Class, Internet, and the Industrial

glevy at glevy at
Mon Jul 31 10:53:34 MDT 1995

Scott wrote:
> >
> >You want scary examples - many of the largest air traffic control systems
> >are on systems and software older than apple IIs.
> >
To which Otto responded:
>  I will give no in-depth technical explanation but do believe me when I say
> that we, workers, capitalists and others, should all be very thankful that
> businesses as safety-critical as air traffic control use no more high-tech
> than is called for. The expression "well-proven" still means something,
> right?
> Wild horses couldn't put me on the same plane as an "MS Autopilot for
> Windows".
I'm not so sure that I would want to be on a plane guided by "MS
Autopilot for Windows" either, although my rather incomplete
understanding of on-board guidance systems installed on large commercial
airplanes suggests that those systems are far more "high tech" than
Apple IIs.  Indeed, every new generation of airplanes has increasingly
sophisticated and computer-coordinated instrumentation.

For the above reason, I find Scott's example of air traffic controllers
using pre-Apple II computers all the more perplexing (and also frightening).
I'm sure  there are those in the airline industry who believe, like Otto,
that  those systems are "well proven."  Yet, the record of air disasters and
near-misses in the US is not particularly comforting.  Of course, airline
safety isn't only a technical question of which technologies are used but
also relates to why those technologies are purchased, how they are
designed and who uses those technologies and what skills they are trained

Air traffic controllers, as we all remember from Reagan and PATCO, are
federal employees. This would suggest to me that the reason for the
obsolete technologies used by the air traffic controllers relates to
government priorities and the federal budget crisis.


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