Mclaren F1 supercar only talks to a 20 year old laptop

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My first blog post was about not getting left behind with technologies advancements. There was a great example of that this week that I wanted to share.

That’s a Compaq laptop from the early 90’s. 120Mhz of pentium goodness, 16Mb of Ram, onboard audio and a 3.5″ floppy disc drive. Doom would look beautiful on it.

20 years ago that would have been a great workstation. Today Mclaren is buying up a lot of them to keep spares because it’s the only way they can support their original super car.

Mclaren F1

The F1 is one of the most widely recognizable and ridiculous cars ever built. Mclaren is known for being dedicated to cutting edge technology in all of their cars.

When the F1 was released in 1992 the cutting edge technology was the Compaq laptop above. The company had a unique interface designed to work only with a very specific version of those laptops that lets their software interface with the cars management system.

Jalopnik covers the details – but in short:

“The reason we need those specific Compaq laptops is that they run a bespoke CA card which is installs into them,” a fellow from MSO told me. “The CA card is an interface between the laptop software (which is DOS based) and the car.”

He added: “We are currently working on an new interface which will be compatible with modern laptops as they old Compaqs are getting less and less reliable and harder to find.”

Even 10 million dollar super cars can get stuck relying on old technology.

It’s exhausting to stay up with the cutting edge of technology, but at the same time you can’t let yourself get so too far behind the times. Otherwise you have to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get caught back up.

That iPhone 4 – probably a good middle ground, but that Thomas Guide? It’s gotta go!

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