Saturday, 25 February 2017

This software of 1958 continues being used today: to replace it would be too expensive

This software of 1958 continues being used today: to replace it would be too expensive

Nowadays desktop and laptop applications have given way to mobile applications that flood our smartphones, but the longevity of these solutions is limited, something that leads us to ask a curious question: what is the oldest and Which is still in use?

The answer takes us to the United States Department of Defense, where in 1958 an application was developed to manage the service contracts for administration. That program was developed in COBOL, and it is so complex and crucial that it continues to operate today in almost the same way as it did 60 years ago.

Too expensive to replace
The so-called Mechanization of Contract Administration Services (MOCAS) even appeared within a couple of years that COBOL was formally approved as a language. When it was started to use not even a screen and a keyboard were used, but punched cards that were the traditional form to realize the entrance of data in the computers.

That system managed to adapt to the new times ... more or less. In the following decades the program was adapted to operate on "green phosphor" terminals, such as those used today in certain airlines, travel agencies, banks or telecommunications company.

Nowadays MOCAS has been made more usable by connecting it to a web interface with which it is possible to control the application, but the system is still absolutely vital: with it, it manages 1.3 billion (with b of Spanish billion) Dollars in bonds, and 340,000 contracts. The server on which it runs is modest: an IBM 2098 E-10 2008 with 8 GB of RAM with a processing power of 398 MIPS.

The US government is still trying to replace this application with a more modern alternative, but past efforts have made that option impractical at the moment: it would be too costly and any system should overlap its execution perfectly with that of this application to avoid That a critical environment like this had problems.

The space, last frontier?
Although it appeared almost 20 years later, there is at least one other computer program worthy of mention in this review: the one that continues to be executed today in Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes, launched by NASA in 1977 and that nowadays Exploring areas of space that had never been reached.

Both ships are practically identical even in their set of three computers in which the flight data subsystem, the computer of command and the control of "attitude and articulation" are found. These systems ensure that there is still communication with the Earth and that the scientific instruments work.

The software of Voyager probes has received updates that we could almost qualify as "big OTA", but these improvements have been reduced, something logical taking into account that the memory of these computers of shipboard was reduced to 70 KB . It is expected that these probes will continue to operate until 2025: around that time they will stop communicating with our planet, but who knows how much more these programs will continue to operate.

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