The use of vintage operating systems in public services, particularly within German railway systems operated by Deutsche Bahn (DB), has been brought to light. Siemens Mobility, a service provider to DB, has posted a job advertisement seeking a system administrator with proficiency in legacy operating systems, including Windows for Workgroups 3.11, which dates back to 1993. Siemens is a partner of Microsoft and leverages the company's Copilot AI.
Windows 3.11: Still on Track
The responsibilities of the system administrator include the ongoing maintenance and update management of the classic software. This software is integral to the cab's display systems of certain trains, providing real-time technical data crucial for train operators. It's reported that this system is predominantly found in the operational controls of the older ICE 1 and ICE 2 train series, which were the pioneering models of Germany's high-speed train network introduced between 1989 and 1997.
Modern Systems and Legacy Support
Siemens Mobility has publicly confirmed the veracity of the job posting and underscored that the continuation of these systems is industry standard due to their reliability and extensive service life, often surpassing 30 years. Moreover, the company continues to develop new systems with contemporary software and incorporates advancements such as artificial intelligence. Despite this ongoing innovation, the firm hints that even these modern technologies might endure and remain functional for several decades, similar to their predecessors running on Windows 10 or 11.
In the wake of the news, the German tabloid Bild drew attention to a statistic indicating that 36% of German long-distance trains experienced delays in 2023. Nevertheless, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of the archaic operating system is to be blamed for these delays. Instead, Siemens Mobility emphasizes that they provide full support and maintenance throughout these systems' life cycles to ensure continued safe operation for its customers. The longevity and persistence of such systems illustrate the balance that entities like Siemens Mobility and Deutsche Bahn strike between innovation and functional legacy technology.