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SLC 500 since the 90s, try and find a 286 passive backplane CPU today.(Remember when the programmer would count clock cycles to build his timing, and never provide C code for that boat anchor sitting in your warehouse? I have heard about an open source project that programs several PLCs from one GUI and downloads and uploads to several different hardware types.
Then there is Automation Direct that charges for OEM licenses and little things like manuals. I find it particularly gauling that A-B charges so much for its software. If A-B gave them the software when they bought A-B PLCs, the company has an incentive to switch to A-B.
Perhaps they feel that locking people in once they get them is more beneficial to the bottom line than attractive people in the first place. I'm certainly okay paying for technical support and some nominal fee for the software (a hundred bucks, maybe? But paying thousands per copy per year is quite painful. We would be much more willing to look at other PLC vendors if their software were free (or priced reasonably.) I actually like Automation Direct.com's pricing, and I'm okay paying for manuals (it's nominal).-James Ingraham Sage Automation, Inc. It costs considerably more to develop good software than it does automation hardware.
In representing Schneider Electric and our programming software, perhaps you would prefer us to add this cost to the price of the hardware? Like it or not, automation company's are evolving into software vendors.....
The best thing going for PLCs is the wide body of knowledge in support.
There are integrators in almost every city who develop in ladder, function blocks, and SFCs.