We can try our darnedest to keep our hardware and software up to date, but sometimes the programs we have come to rely on just can’t be updated any more.
Over time, software developers eventually drop support for older “legacy” software so that they may focus their attentions of newer, more stable and up-to-date versions of the programs. They might even go out of business altogether, leaving their users to kludge together their own solutions to any problems that might arise.
Several people still use these “unsupported” programs for various reasons, but what happens when these old programs that we absolutely can’t live without can’t be run any longer?
A few of years ago we had a client with this exact problem. He owned an asphalt plant in Maryland, and was passing through Grand Junction on his way to an extremely important meeting in Aspen (which is important to the story later), when he got a call from the factory back home telling him that an old computer (still running Windows 95) at the plant had finally given up the ghost, and went on to that recycling bin in the sky. It’s not unusual for a nearly twenty-year-old computer to break down, but this old computer had one, extremely vital purpose. It ran a single program, an application whose developer had long since gone out of business, and the lead programmer, who could occasionally be coaxed into providing the company with small bits of “tech support”, had passed away a few years prior. This application controlled the entire mixture process (how much of each ingredient to put in at predetermined intervals of time) for the entire plant. Unfortunately, until their newly formed IT department could come up with a better solution, they were forced to rely on this old program. In a near panic over his factory coming to a complete stand still, costing his company thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars a day, this fellow decided to take matters into his own hands and look around for a solution on his own. Any solution at all. That’s how he ended up at No Ware Computer Repair, with two old 3.5 inch floppy disks in his briefcase.
He explained his problem to us, in excruciating detail. We felt kind of bad for this fellow. He was in quite the pickle. After some back and forth as to whether it would be worthwhile to try to resurrect the old computer, and knowing that there was no way we would find a newer software that would be able to import the data from the old program, or even an updated version of the application that would work with a newer Operating System, we informed the client that while it might be possible to breathe new life into the old computer for a time, there was no way to guarantee how long that computing classic would remain up and running. Fortunately, we had a much simpler solution.
Taking a new laptop off the shelf, we loaded it with a program that would allow Windows 95 to run in a “virtual environment”. This would enable the client to run his old software on a newer, and much more stable computer. This was perfect for this fellow and his company, and so beautifully simple. After pouring over the old documentation for a bit, we were able to get everything loaded, including the saved files from the floppies that we brought along on the trip. The client was ecstatic to confirm that everything was working perfectly. We packaged the laptop, and sent it overnight to the Maryland factory.
The next day, the client called us from Aspen to let us know that everything in Maryland was working perfectly. He then told us that the reason he was visiting Aspen was to meet with an independent software developer that his company was going to contract to to create a new version of the software that the client’s factory needed to run its machinery. Which is why he was traveling across the country with those old floppy disks. He had the floppy disks with him to show the developer exactly what he needed this new software to do, and what data it needed to be compatible with. The client thanked us again, and we thought that was the last that we’d hear from him.
A week or two later we received a special delivery of an extremely expensive bottle of whiskey, and a handwritten letter from the client thanking us for our help.
To this day we still receive Christmas cards from this client.
This lesson here is while your computer problems may seem impossible, there is always a solution. A solution that No Ware Computer Repair would be more than happy to help you find.