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I was given the task to determine the life span of a computer with a Pentium 1 processor. One of our clients is unwilling to upgrade their computers in order for our software to run and we are looking for documentation on how outdated these computers are.

Does Intel suggest a lifespan for their processors?

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Didn't get many answers before you accepted one, eh? –  tomjedrz May 1 '09 at 18:45

6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I would compare the maintenance costs for old computers (Pentiums were last made around 2000, so we're talking about 9+ year old computers) to the replacement cost. The low availability of parts would make maintenance especially difficult.

Worse yet, your customer could find themselves in a pinch if they had to deploy brand new replacement computers that can't run the old OS and software. They would be facing an emergency upgrade, which would be more costly than a carefully planned upgrade.

Edit:

This page has a little bit of processor history. It's not a support life cycle, but it does show when different processors were produced.

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I don't think Intel does. I would ask myself these questions

  • Are these computers Internet connected? (Security question)
  • Are they running a modern OS (XP or newer) for security patches?
  • What else are running on them? Special software that does not work with modern OS's?
  • What are their main purpose?
  • How much storage do these have?
  • When were they built?
  • Are they able to support them with new parts from today?
  • What happens when one of them fails and is broken beyond repair?
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Don't waste time talking technology/speed/life cycle with this guy .. he doesn't care. He thinks that you are using the project as an excuse to do PC upgrades and increase your fees.

I would change the subject from the age/speed of the computers to the time it takes people to do the work. Install the software on one of the dogs and test it. If the software performs acceptably, leave it alone. But if it doesn't, the argument is about how much the people cost and their productivity.

Anecdotal info ... Just this week we were exploring memory upgrades for our accounting staff. For recent PCs (18 months old), we got 2GB of RAM for $32. For some older PCs (3+ years old), we could only get 512MG sticks at $80, so 1.5GB would cost $240.

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That's a pretty tight grip the customer has on its wallet if there's no interest in upgrading a 9-year-old PC at today's entry-level system prices.

I think you'll find the experience of most has been that the CPU is one of the more reliable components in the PC. The drives, fans, and motherboards are more likely to fail due to age than the CPU. Like the other responders, I'm unaware of any official end-of-life documentation from Intel.

But you may consider these other tactics.

  • Really market the value of your software's features that won't be accessible without even a cheap upgrade. If you can explain that the software can improve their productivity and save time and money, it might prove more valuable than the cost of a new PC.
  • Explain how a new PC itself can be an improvement in efficiency. In addition to being able to run your software, anything else they do on it will be faster.
  • If they don't want to buy a new one, would they be willing to buy a used one? Although it could be argued that buying someone's three-year-old box for $250 is still more expensive than buying a cheap dual-core PC from Dell for $400.
  • How much is this sale and this customer worth to you? A lot hinges on your answer to that question, but you can consider buying the PC for them. Give the razor, sell the blades. Lose money on the printer, rob them on the highway for ink cartridges. Or perhaps you can split the cost. Unfortunately, you might also be setting a nasty precedent. Maybe include the PC price in the software installation fee...
  • Get outside help. I'm not fond of overpriced consultants that tell me what I already know, but it works for some people. There must be a consulting firm report somewhere detailing the costs of having legacy tech or the benefits of staying current. Put that in front of them.
  • Sabotage. Leave a magnet lying around nearby or spill a coke or clog up a fan. Just kidding...sort of.
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Isn't Intel still producing these? (for embedded platforms though, not desktops)

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Yes they are still producing them, but even embedded applications are starting to use more powerful CPUs. –  Jim C May 1 '09 at 19:01

I think my microwave runs an 80286 processor. Although newer processors exist, I haven't felt the need to upgrade my microwave - as it still heats up food just fine.

If the client is wanting a field added to their VB4 data entry application, it might not make economic sense to upgrade the computers it runs on. I think you need to determine how much it's going to cost you to maintain support for the Pentium 1. The client may be happy to pay you additional costs to maintain support than to upgrade a fleet of old computers.

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