Last Days of one of the Least Significant Victims of the Christchurch Earthquake

Requiem for an abandoned computer

There are just the three of us here. Mr.X, Cisco (the Kid) and me. Mr.X is the big one that you might have heard of. He's been letting a few of the lucky ones talk to each other. Some of the things he's heard recently … I'm impressed that he can carry on under the weight of all those tragic stories. He does, though, like we all do. Mr.X will tell me who's been talking to whom, and I make a note of it for later. Each night, I package it all up and give it to the Kid to pass on. I don't know what happens to it, but when it's sent, we're done for another day.

We've all been doing our job as well as we can. I'd been doing it non-stop for 2,142 days when the quake struck. I hear from Root that that is something of a record around the whole internet. I guess I'm a bit tired after all this time, but You Do What You Can.

It's been a strange few days, even for us in our isolation on the roof here. Mr.X has been letting people talk, as usual. He says that some of the things he's heard are too sad: they should never need to have been said. That's what you get from Mother Nature, though. She's a real mother...

A few days ago Mr.X said that he couldn't hear anything any more. And the Kid said that he wasn't able to talk to anyone outside. I don't know what this means for us. But we keep doing what we can. I know Mr.X would tell me if anyone had said anything, and I would package it up and get the Kid to try to send it on. We're ready, if we're needed again.

It's been getting hot in here, and uncomfortably quiet. Mr.X asks me if I'm OK. I say yes, and we go back to thinking our own thoughts. I bet he's thinking about all those stories he's heard. I wonder if he's glad not to hear the tragic ones, or sad not to be useful any more.

Now I can't hear anything from the Kid. Usually he'll tell me the time when I ask, but he's not answering now. Where we used to touch has gone numb and cold. I think it's only a matter of time now before Mr.X and I will join him wherever he's gone. I know that when we do, if anyone reads this, I'd just like them to know:

We Did What We Could

The dates below are the times of last boot of the system involved, as far as we know.

Mr.X: Actionet MX Trunked Radio Exchange, Dec 1996 – Feb 2011

Cisco (the Kid): Cisco 2500 router, Sept 2010 – Feb 2011

Call Information Handler: Fujitsu Desktop computer, March 2005 – Feb 2011

The Call Information Handler was a 're-purposed' desktop computer, running a version of GNU/Linux with custom software written in Python. When the earthquake struck it had been operating continuously for 2,142 days without fault of any kind. Some checks around the Internet suggest that this might have been a record: no other computers were identified that had been operating continuously for so long.

In the hours after the earthquake, a new 'Mr.X' was built in Wellington and the function of the Christchurch machine moved to it, by redirecting all circuits, including the one that provided the TCP connection to the CIH. That means we don't actually know what happened to the machines there. The Christchurch building was running on generators with limited fuel. When the fuel ran out, the Cisco router would have lost power, but the CIH and Mr.X would continue to operate for a few hours on batteries.

This story is not intended to trivialise the real tragedies of the Christchurch earthquake.