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Windows 95 is still in use – these trains in Sweden couldn’t run without it, but there are more examples

Old rockers, they say, never die. Windows 95 is a perfect example of this, and although its user quota is practically non-existent, it has become that typical element irreplaceable on certain legacy systems (“legacy”).

This is what a train conductor in Sweden said, who told how in “his office” they continue to work with Windows 95. This operating system still one of the mainstays of some trains there, which for example make use of a touch screen based on this operating system with which to control the entire system.

If it works, do not touch it

Thomas Tydal, a software developer in his own company, teacher and train conductor – a unique curriculum, of course – recounted how in “one of my offices” in Sweden he continues to use Windows 95. In doing so showed a singular office that is not easy to locate.

Ofi 1

By giving more details, he indicated how one of the screens in that office is this tactile one in which, he explained, everything works thanks to Windows 95.

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But that was not enough to explain where his office was and why were they using Windows 95 at this point. Everything became a little clearer when he showed a photo of the outside of his offices showing the trains from Bergslagen, a region in northern Sweden.

This 1958 computer program is still in use today - replacing it would be too expensive

As Tydal explained, although the systems on some of those trains were upgraded to Windows XP, “most of them still work with Windows 95 the same as when they were delivered in 2000. At that time Windows 95 was quite a change compared to the old trains that we operated at that time “, and which, as you recall, had a much less modern cockpit:

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And it is not the only example

As with other “old software rockers”, the fact of continuing to use them is often precisely due to the fact that changing them can be fatal because once the systems are working, upgrading them to more modern platforms can cause conflicts of all kinds to appear.

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In end-user environments that is not a problem, but when these systems are critical and affect a large group of people putting transactions or even their personal safety at risk, things change a lot. That is the reason that for example COBOL and FORTRAN continue to be widely used in areas such as banking, insurance or scientific-academic environments.

The missing languages: COBOL, Delphi or FORTRAN are still critical, but there is no one to program in them

With Windows 95 it is the same: there will certainly be users who will use it to run old games and programs without problem that otherwise would not work well (or would not work), but its use in some more critical settings remains unique.

It happens with those trains in Sweden, but in the discussion that this article generated in Hacker News we discovered how other users told how, for example, Windows 95 was used at least until 2016 —and probably still today— at the Arecibo observatory.

An ex-Boeing employee recounted how Windows 95 was still being used in some critical equipment for the manufacture of its aircraft (and even Windows 3.1 and IIRC in some cases), while another indicated that he also saw it working in a laboratory with a microscope of atomic force: the person in charge of the laboratory indicated that something more recently could be used, “but it would be very expensive [cambiarlo] and does not compensate as long as the computer continues to work well“.

That is really the key. In isolated systems and that theoretically not exposed to malware —Windows 95 stopped having security patches or support years ago — using this operating system is acceptable because it just works fine.

Image | Jacques bopp