Throwback Thursday: Old PCs never die -- we hope

Pilot fish at this big distribution center is called in to investigate a PC in the shipping area that -- according to the trouble ticket -- is "making a loud noise."

"When I arrived, I found an ancient PC with a monochrome monitor that was hooked up to a similarly ancient dot-matrix printer," says fish. "All of this was hooked up to a UPS that was shrieking due a dying battery.

"The computer had an old DOS-based menu that had been up for so long that the screen had severe burn-in and probably could have been read by people using their fingertips."

Fish types a few commands. The hard drive whirs and clunks and finally responds. The PC is running a version of DOS that's 20 years old.

What's this machine used for? fish asks a worker. He's told it runs an old proprietary version of software used to print customer labels -- and no one remembers the last time it was shut off.

"I replaced the UPS with a spare that I had, crossed my fingers and said a quick prayer as I flicked the power switch on the PC," fish says. "I was relieved when the ancient system booted itself right back up.

"As I left, I saw hundreds of systems running the latest SAP shipping modules, state-of-the-art RF systems mounted to forklifts and handheld units strapped to workers' arms. I could only wonder how all of this relied on an old DOS-based system chugging away in the back."

Help Sharky keep chugging away by sending me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

Get Sharky's outtakes from the IT Theater of the Absurd delivered directly to your Inbox. Subscribe now to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Download the 2018 Best Places to Work in IT special report
  
Shop Tech Products at Amazon