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NASA hits the web in search of spares

Wanted: One 8086. No timewasters

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Anyone who owns a vintage car will know the feeling. Where do I get that tachometer cable for a 1967 Mini Cooper?

Tricky, but the advent of services such as eBay has certainly facilitated the search process. Which is just as well for NASA, whose continuing need for obsolete kit has seen them trawling the net in hot pursuit of second-hand bargains.

The agency recently acquired a truckload of old medical equipment and promptly stripped out the Intel 8086 chips. That's good news for the Shuttle crew, since these veteran processors still play a vital role in booster-rocket diagnostic equipment.

However, before we start imagining that NASA's shuttle programme depends on a Sinclair ZX81 duck-taped to a liquid oxygen tank fashioned from a dustbin, let's remember that we've been here before.

Some time back we had some fun when it was revealed that the spaceboys aboard International Space Station were using an IBM Thinkpad which had - and we make no comment - fatally crashed. The accompanying picture also revealed the shocking state of the network cabling. Practically prehistoric, as many readers pointed out.

Well, that's the way NASA likes it. It's all about tried-and-trusted gear with a proven track record. Very wise.

Meanwhile, readers are advised that NASA is on the lookout for bulk purchases, so don't ring them offering that old 8086 that's been gathering dust in the attic. ®

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That story in full from the International Herald Tribune.

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