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LOOK: An Ancient PC and Sorry Looking Room Controls The MRT-3

MRT-3_Manila_train_towards_Ayala_Station

We all know the sorry state of the MRT-3’s trains and how most of them break down regularly and are in dire need of replacements. But apparently that’s not the only thing that’s in dire need of replacing. James Aaron Magnum, a self described transport geek, published photos of the signalling system of the MRT-3 that has us concerned for the riding safety of the public.

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In his post, James shows the alarmingly dilapidated state of the MRT-3’s main signalling system, which isn’t exactly what you’d expect from a place that controls trains with hundreds of passengers inside.

For those wondering what the pictures were, yes this is the MRT-3s signalling system..a critical part of a train system as it controls the movement, speed and direction of the trains for safe operation.

The walls and doors of the room are almost non-existent, and the ventilation for the people who work there are laughably inadequate.

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If that wasn’t enough, his photos also show the antiquated signalling system that’s currently being used by the trains, which include a computer that uses a 5 1/2 floppy drive (technology that’s older than most millennials today), and a mainframe computer powered by an Ericsson CPU that utilizes a Motorola 68000 processor which he says was firt made in 1979.

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The interface PC that shows the status of the line is also powered by a similarly obsolete machine – an Intel Pentium D with a whopping 256MB of RAM, running off of an older version of Windows XP.

If you were concerned about the sad state of the trains in the MRT-3, then you absolutely need to be outraged at the place that controls all of those trains. This control room is the brain of the MRT-3 system, and because of the improper care and maintenance of the room these old and sensitive electronics sit in, a major accident isn’t just a matter of if, but of when.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.

57 Comments

  1. Orayt! Tawagin ang DOST, DOTC, SWAT, MMDA, SSD, HDD, RAM… LoL! This is serious! Are those PATAs? We’re like what? USB type-C, thunderbolt cables? Our poorest kid on the block can probably get a phone that leaves those machines a century to catch. I mean, aba eh, mas maganda pa mga cellphone ng mga empleyado ng DOTC kaysa sa buong control room ng MRT. Nice job there, making these known to the public and get the necessary attention of the government agencies concerning these.

    1. With due respect.

      First-off I completely agree with the sentiment, the a systems upgrade is severely needed.

      However, updating/upgrading these systems will be really costly (financially), A 3,000 Peso Smart Phone, can indeed outmatch (processing power) all of these computers combined.

      However, making the entire MRT system (Sensors, Switches, Signalling system etc.), work on a 3,000 Peso Smart Phone, would cost millions.

      1. May pera ang gobyerno pang-upgrade. Barya ang milyones compared sa nakokolekta buwan buwan. Yung sinasabi ni kim henares noon na magkukulang ang koleksyon? Isang malaking kalokohan. May pera ang kaban ng bayan, marami lang talagang kurakot di lang sa panahon ni noynoy kundi pati sa nagdaang administrasyon.

        1. Naging political analyst ka na rin pala ngaun ..dame mo sinasabe may natulong ka na ba sa Pinas?

      2. I agree that it’ll likely cost the government alot and not just that. If I’m not mistaken it’ll also shutdown the network for a few months, but with our country’s system it’ll take about 1 millennium or so. And upgrading to a newer system means newer software, then you have to upgrade the system that controllers the hardware part to work with the new hardware and software. it’s the same reason why banks can upgrade the ATM machines OS but can’t upgrade the mainframe to where everything is connected to which still uses server side software in maybe something like COBOL.

        1. I do agree with your insight sir that yes the programs can work with simpler/older machines as with a lot of systems around us but I think that is beside Mr. Magnum’s the point, which is the state of the said equipment and its ancillaries. The space the equipment is located in is dilapidated. No walls and doors? How about proper ventilation for the equipment? Everything is exposed to the elements! Its the state of the equipment that is worrisome not the actual equipment itself (although yes it can be argued that it is in dire need of an upgrade). The least that the MRT management could have done is to try their best to maintain the equipment and that includes how and where they are kept.
          I don’t believe that would cost millions to do. So there is where we should be outraged. My 2 cents.

      3. So what kung mahal palitan? Hindi ba sapat ang halaga na yun para sa oras, seguridad, at buhay ng milyong mga Pilipino na sumasakay sa MRT-3 at nagpapaandar ng bansang ito?
        Baka nga hindi ano?

    1. Meron nyan.. mas luma ba sa floopy disk,

      malambot to at sing laki ng mga ID ng taxi driver. 400kb ang storage

  2. Perhaps Mr. Magnum would like to volunteer to rewrite the whole program to interface with the system that would run on a modern system.

  3. This transport geek has no idea that a lot of train/railway systems infact run on old (ancient) systems. And not just train systems but even space satellites/rovers are using old CPUs. If youve worked with these systems or even in a company that is using an established system then youll know how difficult it is to migrate to a newer one. Its not like switching your desktop computer’s part for an upgraded model.

    1. I agree with this guy. You can’t just buy newer machines and make it work. They may need to update the electromechanical/electronic switches and sensors along with the controllers, computers and software applications. They may need to change the whole SYSTEM. So no, this is not as easy as buying a new pc and setting up windows.

      1. Sabihin mo yan sa tokyo bullet transit na inuupgrade ang system every 3 years. Kaya ang pinakaaberya mong mararanasan ay 3 minutes late sa office. Wag nyo ng ipagtanggol ang lumang sistema. Kayo ang isa sa dahilan kaya lalong umaatras sa pag-unlad ang pilipinas. Yang mga dahilan nyo na mahal mag-upgrade, gumagana naman kahit luma etc. yan ang mga katwiran na gustong gamitin ng mga politiko para lalong makakupit. Mga utak abad at abaya kayo.

        1. Hoy ug0k. I-google mo nga yung sa sYdney at new york na railway systems at nang maintindihan mong pinagsasabi mo. Hindi necessarily dahil sa gastos kundi sa pag implement ng pagpapalit ng sistema. Sa mga critical na sistema hindi oobra yang “sige palitan natin kasi luma na”. Kelangan mo itesting yung bago, eh aber panu at saan ka magtesting ng bagong sistema para sa MRT. Kung sumablay yung bagong sistema, sa tingin mo ilang milyong tao ang apektado at ganu katagal.

          1. Pagbigyan na natin. Marami sa kababayan natin satsat ng satsat na di naman alam ang sinasabi. But for those who are in similar type of business or industry (ahem engineering) know better.

    2. i agree also. even the machine that transmits BIR transactions still uses Windows 95. Even bank applications also use old, DOS-based programs as well.

      1. Kaya pala tayo na lang ang bansa na madaling mahack ang credit cards dahil magnetic strips pa rin ang gamit tapos ang ibang bansa ay sim-like reader na ang mga atm. pati birth certificate calling card size na tinatap na lang para mabasa ang data ng may-ari.

        1. Actually most banks here are moving to contactless. Which honestly is more hackable. And even if not hackable. You can read the data on the chip using an NFL card reader on your phone if it has nfc.

        2. Banks in the US are reluctant to use “smart” cards. And this guy above has the correct idea, you can actually create phone apps to read wireless cards. There are already apps available, you can search them yourself. So more secure? Not really.

  4. Ayos!!!!! hihintayin muna na may ma-aksidente bago baguhin ang sistema….. Pilipino talaga tayo, hangat pwede sige lang ng sige. Good luck to us MRT commuters!!!!!!!

    1. Bawal daw kasing bawasan ang makukupit ng politicians sa national tax. May mga magtatanggol naman daw kasi ng bulok na sistema kaya sige lang sa paggamit ng lumang computers.

  5. Magkano kaya sahod ng mga employee dito???????? mukang kulang pa yung kita ng MRT sa pasahod ng mga nagtratrabaho dito kaya pinagtyagaan na lang yung ancient PC na to.

  6. If the system proves to be rock-solid, then why replace it? Unless the system that would be installed has been proven to be rock-solid also, ‘wag mo na galawin lalo na kung buhay ang mga nakasalalay. Porket outdated kailangan palitan na agad? Migrating to a new system isn’t easy. It also isn’t cheap.

    1. So hihintayin mo pang lumampas sa warranty ang mga gamit bago palitan? Natural pag outdated upgrade kagad. Every 5 years upgrade ang standard sa industry especially public service ang involved. Yang mentality mo na upgrade is expensive, migrating is not easy ang isa sa symptoms ng pagiging tamad at kuripot na wala sa lugar. Anlaki ng nakokolektang buwis taun-taon kaya dapat lang na mapunta yun sa public service. Hayaan mong matulog ang pera ng bayan at kukurakutin lang yan.

      1. Agree ako with you Archie. Maraming ways para mag-upgrade and anong silbi ng new technology hindi mo gagamitin and dapat nga in 3yrs lang palit kaagad depreciated na masyado kung lalagpas pa ng 5yrs laki na ng kick -back ng government dyan. parang ito lang yan oh “The reason is obvious: life is irreplaceable, property is not”… hahaha… anyways change is coming sabi nga nila… DU30

    2. Agree. Banks all over the world are still using mainframe machines and why is that? Is it because they are so reliable? You can’t even compare a top of the line linux or windows machine. And those ancient mainframe machines can even run java! What yah know.

  7. This system is far more reliable than what you are using right now. When you actually work in the field, you will see that there is stll a lot of companies that use this kind of old hardwares.

    1. True.. even the US DoD still use mainframes and minicomputers from the 70’s and 80’s. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Yung problema lang dito is yung environment. Mukhang mainit.

  8. Well, if you go to banks or airlines, you’ll see some more ancient devices than these. But heck, they still power the world’s financial systems and transport people from continent to continent. It’s all about the maintenance, support, and requirements. Why have an octa-core Xeon processor and 128GBs of ram when all the system does are simple tasks? I bet you haven’t been to powerplants and manufacturing factories as well.

    Simply put, why give a wifi-enabled smart food processor when all the guy needs is a knife?

  9. these are specialized machine running on special software. you don’t use those to play your latest games. they dont need to be replaced or upgraded if not broken. they need to be reliable though. what they need to fix is the environment where those machines are located. they need to be in an air conditioned and clean room. signaling and speed can be controlled even by a $5 Raspberry PI so even today, those machine running simple instructions are powerful enough even for 50 more years if properly maintained.

  10. Sabihin na natin na realiable pa din ang old system na yan. But can you see that environment that controls the MRT? Wag na nating ipagtanggol ang bulok na sistema dito sa Pinas, Yes reliable pa yan but it is WORTH an upgrade. Kelan pa yan iuupgrade pag nagloko na at may naaksidente na? Wag na din nating idahilan na costly ang paguupgrade dahil may pondo yan, kesa naman mapunta lang sa bulsa ng mga kurakot. Araw araw akong sumasakay ng mrt, no wonder kung bakit laging may abirya ang MRT. They should have at least maintained the control room properly. Good article Yugatech.

  11. Not that I’m not in favor of an upgrade (I am), but legacy systems (such as the one pictured above) are commonly found in vital government installations (here and abroad, even the US) that was developed years ago. The signaling system isn’t exactly the most demanding program that it needs the fastest and latest processors, RAMS, etc.

    Though there’s really no excuse not clean and maintaining the room the computer is at.

  12. Palagay ko i-upgrade iyan kahit hindi nailathala dito sa yuga. Pero naghahanap pa ng company sa ibang bansa para gawan o desenyuhan iyan ng makabagong electronic, sensor , program at kung anu-ano pa. Siguro mas magandang pagtalunan eh kung may kakayahan ba pinoy na mag design at mag upgrade niyan kesa kumuha pa ng taga ibang bansa? Iyong mga nagtapos sa mga magagaling na school at mga mamahalin ang bayad ay may kakayahan kaya?

  13. Hello fellow concerned citizen who love and care for our country, I would like to volunteer to handle this problem. Connect me to concerned authority.

  14. The main reason why the MRT is not properly maintained is because of GODDAMN POLITICS! Many congressmen are allocating less budget because of the reason: DI NAMAN MASASAKYAN YAN NG MGA TAO SA MINDANAO/VISAYAS/LUZON.

  15. well i have several Dell Optiplex here in my office, pwde sana idonate kahit papano with respectable specs,
    Intel i5 ( 1st Gen ) 3.2Ghz
    2gb ram
    320gb HDD

    though running on windows 7, baka di na mag work yan kahit may compatibilty tools ang windows 7 from windows XP or baka windows 95 pa yan

  16. you guys thinking too much! signalling system lang to. kumbaga stop and go lang ang command neto. nde naman dito naka depende ang puso ng tren para mapaandar ang tren ng kusa o anu man. Hindi po yan ang puso ng tren na nagpapatakbo sa bawat bagon. uulitin ko…nagbibigay lang po ng senyales ang pc na yan.Dahil kung yan ang nagpapatakbo ng tren, baket may mga train engineers na nagpapatakbo sa bawat bagon?

    anu ba dapat gawin? mismong tren ang palitan! hindi yang jurassic PC na yan. ano ba madalas masira? ang stoplight ng tren o yung tren mismo? kung nagagawa naman ng tama nung PC yung task nya, bat papalitan?

    Minsan sa taba ng utak ng iba sa atin, napaka simpleng isyu lang pinalalaki! at kung ano yung mismong problema, yun ang hindi nakikita

  17. its not about the PC or its OS, the MRT operations along with its signalling mechanisms and monitoring hasnt changed therefore its not really an issue replacing that OLD PC whether its running a very old processor as comparing today. It serves its purpose. And a lot of comments here are not thinking straight for comparing and replacing the PC.. if there is a need to change..the entire MRT system will have to be revamp from scratch. but more to that…its the executives who runs the operation must have the attitude to maintain their system and its facilities.

  18. For F’s sake! Has anyone considered that these equipments are industrial-grade? And that they are meant to be operated at such environments. Not all control systems rely on sensitive electronics that needs delicate care. The only issue I found is the security given the fact how Mr. Magnum gained access to these critical system and be able to blatantly post it to the interwebs for everyone (including those who may have different motives) to see.

  19. I am thinking this is somewhat irresponsible. You can’t say a thing is bad without any sort of proper basis or comparison. You can’t just compare a signalling system to a smartphone or your home pc. Microwave ovens have cpus, but do you need core i7 procs for that?

  20. If the main control room is not working.. susunod na lahat yan, Train engineers cannot do anything if the main frame is down. Unless they have an override system per train.

    PC needs to be upgraded, sir pogi’s pcs for donation is well good enough. Software is not a problem, currently their system is running under the old version of windows XP. And basing on the picture the software is a DOS based system. So Windows 7 will not be a problem.

    And lastly, ayusin naman ung lugar, kahit sino naman po gusto nang secure and well maintained workplace.

  21. After all these years, I didn’t know floppy drives and disks are still in use. May I correct some notes. First, it is 5.25″ size. A floppy disk comes in 2 variants. Single side and double sided floppy. Single sided comes in at 160Kb capacity. Double sided floppy disks comes in 2 varieties: Double sided, single density (360KB capacity) and High Density (1.2MB capacity). And don’t try to mock me. Gumamit ako nyan noon. Mid 80’s these are high tech devices. Meron pa ngang 8″ disks. And I still keep my hard drive na malaki pa sa cd case. About an inch thick. You may won’t believe the capacity. It’s 1MB. Pang museum na. And wag natin maliitin ang 68000 or M68K. It is a 32bit processor and its architecture is still in use today like the computer boxes sa mga sasakyan ngayon. Architecture lang ang ginagamit, not the M68K itself.

    Anyway, the M68K was put into the sidelines during the mid 80’s kasi marami ng processor ang lumabas na mas malakas at mas malaki ang capacity to hold and process data. Ang tanong: Bakit kumuha ang previous gov’t natin (Ramos administration) ng old technology during the time na ginawa ang unang MRT? The M68K is already an obsolete processor in the 1990’s.

    They keep on talking about train upgrades, changing lines and all that. Bakit hindi rin nila subukan mag upgrade ng signaling system? Pakonti konti lang ang upgrade kung ayaw nilang gumastos ng milyon sa biglaang upgrade. And equally important, the working space of people manning the control system. Hindi lang para sa tao yun kundi protection din sa equipment para maiwasan ang napakadalas na paghinto ng train.

    Hay naku!

  22. There has been billions of money allocated for the maintenance and upgrades of the MRT and LRT for the past years and over the past administrations.. Where did that budget go and how come we have this kind of facility?

    Okay, the system works.. its okay if we’re going to keep it. but that kind of environment is still proof that there has been an anomaly here. We had tons of taxpayer’s money that’s supposed to serve as budget for maintaining a good and secured environment for this system. What happened?

    Other countries can upgrade their train systems for every 3 years. Our govt promised us the same but the only upgrade im seeing is the new ticketing system ffs.

    -_-

  23. for everyone the model of the signalling system is MAN900… si james pala ang nagpost… geek talaga hahah
    pero meron kami Railway engineer talaga na kilala dyan nasa loob ng MRT

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