On a day when the Idaho Transportation Board acknowledged the retirement of a dozen veteran employees, they also learned of a less conspicuous retirement – the mothballing of 16 monochrome computer terminals located within the bowels of the computer center at Headquarters.
For the past quarter century, the Datapoint 8600 computers served as a vital link in the exchange of DMV information from county locations to the ITD mainframe. They predated personal computers and the Internet. Today their simple, colorless screens show zeros… comparable to a flatline EKG that signifies the end of life.
County assessors and sheriffs used the data terminals to process driver’s licenses, automobile registrations and titles. ITD’s information technology staff kept the terminals alive long past their anticipated life span, using parts that were out of production to keep the terminals – also long out of production – serving county and state offices.
With migration of ITD’s mainframe functions to the State Controller’s Office and a new data link to county offices, the Corporate IT staff began pulling the plugs on Feb. 22; within the week, all of the machines were decommissioned and awaiting final disposition.
“We wanted to leave them in place for 30 days to ensure the changeover is problem-free,” said Shannon Barnes, project administrator for ITD’s Project Management Office.
The transition was accomplished on time and about 20 percent under budget, she explained. Conversion to the new data link was done on weekends and early mornings, beginning with smaller counties. Ada County was the last to be directly linked to the State Controller’s mainframe.
“Although they continued to function, the 8600s routinely went down … there were recurring outages,” Barnes explained. “Our Corporate IT staff – Lee Peckham and his crew – did a remarkable job of keeping the servers alive. Parts were no longer available, and they couldn’t be replaced with new servers. They could not keep up with the counties’ demands for new capacity … to add new work stations.”
Replacing the data link and taking the 8600s off line were part of ITD’s ongoing Division of Motor Vehicles modernization project and the department's program to upgrade the information technology infrastructure.