Challenges When Updating Old Jobs
Classic Organ has been in business for over 40 years and we are seeing several jobs come to us now to update control systems we installed decades ago. These really old jobs, some 30 years old, present challenges that simply do not exist in newer installations. These challenges can drastically increase the amount of time it takes to do an update, and thus it can cost a lot more than a church or builder initially envisions. The types of changes we are seeing include new Console Control Computer with the addition of an alphanumeric display and built in MIDI Sequencer, the addition of pipes or electronic voices, or manuals and pistons being replaced.
The first challenge is documentation. We keep a binder for every job with all the wiring tables, schematics, e-mails etc.,but if a job is 25 years old, occasionally a document has been misplaced. I keep a package of hole reinforcement rings in my desk, as most old jobs have some documents literally falling out of the binder as the punch holes have torn. There are in fact a couple whole binders which have gone missing over the years, we try to reconstruct them, but there is usually no history. Most of these documents are also in obsolete file formats. When I started working here in 1997 the Organ Control Address Listing was only document left that was still being edit in WordStar. What, you've never heard of WordStar? Neither had I before I started working here. WordStar is a text editing program which pre-dates Microsoft. Before I can even start editing a document, it needs to be converted to MS Word, and the results aren't always pretty. Sometimes it is faster and easier to start over from scratch.
Circuit boards can be another challenge sometimes, depending on circumstances. In a recent update, the manuals and pistons were being replaced. The pistons were originally matrix wired, but the new Walker hall effect pistons must be parallel wired. The ALT and SET pistons on a Classic system are handled differently than the other pistons, 25 years ago we would wire them to a specially modified Switch Input Board, nowadays we wire them directly to the console computer. It took a while to get this hardware sorted out, as I didn't know we did it differently, nobody in the shop had ever built one of these modified boards, and the one person in engineering who did work here back then, didn't remember how.
I don't think I have ever seen an update to a 20 year old piece of software work the first time. Something invariably goes wrong. If we need to update the software to the latest version, which we need to do when supplying a new computer, I will usually be starting over from scratch. Trying to do step by step updates over even five or six years is tedious and time consuming, I refuse to do it with 20 years of software updates.
As you can see, sometimes, even though the builder and organist may not perceive the changes they want to make to be all that major, from an electronics perspective, it can be like doing a brand new job.