Author Topic: Memory Lane  (Read 2226 times)

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Offline A Nonny Moose

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Memory Lane
« on: March 06, 2015, 08:31:06 AM »
Maybe we need a spot for reminiscing.  Most of us have been associated with computers for a long time, so add to the fun in here.

Anybody besides me ever use a Multics system?  How about DSCS?

Maybe this should be moved to off topic.
Go not to the oracle, for it will say both yea and nay.

Offline kee

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2015, 07:19:52 AM »
As a kid, after a raid on my fathers old paperback stacks, I fancied a multivac...
Other than that it's mostly been ms-dos, amiga and windows machines for me.
Kim Erik

Offline A Nonny Moose

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2015, 10:59:46 AM »
Actually the first machine I ever used for anything was a Univac II in a workshop that demonstrated stochastic simulations.  At the time I was working for a Canadian Schedule A bank around 1962.
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Offline salamander

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2015, 05:46:04 AM »
Out of curiosity, how big was the Univac II at that time?  We're all so used to desktops, and now laptops and notebooks, that it's easy to overlook how large computers were.

Offline A Nonny Moose

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2015, 09:54:21 AM »
The Univac office was at a major intersection with a storefront on two sides.  The Univac II was their latest and greatest, so it occupied the store front with big grey boxes.  The console was the size of a two pedestal desk with lots of flashing lights and an electric typewriter of that era. 

The processor was a huge box about six feet high with triple redundant chassis containing vacuum tubes in balanced stages.  Needless to say, it was cooled by fans blowing over a large coil of pipes containing chilled water.  The line printer was another large box full of tubes and hammer modules with a drum containing only upper case letters.  Data in those days was 6-bit.  I don't know how this printer's buffer worked, but one printer of that era had a mercury delay line for the buffer memory.  This is a pipe filled with liquid mercury and they created standing waves in it for the data.

The magnetic tape drives were about six feet tall and three feet wide and they had six of them.  Magnetic tape in those days was made of steel foil.  If there was a permanent error on the tape, the drive punched a hole in the tape, spaced a few inches and punched another one.  These were sensed by air flow, and skipped when the tape was being processed.  It took two men and a boy to change these tapes, which was hardly ever.  There were no disks, but there was drum storage that had about 17 million six-bit characters each, one head per track.

A funny thing about this machine was if there was a power failure.  The cooling coil would sweat and drip onto the floor of the system enclosure.  Before power could be applied again, the operator had to take a bucket and mop out the enclosure to prevent short circuits in the condensation water.

The main memory was another large box full of large core memory.  I think it has something like 128K 6-bit positions.

This system was less powerful than the cheapest smart phone of today, but it cost millions of dollars.

When I was working for another company we had two of this "big" fastrand drums that were supposed to be the residency for the operating system, but when we powered them up for the first time the heads fell on the surface and scored it all around (both drums).  Needless to say they were just lumps of iron after that.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2015, 09:59:22 AM by A Nonny Moose »
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Offline A Nonny Moose

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2015, 04:01:44 PM »
The number of viewers in this thread indicates this little history lesson may have struck some chords.

Anyone ever use an IBM 1401, or maybe a 650 Calculator?  My outfit had a 650, but it was being phased out and I never got to play with it.
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Offline irrelevant

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2015, 04:50:00 AM »
First computer I ever used was a PDP10 ("DEC10") that was at IUPUI in the early 80s, in a class called "The Computer in Business."  This was the first semester the class was offered where you were not required also to be concurrently enrolled in a keypunching class. Still too early for CRTs though, we used 'DECwriters," which were combination keyboard/printers that fed paper up thru the bottom on which the dialog was printed as it took place. It seem incredibly futuristic to me at the time.

The first computer I owned was a C64; I splurged and got the optional floppy disc drive. That led me to my first computer game, "Carrier Force." I played that endlessly for a year or two in the mid 80s.

Offline rkelly17

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2015, 08:12:02 AM »
First computer I ever used was a PDP10 ("DEC10") that was at IUPUI in the early 80s, in a class called "The Computer in Business."

Hey, me too, though the school I worker for soon upgraded to an 11/44. I had to learn to use it for real work--admitting and registering students and keeping their records--from knowing next to nothing about computers. We had video/keyboard terminals, VT 52 I think: One big box. Then, since I was the "boss" (There's a joke) I got a VT 100 (?) which had the monitor and keyboard separate and you could get the video in black and green or black and orange as well as black and white. I also got a little NEC printer so I could print reports at my desk and not have to wait a day or two to get them from the line printer. At the time, that was considered a major breakthrough.

One day the DEC service guy did his random write test on the wrong disk drive and from then on every few weeks we would pull up a student's record which had bits of gibberish in it. The gibberish really wasn't so bad--you could see it and correct it. What always worried me were the random errors that looked like real data.


Offline A Nonny Moose

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2015, 09:23:17 AM »
Interesting.  Did either of you ever become members of DECUS (the DEC users group)?

In about the 1980 time frame I was working in the Math Faculty at the University of Waterloo and we had a VAX 11/780 running one of the BSD releases as our interface to various networks such as netnorth, and arpanet.  We also had a Honeywell (GE) mainframe that we used for faculty and grad school time-sharing, and the big undergrad 360/67.  For the undergrads, it was mostly punched cards, but time-sharing terminals were being added like fleas on a stray dog.  We had a desktop switching system to allow us to access any of the various interfaces, but I think that applied only to the grad school and faculty.  Anyway, after a couple of years at the uni, I went back to working for Honeywell's large scale group.
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Offline rkelly17

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2015, 09:40:55 AM »
Interesting.  Did either of you ever become members of DECUS (the DEC users group)?

I never did, but I think our IT guy was a member.

Offline A Nonny Moose

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Re: Memory Lane
« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2015, 08:41:22 AM »
Once upon a time in the dear distant past, I was software chairman of HLSUA (Honeywell Large Scale Users Association).  I was working for a large corporate bank at the time.  One of the meetings was in the Big Easy, and I added a week's vacation afterwards.  This is now my favourite American city.  An amazing place.
Go not to the oracle, for it will say both yea and nay.