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Yes, I Know What Year It Is

This week I went back in time.  Back to when the news coverage was all about a slow speed chase of a white Bronco, Tanya Harding orchestrating an attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, and everyone was saying “Life is like a box of chocolates.”  1994 was an interesting year.

In the world of computers, MS-DOS 6.22 was released and us computer geeks were more excited than current Apple fanboys when a new iDevice is released.  This was interacting with the operating system with nothing but a keyboard, no “pretty windows” to click.  There wasn’t even a start button.

Earlier this week, I had to install MS-DOS 6.22.  Yes, I am aware that it is 2012 and I was installing an operating system as old as Justin Bieber.  When I tweeted or mentioned that I was doing this, several people asked me, “Sharon, why would a company have such an old computer?”

“It’s not the computer that is the issue,” I tell them, “but the equipment that the computer controls.”  In this case, the computer controls a very large and expensive industrial wood saw.  The cost of replacing the functioning saw because the computer failed is not cost-effective at all.  It’s much less expensive to rebuild the computer and tinker with the connectors than to upgrade or replace the entire unit.

Consider your local hospital, hopefully you are not there that often, but most of the equipment is run by computers.  You may not always see the computers, as they are usually hidden in a cabinet, cart, within the equipment, etc; but they are the brains of the microscopes, diagnostic imaging devices, slide scanners, etc.  Hospitals don’t have the budget to replace these expensive pieces of equipment every time Microsoft releases a new operating system.  The old adage, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” comes to mind.  In most cases, these expensive pieces of equipment will be kept running until it can no longer be fixed, or it becomes cost-effective or imperative to replace the entire unit.

Luckily, with my 20 years of experience, time travelling between 1994 and now is not a problem, although I do wish I had a DeLorean to get there in style.

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