Obsolete? Yes. Still in use? Yes. How do you use it? Ummm...

Ed NutterNovember 14, 20174 comments

In today's world of constantly changing technology, quick parts availability, and seemingly endless options, some things can't change.  It isn't a big deal to wait a day or less for a computer upgrade to arrive.  It seems program size increases proportionally to hard drive size.  The old is discarded and replaced with the new.  Hard drives can hold terrabytes and even SD cards can hold gigabytes of information.

Now, suppose a system can't be changed.  It is still operational, but it is 12 billion miles away and counting and only reachable by a radio signal.  It only has 64K of memory, also.

In 2015, NASA posted a need for a FORTRAN programmer to continue working with the Voyager probe, launched in the late 1970s.  ( http://www.popularmechanics.com/space/a17991/voyag... )

FORTRAN isn't commonly taught to new students, because it isn't commonly used.  Many libraries have discarded related books to make room for newer topics.  This is an instance where I am in favor of digitizing books, like bitsavers is doing.  You can fit hundreds of books on an SD card and carry it with you, if you choose.  6TB for less than $200 USD can hold vast amounts of information.  Physical copies don't require charging before you read them, but digital copies are easier to carry and don't fall apart with use.

I think a digital copy of datasheets should be saved locally, too.  Until they closed many stores, Radio Shack still sold 741 op-amps, considered obsolete, but still useful for basic experimenting.

Operating manuals for equipment should be saved.  Physical copies are good, digital copies are ok.

Britain's nuclear submarines are running Windows XP, though security updates ceased in 2014.  (http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a... )  It seems that many hospitals still run Windows XP, also...  ( https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/12/09/window... )

- It is important to upgrade with new technology.  Though it opens up new security vulnerabilities, it fixes common older problems.

- Code should be documented properly, so that 20 years from now, someone can fix a problem.

- If a device is still being used somewhere in the organization, the manual should be in a known location.  Digital saves room, but must be backed up.

- There should be more than one person trained on how to do something or how something works.

Previous post by Ed Nutter:
   Basic hand tools for electronics assembly


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Comment by antedeluvianNovember 15, 2017


I completely agree with you. I've done my part: 

Preserving Data Books From Yesteryear

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Comment by EdNutterNovember 17, 2017

Did you get them uploaded to archive.org?

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Comment by antedeluvianNovember 20, 2017

Yes I did.

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Comment by EdNutterDecember 2, 2017

I started this up tonight for the first time in a long time...


I wonder if I can find that 486 with Windows 3.1.......

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