They might be fossils of the early computer age but they sometimes still have a role to play in our every day lives rather than just being on display in some museum. I encountered one such fossil last week when I went to renew my Spanish driver’s licence in Alicante.
I couldn’t help but take a picture of it; that’s what we do these days, after all. The worker who was assisting me with the test came back in the room as I took the picture and laughed. I told her I was surprised by how old the system was (the software was dated 1988). She said that it was indeed old, but that it still worked well.
The computer you see in the picture was connected to two levers, which I had to control with my hands. The point of the test was to see if I could keep two tiny black lines within the confines of two swirling white lines – very basic representations of cars driving down roads – to test my hand-eye coordination and my reaction time. Like the machine, the graphics are incredibly outdated.
As it turns out, this is a system that is still commonly used across Spain. The manufacturer, a company called General ASDE, still markets an updated version of the system on its website. The screenshots on the site are not entirely clear, but it seems like this version is dated 1999 – not as old as the one I used, but still ages ago in internet and technology years.
The assistant told me that these systems are “pretty antique” but are still “commonly used” as they have not been recently upgraded and no other system has been approved to replace it. They aren’t cheap either. A brochure dated June 2014 lists the ASDE Driver Test computer system, the latest model with a modern flat screen monitor, at €3,076 (approximately £2,200).
I ended up easily passing the test, and I have to say that despite its antiquated look the system does its’ job. Perhaps there’s no need for new, shiny machines when the old ones are still up to the task.