Why New York’s Subway Still Uses OS/2

Every day 5.7 million people ride the subway in New York City — and are subjected to both “the whims of the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the unheard-of reliability of a marginally successful operating system from the early 1990s.”

martiniturbide shared this report from Tedium:
OS/2 and MTA consultant Neil Waldhauer said in an email, “For a few years, you could bet your career on OS/2.” To understand why, you need to understand the timing. Waldhauer continues, “The design is from a time before either Linux or Windows was around. OS/2 would have seemed like a secure choice for the future.” So for a lack of options, the MTA went with its best one. And it’s worked out for decades, as one of the key software components of a quite complex system…

Despite the failure of OS/2 in the consumer market, it was hilariously robust, leading to a long life in industrial and enterprise systems — with one other famous example being ATMs. Waldhauer said, “Thinking about all the operating systems in use [in the MTA], I’d have to say that OS/2 is probably the most robust part of the system, except for the mainframe.” It’s still in use in the NYC subway system in 2019. IBM had long given up on it, even allowing another company to maintain the software in 2001. (These days, a firm named Arca Noae sells an officially supported version of OS/2, ArcaOS, though most of its users are in similar situations to the MTA.)

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