What some of you are still running is outrageous
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When I asked readers to send me their oldest software applications, I wasn't prepared for the depth and breadth of what "oldest" really means. Do you count the number of years, or the number of people that are using it? Do you give partial credit to developers who are still currently supporting their customers? It was a lot of fun, let me tell you, to judge the entries. Here are some of the more noteworthy ones.
"We are currently running our business on a 15-year-old HP3000 box. How long can this last? We're not waiting for the answer, and are currently re-writing the system on an IBM AIX platform using Websphere," one reader said.
Another reader, Mark Browne, told me about some production software running on CP/M based code. "There are 25000 plus units in use in the field. The original application and front-end configuration code was written in 1984." The application is a portable truck scale that originally ran on an Imsai S100 computer. (See http://www.intercompco.com/pt300.htm) "I have been looking into moving the code base over to the SIMH Z80 simulator package. This system does a superb job of running CP/M. Initial tests on a 1.7-ghz machine seem to compile faster than they ran on the original native Z80 hardware. If the target code passes the validation suite we will move this environment into production." Something to think about the next time you see cops using when they pull truckers over and check for overweight conditions.
Keith Christensen writes: "We have glommed onto all the old 386/486/early Pentium laptops we could snag as they went out of "usual service" and went back to varying combinations of Compaq's MSDOS 3.31, MSDOS 5.0 and 6.22 just to support various old systems that cannot run on fast machines or in a "DOS Box" in Windoze. I spent half of a week playing with a program called "Mo'Slo" to get it to work on a 486-33; and had to write a 30 line batch file to make it work reliably. at 8 percent of processor speed. I recently had to move that to a P90 laptop; it is now at 1percent!" Ketih is a real scavenger. "We still have old Data General Nova's running as part of our Energy Management System electric utility generator controllers. We bought about 30 of these from NAPA Auto Parts for a dollar each; but it was "where is -- you come and get it". Very interesting road trips all over Washington; Oregon ; Idaho; and Northern California."
Remember ISPF, a mainframe-based statistics package? Scott McMahan does and still uses it. "I actually bought a personal copy of TSPF for $5 at Montgomery Ward, back when they had computers and software. I couldn't believe they had it for sale, and I'm sure I'm the only one who would know what it was. The original package was worth a lot because of their excellent manuals (good references for the real ISPF) and a copy of Cowlishaw's REXX book."
Sometimes the old computers don't die, they just get spread around to other family members. "My son is still playing with my Texas Instruments 99-4a with a 28-kb expansion unit I purchased used in 1981-82. I started him on Basic when he was 4 years old. He's 17 now and writing C++, last I checked. Sadly, the TI is almost dead and the single-sided, low-density floppies are worn out," says Kevin Keane. And David Yaffe still has his TRS-80 Color Computer 2, which he got when he was 12 and still in good condition. He is now 30.
I found plenty of people running old DOS apps from the early 1980s, including Wordstar, dBase III (I was a big fan of dBase II and did several programs for clients way back when.) Sam Hahn mentions three of his favorites that have all since gone away: Lotus: Improv,
Arabesque Ecco that was bought and killed by NetManage, and Living Videotext's More.
Here is a scary entry, especially given these times filled with SARS reports and all: "When I was working tech support & doing upgrades at the World Health Organization in Geneva, I ran across a machine running what must have beenWindows 1.0. No joke. I was flabbergasted. The user of the machine was a 90-year-old researcher who just wouldn't "retire", so they left her office alone and she came in every once in a while to work. We didn't upgrade her, and to the best of my knowledge it's still running," according to Sean Mandel.
Tune in next time to see the apps that got the prize. And thanks to all of you for your submissions.