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Can Your Hardware Top 18 Years and Ten Months? ( 332

DesertNomad points out this article at The Register "about a fairly aged Pentium-based server that lasted 18+ years without much in the way of service." Reminds me that I have a pair of working, occasionally used, Pentium-based notebooks (more like lug-books), one of which is a 1999 Thinkpad, and the other a 1996 CTX. I'm sure there are plenty of boxes out there that have survived at least 18 years and that are in daily or constant use. The fans are always the tricky part! What's your best personal hardware-survival stories? I have some keyboards in active service that were made in 1984, and probably some of them go back well before that, but keyboards should last that long.
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Can Your Hardware Top 18 Years and Ten Months?

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  • 18 years? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mitcheli ( 894743 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @02:38PM (#51301793)
    Clearly you haven't worked for the Government. My favorite was the mainframes built in the '60's that we were trying to retrofit into more modern day laptops using an emulator card.
    • off the top of my head:
      * hp (tandem computers) himalaya - do they even have an off switch?
      * most commercial vax/vms deployments had/have uptime in decades
      * my recently decommissioned rsync server (supermicro with 2 super-inefficient xeons) had an uptime of 10.5 years (2 out of 3 PSUs had failed long time ago, 3rd one worked until i switched it off). annoyingly, the uptime value in kernel reset itself every 497 days.

      • 10.5 years with out os updates? or software ram leaks?

        • it was a bastard of debian potato and woody. the dist-upgrade from potato to woody died in the middle and it continued in that half broken state until it was decommissioned. it only ran rsync+ssh on private IPs so security wasn't a concern. the greatest thing about it was that not a single one of its 8 SCSI drives died while it was running. the 2 hot-spares in raid were never used.

    • Re:18 years? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Muros ( 1167213 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:10PM (#51302087)

      Not just government, lots of large companies will have things quietly churning away in the background that people don't get rid of because they've been there so long nobody knows what they are and they're afraid to touch. I've seen Avions running DGUX that have only recently been scrapped. A customer last year asked us to have a look at something, and I'm not really sure what it was, it looked like an old dumb terminal with 2 5.25" floppy drives built into it, we just handed to some guys about to retire to look at. I looked at a SCO Xenix system within the last 6 months. Just this week, I saw an AIX server that isn't used but is kept around just in case they need to look up old accounts. I had a look at it out of curiousity, and saw the radiusd process chewing up processor time so gave it a reboot, first time it was restarted since Oct 2009.

      • Roughly 15 years ago I worked at a place which had 2 controllers using 5.25" floppy discs. These controllers interfaced between the servers on our end and a mainframe on the other end.

        During a power upgrade, there was concern these controllers would go down which was a problem because there was only one floppy between the two of them. A floppy had to be in the controller during boot up and left in at all times for the controller to work.

        Fortunately no power was lost for the controllers and I heard they we

    • I upgraded drives in a Novell DCB some time in 2002, but those were introduced around 1986, that would only be about a 15 year life.

    • Re:18 years? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dissy ( 172727 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @06:23PM (#51303621)

      Yea 18 years is nothing. That's only 1998.

      I still have my Apple //e that was bought for me when I was 13 years old, which still functions and typically sees usage once or twice a year still. I last had it powered on this past summer.
      It was made in 1983 and so even saw plenty of usage by its previous owner for a whole decade before it came to me.

      That's a 33 year old piece of still functional equipment, the vast majority of being original hardware.
      If I care to daisy-chain together the proper networking gear again, it can even browse the Internet. (Localtalk to t-base-2 to 10-base-t to my main 10/100/1000 switch)

      I even have some 5.25" floppies that can still be written to and read from afterwards (hearts to ADTPro), though I mainly use a CFFE3000 card with a USB flash drive containing all my floppy disk images.

      I also still own a NeXT slab workstation (1988), a SparcStation IPX (1989?), and an SGI o2 (1996)
      Although those systems haven't been pulled out of storage and booted in some time. They at least worked 12ish years ago before I last moved.

      I have an 8" floppy drive and controller for the Apple 2 as well, and although the drive doesn't currently work due to a couple worn belts, assuming no other problems have since happened that would be an easy thing to fix. I would be concerned over the condition of the r/w heads after all this time though.

      I have a Novation CAT 300bps acoustically coupled model which wikipedia claims was introduced in 1981 (and looks identical to the picture at the top of the page), although I must admit it only came to my hands in the mid to late 90's, and I only used it once on a lark and have since lost the power adapter for it. I haven't bothered looking up the voltage/amperage it needs to find a replacement (why oh why wasn't printing that info on the label or by the jack always the standard practice?!)

      I always cringe when I hear others refer to 1990's or newer hardware as "anciently old", and I'm not even close to the age of the people around when the computing foundations were laid. (I blame my parents)

    • I did some tow tank testing at the U.S. Navy's David Taylor Research Center [] in the mid-1990s. It's a secure facility which makes money on the side by renting time to companies wishing to model test their ship designs in one of the world's longest tow tanks. So we had to have be escorted by Navy personnel at all times. About my third day there, there were a bunch of washing machine-sized plastic and metal boxes piled up haphazardly near the entrance. I asked our escort what they were.

      "Hard drives."
  • 206 months? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    206 months? I have underwear that is older than that. Most of it unwashed.

  • Me & My Brain (Score:5, Informative)

    by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @02:41PM (#51301817)

    My brain has been going for decades, and not only have I not been able to upgrade it I've been actively degenerating it's performance.

  • I am dealing with Desktops that were bought in 1994, that makes them 21 to 22 years old and still running.

    They are RS6000, AIX4.3 desktops.

    I have some servers here that are about the same age.

    • by Phydeaux ( 82550 )

      I have a client running a Apple PowerMac 7200 (circa 1995), running MacOS 9.2.1 for a QuidProQuo webserver. Apart from a power outage 6 years ago (led to the purchase of a UPS for the system) it's been accessed almost daily during it's lifetime.

  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @02:45PM (#51301855) Homepage

    35 years old. I still play about 2 or 3 hours of "Lemonade Stand" a day.

  • My old Kaypro I is still working! Got it in '86. Go C/PM!

  • While keyboards CAN last a long time, Think about it; they are the recipient of your grimy fingers, day in/day out. They are more disgusting than *anything* else in your house, pillows and toilets included.

    Keyboards should be replaced yearly given how disgusting they are.

    • by gmack ( 197796 )

      Or you can go with something like the HP washable. I love mine, it feels like a proper keyboard and every month or so I stick it under the kitchen sink and hose it off with hot water. It has lasted 4 years so far and I am not nice to keyboards.

    • "Disgusting" is only in your mind. When was the last time you got sick from keyboard goo? 99% of the bacteria on a keyboard are benign and crowd out anything dangerous.

      • Yeah, well disgusting is more than just a "will it harm me?" calculation....

        When I did desktop support I saw some ghastly keyboards and mice.

        This was before laser mice and the first thing I would typically do when sitting down at a computer is pop the ball out of the mouse and scrape all the cruft off the rollers. I would then arrange the debris in a not-so-little pile next to the mouse pad and show the owner what came out of their mouse.

        It amazed me what people were willing to live with... I mean, sometime

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      I have an ancient PS/2 IBM branded keyboard and, frankly, it is pretty gross, even after a liberal application of clorox wipes and a shop vac.

      Has anyone every run a an IBM buckling spring keyboard through a dishwasher, and then let it air dry for a good long while, maybe in front of a fan or even sealed in a bag with a metric shitload of silica gel?

      I'm sorely tempted to do this, even though I could probably just buy a Unicomp.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by KlomDark ( 6370 )

      It will help if, after picking your ass, you wash your hands instead of just holding them up to your nose.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      Or you could clean them? Decent mechanical keyboards can be pricey. I paid around $200 for my RealForce 87U (Topre keys). Why replace it when it's so easy to clean?
    • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:54PM (#51302433)

      About once a year I pop all the keys off my keyboard and wipe everything down.

      One year I figured I would save time by just boiling the keys briefly instead of scrubbing each one by hand... that was a mistake.

    • This company makes keyboards that can be autoclaved: [] Pretty impressive, frankly.
    • Keyboards should be replaced yearly given how disgusting they are.

      With the right technique and knowledge, keyboards can be thoroughly cleaned. And by "cleaned", I mean soap-and-water - lots and lots of water, as in total immersion. I've washed several - both desktop and laptop keyboards - and they all worked fine afterwards. Besides, at more than a hundred bucks on sale, I'm not anxious to discard a keyboard because of a bit of grunge.

  • My dad used an XT clone for his normal, daily use home computer from the early 80's to around 2005. Eventually he bought a used Dell that lasted him the rest of his life in order to be able to send and receive email.

  • I can't remember the name of it but there's an old pc based linux dns server someone has that had 10 years of uptime about 10 years ago. I'm sure it's still up, can't remember the name though.
  • I have an old dumb flip phone that has survived maybe not a while (I got it in '08) but has survived some pretty rough treatment. Besides the common accidental drop on concrete from my clumsiness or my tendency to toss the phone across the room for various reasons; the phone has survived being run over by delivery drivers, in the rain, while on a gravel parking lot, a water logged ceiling tile falling on it, and being stepped on by cleats. The only thing that doesn't work on it anymore is the front camera s

  • Netware 3 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slaker ( 53818 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:00PM (#51301991)

    A customer of mine has a Netware 3 server running on a 1994-vintage IBM machine. It runs and makes reports from an inventory database they use. I was selected as the new IT guy for that customer on the basis that I'm the youngest person they could find with first-hand Netware experience. I'm 40.

    Another customer I deal with has an IBM System/38 in his private office. He still has an active terminal for it. He's a photographer but I think in another life he was an engineer. He will not tell me what that thing does, but I do know he has a lot of hush-hush secrets around his (film) photo printing processes.

    • I worked on a Solaris 2.0 spark running audix off of a definity PBX not networked that thing ran from sometime before 95 to 2010.

    • But the spindles though! All HDDs have a MTBF rate, and if that server has been running near 24/7, it's greatly exceeded that lifespan. While yes, technically you could find new old stock SCSI drives, it might be exceedingly expensive or used drives with a dubious history.

      Just migrate to a NAS or a Windows Server. Not you, but the client should be made aware of the risks of running on such old hardware and the potential down-time, if not dataloss that would occur

  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:00PM (#51301993)

    So it's not 18 years, but my ten year old laptop is going fine. Only problem is having to change the batteries every ~18 months. Someday they're going to stop selling 'em.

    • by Creepy ( 93888 )

      I must be hard on laptops. ASUS laptop #1, 3 years, died twice during that time, third out of warranty (cause of death: GPU failure in all cases - bad set of nVidia cards). HP laptop, 2 years, died out of 1 year warranty (display and hard drive failure). Dell laptop, 2 years, died just out of warranty (power supply spiked, most internal hardware dead, caught fire). ASUS laptop #2, died 6 months in, fixed under warranty, died again 3 years in (GPU kept separating from its slot in the motherboard, eventually

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What I found with laptops what kills them is a few things

        Dirt. keep the fans and vents clean. I usually take a shop vac to mine. On rare occasions I *will* rip the thing apart and get the dirt out. Dirt=heat=failed parts.

        Torsion stress. Do you pick the things up and move them around alot? Put them on one of those laptop tables for sitting on a couch with. Something like this . You probably can find one for a better price

  • Some friends and I run a BBS on an old Dell Dimension from the mid-90s. The box was used when it was repurposed around 2000 and is still running the OS from that build so the current configuration is about 15-16 years old and the hardware (except for the hard drive) is 19-20 years old. In 2011, the hard drive started to fail so, I changed the hard drive, then handed it off to someone else when I started my vagrant phase in 2013. Before I got it and after I handed t off, it was running in garages with no

  • I have a NEC Silentwriter Superscript 660i laser printer that I convinced my parents to buy for me in high school (in 1995) when I became the editor for our school paper. Microsoft Publisher 95 on a cutting edge Pentium 160, good times.

    The thing is an absolute beast and just won't die. For part of its life it was used as a primary office printer at a startup company too, printing thousands and thousands of pages. Just a workhorse. It's so ancient I've had to use HP Laserjet 4P drivers since Windows XP,

  • Um maybe....

    When I worked at a local University, I had been browsing Phrack Archives and noticed a list of all known VMS nodes. It included some of ours, and, as I remember, one of them was still in use. Since I left in 2005, and the machine was not decommed until a few years after that (or so I heard), it could have been going 18 years or more.

  • I have a couple first generation US Nintendos (NES) that still work fine. One of them needs to have the game inserted in the game genie to work (I guess the game genie was slightly wider than a standard game so that has widened the interface so games without the game genie are loose). I can't say it has had consistent or daily use for some time although it has been pulled out a couple times a year, and I've never had a problem of it not working (I'm sure the lack of moving parts helps).

    I believe my dad ha

  • C64 from the early 80s, Amiga 1200 from the early 90s (the old floppies still read OK, too). Assorted consoles. Although they've only been lightly used for the nostalgia in the last decade or two...
  • DCT2000's cable boxes are still running on lot's of cable systems they may only have like 2-3 hours of guide data.

  • I have a Sun Ultra 2 from 1996 still running as a production server. I belive the hard drives have been replaced but apart from that it's still running just fine.
  • by vinn ( 4370 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:26PM (#51302231) Homepage Journal
    I interviewed for what otherwise would have been an awesome job. While viewing the data center they built onsite (this was a "campus" style environment), I was horrified. Sitting in the racks were Cisco networking equipment I didn't recognize, or at least knew as soon as I saw it that the model numbers were ancient. The servers appeared well beyond the end of life, but I couldn't tell at first glance. Digging deeper I found NT 4.0 still running in a production environment. A lot of the core equipment was 14 - 15 years old with probably the median age of the servers being about 8 or 9 years old. I presented them with a plan and budget to replace it all. At a minimum, doing all implementation in house and being frugal, I got it down to $500k over three years. The CEO didn't think it was necessary despite some detailed but non-technical explanations. I promptly turned the job down. Since then they've burned through 3 IT directors, each frustrated with supporting crap and getting no capex.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Fucking IT guys. "This equipment does the job fine, but it's old! We need throw at least half a million dollars at it!"

    • I suspect that you didn't present a case that would be palatable and, from the CEO's perspective, he probably made the right decision based on the information given.

      There was probably a strong "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" (especially with a $500k price tag) mentality that you have to break.

      What if you had asked for $50k to set up redundant production servers and networking equipment to ensure the data centre would never go down? This modernized equipment would be demonstrated to work with the existing

    • by Yunzil ( 181064 )

      So you wanted them to spend half a million dollars to replace equipment that was working perfectly well for no reason other than it was "ancient"?

      I bet you're the guy who gets a new phone every year too.

    • by Britz ( 170620 )

      $500k isn't very much over 3 years, is it? That should be about 2 mid level IT guys salary in the US. Don't you need more personnel to keep ancient stuff running?

      Couldn't you just make VMs and run most of that stuff from a single server, because of the sheer perfomance increase over time? Even if you needed to keep some of the old operating systems around for legacy software. VirtualBox, of all systems, supports surprisingly old operating systems. I think they have official support for Windows 2000 and you

  • My Aunt's 286 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mykepredko ( 40154 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:26PM (#51302239) Homepage

    We believe it was assembled for her in 1986/87 using the cheapest parts we could find in Toronto. Still running MS-DOS 3.1.

    But, it was used basically every day from when we gave it to her until her death last August. We had to replace the monitor with a flat screen and the keyboard was replaced at least twice (thank god for USB to PS2 adapters). (Epson) dot-matrix printer still running tickety-boo and "compatible" ribbons can still be found at Staples.

    She used it for letter writing and refused any suggestion that she should get a "new" one.

  • I got one as a freebie when it was ~9 years old, used it as my main machine until 2001 (it was 12 years old by then). Its secrets: a Daystar 68040 accelerator board and a ludicrous amount of RAM for its day (32 Mb).

  • by fadethepolice ( 689344 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:40PM (#51302337) Journal
    I've got a packard bell pentium 133 that still works but I rarely use it now that I have dosbox. The hard drive on my 486DX66 mhz laptop with a black and white screen bit the dust about 6 years ago but it will still boot up off floppies.
    • Yeah, I throw out all my old and excess computer parts with a few exceptions (I keep a chest of drawers with various cables, adapters, power supplies and spare parts).

      I virtualized my DOS system a long time ago by just making a VHD of the physical hard drive. I fire it up from time-to-time to play Wizardry VII.

      I don't see any point in keeping around old junk. I will keep mementos (I have my original computer's 386 CPU for example) but that is all.

  • I've got a working one of those, even put in the 387 math co-processor and maxxed the RAM to 16 MB. However, I can't use it cause the hard drive died and I can't find any working IDE hard drives small enough for it to communicate with.

  • We have a bunch of old Dell servers where I work that are from the early 2000's (around the time when the Pentium /// was new) that are still chugging away running Windows 2000. They're only used for trouble shooting old versions of software running at plants that haven't updated to newer versions yet, but they still run mostly problem free. They're finally being retired now, but I'm sure some of the database servers will be kept just in case they're needed for some reason or another. The biggest problem
    • P2V the OS/App stack and sock it away for a rainy day. Should you need them, just boot the VM. But yeah, get rid of that hardware; you'll have too sooner or later, and it's portable by nature of being abstracted to another host hypervisor.

  • One of the first cheap Linux ARM devices I got a hold of was a Linksys NSLU2 that was meant as a slow low powered device that could convert any USB drive into as network NAS device. A huge fanbase figured out how to hack full Debian Linux into the device and how to remove a resistor to "overclock" it to normal speeds. 100mhz to 166 mhz I believe if memory serves. It ended up to be my webserver using a USB stick as it's main filesystem for 1000+ days of continuous uptime before a 6 hour power black-out com

  • by TRRosen ( 720617 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @03:55PM (#51302441)

    I know a business still dependent on a Wang system from late 80's to run software written for a Wang mini-frame in the early 80’s/ 70’s.
    They trade parts with the DOD as apparently their system and one the Airforce uses in CA are the only ones running in the U.S. And I think the Airforce uses theirs to emulate outdated historical Russian systems.

  • We have a VAXstation 4000 Model 90 purchased in 1992, running VAX/VMS 5.4 still in use to drive the device that switches the telescope beam to different instruments. Luckily, we had several of them at one time so we have a source of spare parts, but we've really only had to replace a power supply once and a couple of disks (do you know how hard it is to find 4GB SCSI disks these days?).

  • I managed to convince a user to give up their nine-year-old PC with Windows ME for a modern PC with Windows XP. I brought the old system back to my cube, popped open the case, and found a grapefruit-sized dust bunny in the bottom of the case. An almost perfect sphere of accumulated dust. Now that was a conversation piece.
  • I know of a supermicro server still in use, all original hardware, that was donated by Craigslist to my org about 10 years ago. Still works fine. *knocks wood*
  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @04:18PM (#51302631)

    The specs needed for office and home computing have pretty much flat-lined, and 10 year old hardware (so long as it survives) is often more than adequate for the task, with exception for gaming.

    For years Microsoft was able to ride the upgrade cycle as memory and CPU improvements moved closer and closer to satisfactory performance, and people had incentive to upgrade to better, faster hardware. Now, performance is less limited by memory and CPU as it is bandwidth. OEM OS sales plateaued, and Microsoft had to get far more aggressive and change its business model to a subscription model. If users don't upgrade, take control of the computer and force the upgrade. Computers are now turning into kiosks to the Microsoft mothership.

    There's probably a "In Soviet Microsoft, OS upgrades YOU!" joke applicable here.

    • Very insightful. A pity I don't have mod points.
      Many companies have seen that customers are upgrading less and less often and have switched to a subscription model to keep the money flowing. An obvious case is Adobe. Ms themselves are also heavily pushing Office subscriptions over the regular purchase versions. With Windows 10 they've gone the Google model: Use your data to make money.
  • Damn, and I thought my 2009 Dell laptop (still humming merrily after 6 years of daily use) was special. I'll come back in another ten years.

    On that note, though, most people abuse their computers so badly they barely last 2-3 years.

  • by bored ( 40072 )

    I ran a 486 on a MRBIOS based motherboard from ~1992-1994 as a desktop computer.. At which point it was upgraded to a DX/2-66 where it ran as a fileserver until ~1997, at which point it was turned into a linux firewall. A state it existed in until 2010 when I got an internet connection faster than it could handle.

    18 Years of continuous activity is not bad.I have a lot of old computers that still work. The oldest is probably an apple ][+ at this point, as I found a good home for my SWTPC a few years back.Th

  • by john coleman ( 4416131 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @04:58PM (#51302927)
    This is all bizarre to me. I recently purchased and upgraded a Packard Bell Legend 125. I swapped out the 486SX 25 for am unused Cyrix DX2 80 and added 16mb of ram. I also upgraded the vram with 512kb 20-pin ZIP module which none of you have probably ever seen. It flies now!
  • I have some old IBM boxes here that are very well engineered and constructed, almost as solid as old HP gear, but the heat they put out is outrageous by today's standards so they got replaced. I get them out for special projects but even with SDDs etc. the improved performance does not greatly mitigate the problem with wasted energy.
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @06:44PM (#51303773) Homepage

    Only 4 years, not 18+, but still a good story. At University of North Carolina they took an inventory of their servers and realized they couldn't find one. Eventually by following cables they discovered that it had been sealed up behind a new wall, four years previously. The server had been chugging along with no problems during that that whole time. []

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor