Remembering the McLaren F1: Why Outdated Systems Matter

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I recently read an article from Jalopnik, which sparked my interest.

The McLaren F1 supercar is capable of a top speed of 231 mph, was first produced in 1992, and is the most powerful naturally aspirated (i.e. no turbo or supercharger) car ever built. To this date the car is one of the highest performance vehicles in the world. It has even gone up in value to over $10.5 million each, which is a 1,288% return over the original sticker price ($815K).

Despite all of those amazing metrics, however, the McLaren F1’s software can only run on a Compaq LTE 5280. The reason being that they run on an installed, bespoke CA card. This CA card is the interface that communicates between the laptop and the car. Of course, since the software was developed in 1992, it should be no surprise that it’s DOS based.

An outdated system is something that many of our clients encounter, as well. They developed a very reliable and functional system 10, 20, or 30 years ago that is causing serious issues today. For McLaren the problem is that as time goes on it will be increasingly difficult to find reliable versions of that specific Compaq laptop (though you can buy it on eBay now for about $350).

compaq computer chip

Likewise, with our customers we find there are similar issues with either equipment or knowledge when transitioning from legacy systems. Twenty years from now there won’t be too many developers with MS DOS knowledge (or the like), which is one reason many customers want to move beyond the green screen to a more modern solution.

The temptation to stay the course and not upgrade, however, can be great. In order to take advantage of many modern Big Data benefits and save the company from an increasingly difficult-to-manage software solution, you have to retire the now archaic system that is deeply integrated into the whole company.

This requires extremely diligent user elicitation, an understanding of all the system integrations, and awareness of all of the small workaround changes that were made over the years. All too often, the result is huge cost overruns and missed timelines with ERP projects failing up to 75% of the time, according to surveys done by both Gartner and Forrester.

And yet, our clients’ need updated systems for their own good — so that they don’t own a $10.5M car that they won’t be able to drive in 30 years. As their guides, we must be committed to selecting and implementing these updates as successfully as possible, while looking to the future viability of our solutions.

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