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This is the definition of a machine that has seen better days.
During 25 years of what looks like rather punishing use at an auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland, this Commodore 64C has survived a flood and even being ‘shat on by birds’, by the estimation of the Polish woman who discovered it.
Just last year, a high school in the US state of Michigan was found to be using a computer from a time when Reagan was president and Schwarzenegger was bellowing ‘Get to da chopper’ at cinema goers.
Tight budgets meant Grand Rapids Public Schools was using a 1987 Commodore Amiga 2000 to control its heating and air-con, as it had been for nearly 30 years – despite an overheating incident that killed every plant in the school.
The first fridge-sized PDP-11 computers may have been built in the 1970s but that hasn’t stopped the machines being used at nuclear power plants in Canada well into the 21st century.
In 2013, General Electric said that the country’s nuclear industry will continue to use the 16-bit minicomputers — like the one seen here — until 2050, despite the challenge of finding programmers who understand it workings.
If using 40-year-old hardware seems quaint, how about a machine so old it’s from a generation of devices that predate digital computers.
In 2013, a US filtration firm in Conroe, Texas was still doing its accounting and stock taking using an IBM 402, a 1948 tabulating machine that reads data from punched cards.
At the time, Sparkler Filters was planning to phase out the system, not least because there was only a single punch card technician left to carry out repairs.
Thought nuclear power plants running on 1970s computers was bad? How about a 40-year-old system in charge of US nukes.
The antiquated tech in question is the US Department of Defense’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which co-ordinates the US’s nuclear forces, including the operation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and bombers. Despite its critical role in US defense, it still runs on an IBM Series/1, a computer so old it uses 8-inch floppy disks that store millions of times less data than a modern USB stick.
This is a working piece of Apple’s history, handbuilt by Steve Wozniak when the company — today worth $495bn — was a three-man operation working out of a garage.
The bare circuit board may come as a shock to fans of Apple’s painstaking attention to detail, but this fully operational 1976 Apple I was sold for a record $671,400 at auction in 2013.
Circling above your head at some 18,000 mph is some prehistoric tech, sitting inside the onboard computers of the International Space Station.
The chips controlling the station’s flight, power and other vital systems were built to resist the harsh and irradiated environment of space and to last for decades, a good job as some are based on Intel 8086 processor designs, which date from the late 1970s. Modern laptops, however, are used to connect to the station’s systems.
1970s IBM systems
Computers dating from the 1970s are a staple of government, this time for the agency helping ensure the safety of all aircraft flying over the US.
Until last year the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was still using parts of a 40-year-old IBM system at the heart of its air traffic control, which limited the number of planes it could manage and complicated life for controllers.
The FAA has a history of holding onto tech, like this unit belonging to an IBM 9020E system dating from the early 1970s, which was used for air traffic control for more than 20 years.
If aliens were to discover NASA’s Voyager space probes as they continue on their 40-year journey out of our solar system, they’d find some pretty creaky tech by today’s standards.
Despite the age of the on-board computers, the plutonium-powered systems are still able to send back scientific data and are expected to continue to do so until at least 2025.
Not bad for kit launched back in 1977, and even more impressive when you consider NASA has upgraded the probes’ software multiple times, despite the craft being billions of miles away.
One of the world’s earliest digital computers, the Harwell Dekatron, also known as the WITCH, was coaxed back into life in 2012 and continues running to this day.
On display at The National Museum of Computing in the UK, the machine is a relay-based computer that weighs over 2.5 tons and aided engineers building the UK’s first nuclear reactor.
In an age where apps demand little more of users than a swipe and a tap, it can be easy to forget just how difficult computers were to use.
Not for some retro-tech enthusiasts, who in 2016 are living their lives like it was still 1975, when the Altair 8800 was the hottest new kit computer around. Check out what you could do with computers in an age before screens or keyboards were readily available.
In the mid-1960s, nearly half of all computers in the world were IBM 1401s, due to their popularity for managing company payrolls.
Unlikely as it may seem, a team of 20 people keep two IBM 1401s running at the Computing History Museum in California — where the cupboard-sized units, punch card readers and other associated machinery take up an entire room. One of these machines was being used by a mom and pop business in Connecticut until 1995.
Windows 3.1 PC
Remember what Microsoft Windows used to look like in the early 1990s?
Workers at Paris’ busy Orly airport certainly do, mainly because as of 2015 some were still forced to use Windows 3.1, which was released back in 1991. French authorities promised to replace the airport’s aged PC, which links air traffic control systems with France’s main weather bureau, after the system crashed last year.
It’s not just computers that are kept running long into their dotage.
While the violent fantasy world of Game of Thrones draws inspiration from real-life medieval events, series author George RR Martin is also helping to keep computing history alive.
The writer recently admitted to tapping out his novels using WordStar 4.0, word-processing software which dates from the late 1980s and that runs on the DOS command line.