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If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It: Ancient Computers in ­se Today

mangled cards from the IBM 402 tabulator

Punch cards from Sparkler Filters' 64-year-old IBM 402 automated electromechanical tabulator. The mangled cards were cleared from a recent jam in the card reader.

Credit: Ed Thelen / IBM 1401 Group

Large sections of the transportation and military infrastructure, some modern businesses, and computer programmers still use technology that has not been updated for decades. For example, Sparkler Filters still uses the IBM 402, an automated electromechanical tabulator that works with 80-column punch cards. Sparkler’s 402 is a such a significant computing relic that the Computer History Museum sent a delegation to the company last year to convince its executives to donate the 402 to the museum.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military maintains weapons systems that run on technology that dates back to the Vietnam War era. And the U.S. Navy's ship-based radar systems and Britain's Atomic Weapons Establishment use PDP minicomputers that were manufactured in the 1970s. These systems are so critical that many of them will be in continuous service into the middle of this century.

Other companies clinging to outdated technologies include Huffman Industrial Warehouse, which still uses an Apple IIe to track inventory and keep accounts. Huffman runs an application suite on the Apple IIe that was first published in 1984. The Tandy Color Computer 3 also still has many loyal users, including game developer John Kowalski, who used it to test three-dimensional techniques in games for the Xbox.

From PC World
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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