‘Paging Dr. VT320, paging Dr. VT320’

030117blog old hospital computer

 Writes a contributor to Reddit’s section devoted to all things “mildly interesting:”

“This is the computer (pictured above) which controls the paging system at the hospital where I work.”

The audience found this much more than mildly interesting, as the post attracted more than 500 comments and 13,000 up-votes.

The comments were split between those who see a disaster in the making:

“You may find it funny, but aging hardware and obsolete systems plague medical facilities, and when those critical old pieces fail, it costs the facility many times more capital and labor power to restore critical systems, and risks patient health and safety.”

And those who note that the “computer” is just a terminal and it’s clearly reliable; in short, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”

What we’re looking at here is a VT320 terminal sold by Digital Equipment Corp. from 1987 to 1990. Since DEC was gobbled up by Compaq in 1998, it means this particular VT320 outlived its maker by roughly 20 years.

What did it bring to the table in it’s heyday? From Wikipedia:

The VT300s introduced a number of new features compared to the VT200s. With the great increase in RAM available, the 300's added the ability to store several pages of data locally, as well as perform editing on that data entirely within the terminal. The user could scroll up and down among several pages, normally about three, perform edits, and then send all of the changes to the host in a single operation. This required compatible host-side software to work. That memory also meant all of the 300 series were able to store large numbers of sixel-based glyphs, allowing them to be used not only as a user-defined character set as in the earlier 200's, but also to produce full-screen bitmap graphics by storing a separate sixel for each location on the screen.

Whether one would like to be treated at a hospital still using it is clearly a matter of opinion.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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