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QNX system has been running for 15 years nonstop until...


Really old story, but still...
Let me tell you a story about a QNX-based computer that ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 15 years. The computer was running just fine until… well, I’ll get to that part in a minute.

The story begins in the mid 1990s, when a paper manufacturing company installed the computer to monitor pressures, temperatures, and a variety of other parameters at a rate of 5000 times per second. A few years later, the company installed a second QNX computer and configured it as a hot standby for the first. That way, if the first computer ever went down, the second one could immediately take over.

For more than a decade, this safeguard proved unnecessary. But recently, the second computer reported that it could no longer communicate with its partner. Assuming that a software error had occurred, the company called in an IT consultant to fix the problem.

Assuming that a software error had occurred,
the company called in an IT consultant.
But what they really needed was a detective.


Just one thing: The consultant couldn’t find the first computer. And that’s because it was no longer there. Evidence suggested that someone had stolen the machine, so the company called in the police to investigate.

To make a long story short, the police tracked down and returned the stolen computer. Upon booting it, the consultant discovered that thief had tried, unsuccessfully, to install Windows Vista — imagine doing this on a machine that dates back to the early days of the Clinton administration.

The computer itself still seemed to be in working order. So the consultant cloned the disc from the second (and still-running) QNX computer and re-connected the first computer to the network. The two machines automatically synchronized with each other and have been running ever since.

Personally, I don’t know what impress me most: that the OS never crashed in 15 years or that the hardware didn’t wear out. Either way, the story is a testament to embedded design done right.
Skull 1 december 2011, 14:15
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