The Perks of Using Outdated Technology

The Perks of Using Outdated Technology

June 2

“Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin admitted recently that he enjoys using an obsolete disk operating system, DOS to you smart people, because it doesn’t correct his spelling.

He may have something there. As someone who takes notes during interviews mainly by computer, I can relate to that. I’ve gone back through notes to find the autocorrect changed a word into something that was completely wrong.

Martin is not archaic, he does have a computer to surf the Web, but he told BBC that he doesn’t worry about computer viruses because the computer he uses to write on isn’t on the Internet.

It was pointed out to me, by my editor, that Martin could still be in trouble if the hard drive ever fails. Since Martin didn’t mention anything in the article about it, I hope that he is secretly going home at night and backing up. Of course, Martin isn’t the only one getting back to basics.

The Russians figured out it might be best to go old-school. After Edward Snowden leaked U.S. secrets last year, it was reported the Kremlin ordered 20 typewriters to “avoid leaks and electronic surveillance,” The Moscow News reported. I’m curious to know how many messages they were able to send so far, as I have a feeling many of the typers were just able to use their index fingers to type.

Could it be that Martin and the Russians have it right? Using systems that are so old they are actually more secure?

I was about to say “no,” until I remembered that I keep a corded phone — the ones that don’t need electricity — in the closet just in case. You never know.

Sure, I guess you could make a case for security, so I did some research on what else people use that is considered “old.”

Avrim Piltch of LAPTOP reported last year that 10 million people still use a modem to get on the Internet for various reasons from living in areas without broadband access to just being too cheap to upgrade. And, more than 100,000 people were still using Windows 98 or 2000.

As I reported last week, there are a lot of organizations still using old technology because it has been determined it was more safe, and in fact, you can still buy plenty of older technologies for use. For instance, you can purchase a box of Imation 1.44 MB disks for $10.99 from CDW. They will also sell you a Bytecc floppy disk drive card reader for $16.99. That’s not bad.

Are floppy disks safer? The government seems to think so. Our nuclear weapons are managed using them. According to a report by 60 minutes, ICBM forces commander Major General Jack Weinstein said they have done a complete analysis of their network and found that it’s “extremely safe and extremely secure the way it’s developed.”

There’s more. Duane Harris, CEO of Nemonix Engineering, made a case last year for why the 37-year-old OpenVMS operating system was still one of the best.

“OpenVMS systems provide a level of security that is unmatched in the industry,” he wrote in a Data Center Knowledge article.

Citing a Wipro study, he wrote “OpenVMS is ten times more secure than other popular operating systems available today, and has 75-to-91 times fewer unaddressed security vulnerabilities on any given day.”

That’s quite an endorsement, and certainly in many cases old-school technology is the tops. You’ll notice, however, that some of the networks and systems we’ve discussed are so secure simply because they don’t have access to an external network via the Internet—there’s no way for hackers inside, unless through a physical, in-person attack on the network.

There are certainly situations that call for old-school technology. The OpenVMS system we mentioned is inexpensive and secure and few companies feel the need to upgrade. Old-school technology certainly can be secure and inexpensive, but as Guy Baroan, founder and president of Baroan Technologies mentioned in a recent interview, updating old technology can provide massive benefits like providing users with the latest and most advanced features, many of which can improve productivity overall and save businesses money in the long run. Additionally, any old piece of hardware won’t last forever. At some point it will all need some upgrading.

Photo Credit: Steven Depolo via Flickr