software to prevent high power components from melting.

John oliver has a video on YouTube about Americas nuclear arsenal running on those really big floppies.

I am a software/electronics engineering student, and whilst I use a modern machine and windows 10 for most of my development and personal use, I also keep an old core 2 duo system around which runs windows xp. I do alot of stuff with FTDI cables etc that requires legacy operating systems where you can access the drivers at a much lower level. This is required for interfacing with wireless transceivers over a custom design proprietary transmission protocol.

 

It requires a day or two of headbanging to get it working on 10, but on xp its plug-and-play.


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Posted · Original PosterOP
2 minutes ago, SCHISCHKA said:

Most are. Last time there was significant investment in engineering in nz was when Auckland hosted the Americas cup. After the FTA with China a lot of firms closed and there are still machines sitting in storage from liquidated companies

There is some awesome stuff in NZ if you know who to talk to and the odd secret handshake. 

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worked in a medical Instrument suppliere there reason for running xp or older is the machines are offline and if they change even a tiny bit in the manufacturing process every health office around the world has too agree or else this product isn't allowed in this country anymore.

 

So something invented ~20 ago is tested with exactly this manufacturing method and so they produce it the same way until no one buys it anymore.

Its cheaper too invent a new "toy" and go thru checks than optimize a already qualified process.


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3 minutes ago, William Payne said:

There is some awesome stuff in NZ if you know who to talk to and the odd secret handshake. 

Yep, I live in NZ too. If you know where to look you can find a heck of alot of cool stuff being done. Just not alot of it gets talked about, you have to hunt.


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Two major factors come to mind when it comes to this. As others have mentioned, use case is often a reason why machines aren't updated. Often times computers that run hardware (such as the CNC machine, etc) are running specialized software that would be a royal pain in the ass to update for the latest operating systems. These systems a lot of time aren't connected to a network so it really doesn't make sense to deal with all the hassle when the current system works as-is (especially if the system is mission critical). In these cases, it makes much more sense to update the whole system on an as-required basis. For example, upgrading the entire CNC machine hardware and software when the unit reaches its end of life.

 

The second, and probably biggest factor, comes down to bureaucracy. Often cutting through all the red tape required to get a computer system updated (especially in large industries) is such a hassle that it takes forever to get anything updated. For example, it took me 6 months to get Adobe Acrobat Pro installed onto my computer. New software can take years to fully get implemented.

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4 hours ago, William Payne said:

<snip>

Many of the computers controlling machines in industry are not connected to the internet anyway, so security is not really an issue...

 

So, when you have a system that is working fine, and you don't need constant updates to patch yet another security hole, why upgrade and fix what is not broken ?

That 386SX was capable of controlling a certain machine 30 years ago - It's still capable of controlling that very same machine. As long as the machine is profitable why upgrade and possibly break it ?

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Posted · Original PosterOP
3 hours ago, Unimportant said:

Many of the computers controlling machines in industry are not connected to the internet anyway, so security is not really an issue...

 

So, when you have a system that is working fine, and you don't need constant updates to patch yet another security hole, why upgrade and fix what is not broken ?

That 386SX was capable of controlling a certain machine 30 years ago - It's still capable of controlling that very same machine. As long as the machine is profitable why upgrade and possibly break it ?

 

I just want to emphasise that I completely understand why companies use these older computer. I think the reasons are justified. 

 

I started this thread more for nostalgic reasons and because it's an interesting topic. Not because I was in anyway shocked at the old stuff being used. 

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One instance I find interesting is the system controlling us nuclear missiles.  While I know they are in the process of being modernized, I remember some of the systems still run programs off of  5.25 inch floppies.  Also the guidance and autopilot systems on American and Russian spacecrafts use computers that have IIRC about  a couple megabytes of RAM. 


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Posted · Original PosterOP

Partially joking but one benefit of using an older operating system would be no updates at the worst time. Imagine in the middle of a war, the enemy is attacking and you are about to really open up some firepower then......

 

"Hold on, hold on, stop the fight for a second....... Have to do a Windows update"

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Posted · Original PosterOP
10 minutes ago, descendency said:

You guys and your XP. You don't know how good you have it until you have to use NT 4. 

 

I think the earliest proper computer operating system I used, judging by the fact that I started school at 5 in 1993 so it was probably Windows 3 or 3.1 whatever was on the computer in the classrooms back then. Must have been because it was in the primary block at school and by 95 I had moved to the middle block. I did use msdos back in the 90's as well. 

 

I had used other more cartridge gaming systems but I wouldn't classify them as a proper computer. 

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