San Francisco mass transit was about to bring something new in the '70s. Now the mechanics have to find and buy chips on eBay. The daily newspaper The Mercury News, which is published in San Francisco, reports on the 50th anniversary of the Bart (Bay Area Rapid Transport) subway and light rail system there of numerous technical difficulties in keeping the old trains running. Some of the problems are therefore due to completely outdated technology to be able to maintain the trains at all. This apparently includes Windows 98 and DOS.
The outdated operating systems are used primarily to access the trains' diagnostic functions, as the report states. The actual access is via an old DOS program. This runs either on computers that are more than 20 years old with Windows 98 or in a Windows 98 environment in a VM with Windows 10 as the host system.
For some of the older generations of trains, the transport company relies on a train control system from Bart's early days, which apparently has many in-house developments for largely automated operation. The newer and standardized CBTC system has only been slowly implemented in the Bart network for a few years.
These in-house developments are probably also a self-made problem from the early days of Bart traffic. According to the report, the system was created from scratch by aerospace engineers instead of relying on existing technology that had been tried and tested at the time. This probably also contributed to the futuristic designs of the first cars and trains.
Without replacement, these systems quickly become obsolete. This not only applies to software and diagnostic functions, but also to the hardware and the rolling stock. It is said that there are now hardly any spare parts for this either. The mechanics make do with buying individual parts on eBay. In the event of a fire in one of the vehicles, the technology had to be completely redesigned.
However, such difficulties should soon be a thing of the past, since the old vehicles are to be exchanged for new developments. But even these are apparently struggling with software problems, as Mercury News also reports.