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Online retailing can be a rough sport. The competition is rabid, customer loyalty is fickle, and IT expenses can go through the roof. That's why The Register can appreciate an e-tailer with a unique business model. A hawk-eyed El Reg reader points out that UK online retailer appears to be cutting costs by running …


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  1. David Neil


    They have a Cray and you reckon the Speccy's holding it together?

    My money is that the backend is on an HP 3000/48, worked on one of those bad boys back in 96/97 - Thing hadn't had more than 5 mins downtime in 5 years

  2. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    128k for a spectrum and 3.5Mhz? Not exactly, all the models that were used for hosting were the original 48k models, running at around 1Mhz. The clue is in the "48k" part of the name...

    And as for the Commodore Pet, now that was a classic machine!

  3. Corrine


    Even my computer is better than these things. Heck, my computer could quite possibly do more than most of those combined.

    I am very very impressed with the IT staff there though, I've never heard of Apache running with less than 6 megs of memory (OS included) before.

  4. Luca Spiller

    No wonder...

    No wonder their search is crap....

  5. Andrew Gratton

    Pathetic Search

    Rather than spending time doing this frivolous stuff, maybe they can improve their awful search algorithms. Searching for 'Corsair GT' for example finds Corsair OR GT. Also narrowing categories usually is pointless as it just ends up showing all.

  6. John Colby

    Clearly a victim of the floods

    If you look at the address of this organisation as listed - "Ltd, off Ferry Road, Howden, East Yorkshire, DN14 7UW, United Kingdom" - it is perhaps excusable in that they are probably flooded. I do note that they also have a CBM Pet (the first machine I bought in 1983) and a Cray amongst their fleet.

    I say fleet advisedly - as they're now all probably floating.

  7. leslie

    would not surprise me

    I wonder if they run them on those kebo self igniting UPS units they recalled that then turned up on the carboot sale in rufforth........

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If only...

    If only the website didn't respond like it really *was* run on a Commode 64 this would be more amusing.

  9. Geoff Mackenzie

    Oric Dragon32!?

    The Dragon32 wasn't manufactured by Oric! Unsurprisingly it was Dragon Data Limited. This one minor discrepancy leads me to suspect that this server information could be slightly inaccurate.

  10. Neil Shoreman

    128K rubber keyed Spectrum?

    I'm not sure which history books you've been reading but the 1982 rubber keyed ZX Spectrum only had 16K or memory on release with a 48K version following.

    The 128K model had a plastic keyboard and was released around the same time as the Commodore 128

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Geoff is right about the Dragon

    I own two Dragons and an Oric, as well as many other "vintage" machines (yes, I know, I'm a geek), and he's absolutely correct.

    The Dragon was manufactured by Dragon Data Limited and the Oric was manufactured by Oric Products International Limited.

    (I'm still on the lookout for a Cray. Please quote postage before offering me one...)

  12. Paul Turvey

    Forgettng something?

    How about the TWO Commodore PETs? These predate the C64 by 2 generations (remember the Vic20?) and had a 6502 running at 1Mhz with a built in monitor and tape drive.

    Hmmm memories

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    128k rubber key spectrum?

    Neil's right. I've got several Spectrums (Spectra?) and there was no 128k rubber key version, unless you made one yourself.

    I can only assume that the author was extremely young (if at all extant) when these machines came out, because his lack of knowledge on the subject matter is laughable.

  14. Rob Crawford

    I regret remembering


    48k models, running at around 1Mhz. The clue is in the "48k" part of the name...

    And as for the Commodore Pet, now that was a classic machine!


    Fraid not the speccy was always slightly over 3.5MHz (3.513 I seem to remember) even the 16K ones.

    Though being a Commodore person you wouldn't believe in clock speeds over 1MHz ;)

    Actually I was very fond of the VIC 20 apart from the 20 column display

  15. OviB

    Spectrum 48k speed

    To Nick Ryan:

    48K Spectrums come with 3.5MHz (and 128K also). Back then the CPU frequency was imposed for strict compatibility reasons. There is no Spectrum at a lower frequency than 3.5MHz actually. Trust me because I counted cycles in the machine code over and over again to be sure that the code can finish until the next interrupt arrives :) (interrupts were generated at 20ms each and in some cases you should be absolutely sure that the processing will finish in less than 20ms).

    What times - what amazing speeds... :) Anyone doing a lot of stuff in under 20ms nowadays?


  16. Keith Langmead

    What about the web server software?

    Good to see one of their server admins had a sense of humour! :-)

    Though if they're going to fake the platform they're running on, why not also fake the server software response as well! Maybe they should report themselves as running an early version of NetSite. Of course maybe they already have faked it, and their servers are actually running IIS!

  17. Adam T

    But no QL...

    Did anyone actually own one of these? And has Alan Sugar actually done anything worthwhile since buying Sinclair all those years ago?

    Fun spoof though.

  18. Sampler

    Nice site

    I used it to test my webserver - says I'm running Server 2003 - which is highly accurate seeing how it's a fiesty fawn version of Ubuntu Server.

    Oh hum - and what's with old tec anyway? We have had a 286 and 386 in daily operation at my company for years now - runs our DOS based call centre software better than the PII's and PIII's that are doing the same job. They never go down, never fail, just keep on running - the old adage is true - they just don't make them like they used to.

  19. David Jones

    Oric was another 8-bit

    The Oric was another 6502 based home computer, though it looked like a grey Spectrum with flimsy keys and doorstop type case.

    I myself started with a VIC-20. Now that was a real computer. If you can't do it in 3.5K then it's not worth doing :p

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Even before I read the search help page I figured out that 'corsair AND gt' would do the trick. '+corsair +gt' works too. For some reason trying it as a quoted phrase doesn't work.

    You, sir, lack search skills.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    i'm going to steal that machine from there suite in the Datacentre.. *grins*

    seriously.. I haven't seen there commodore there.. must be hidden away, the eBuyer guys seem to have a sence of humour, faking it ftw.. maybe they will stop copy and pasting from other sites too ;)

  22. Graham Dawson Silver badge


    "Of course maybe they already have faked it, and their servers are actually running IIS!"

    IIS on a spectrum? It'd take nearly 72 hours to boot on one of those old audio tape drives. And then it wouldn't work.

    So just like normal really.

  23. James Le Cuirot


    Aah the memories. The first two machines mentioned, the MSX HX-10 and

    the C64, happened to be my first two machines. I'm posting this from

    my Amiga 1200 for a laugh. See for yourself!

    Maybe I'll host a site off here sometime. It's got 128MB RAM so it's

    more than adequate. (-;

  24. Chrome


    Just went to with FF2, HeaderSpy and LiveHTTPHeaders

    According to these the server software is Apache 2.0.59 running on 'ZX Spectrum 48k (Rubber Keys)'


  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What no Amstrad CPC 464 ?

    Alan Sugar would be mad to be left out. Oh that's right neither he nor I give a shit. I forgot.

    Now if eBuyer could just make sure that when I order I actually receive everything that I ordered I might be a happier customer.

  26. Jack

    big commercial/spam on the register?

    Even the so called geeks who are also commenting on this article before me seem to fall for it.

    It's a big publicity stunt. They hacked the apache source files.

    Now how much is the register getting for all this or was the article poster that ignorant that he did not see it that it was a hoax?

    Any way, the register, please don't lend yourself for this kind of the register abuse. Posting an article what actually is a big commercial is spam. My advise: Don't spam your own readers ;-)

  27. Dunhill

    old ??

    If i read all the comments, they sound like that it was only yesterday, but 1 look at the calender suddenly made me feel amazingly old ..

  28. Murray Pearson

    Sinclair available

    Well, if they're flooded out, I have my dad's Sinclair ZX81 downstairs. That's about a 1MHz Z80 CPU and 1K of RAM built in, but it includes the boffo 64K RAM expander, and a data acquisition and relay control setup. He used them as PLCs for settling tanks at a mine in the Sierra Nevada; he could buy them for $30 in 1983, and even a ZX81 was fast enough to control filling and draining a swimming pool.

  29. peter

    Everyone knows

    Ebuyer is like dealing with a trade only store but you are Joe Public, simple as.

  30. alan buxey

    server farm


    they host their site on a nice server farm - each one responds with a different

    server 'identity' - i've just talked to their Dragon 32 , their C64 and their MSX.

    its a nice/neat/geeky way of ID'ing each machine in such a setup

    SP nice to see the Amiga going strongly in this thread. mine's hardly a classic - 240MHz PowerPC 603e with voodoo3... not what most people recall as Amigas

    (those A500 with sensi soccer or monkey Island 2 - aka 12 diskettes of doom)

  31. Peter

    Power station

    If you could run a power station on a ZX81 then these workhorses should have little trouble runing a mere online shoppe

  32. Erik Aamot


    I still have a working 1982 Brown Case Commodore 64 with a 256k memory expansion cartridge , 1541 Floppy Drive ... even came across a color Commodore monitor a few months ago for it, had always run it on a TV before

    Lords of Conquest still rocks !

    But at 300 BAUD (maybe could rig up 1200 BAUD), I don't think it would make a good internet machine .. I'm kind of attached to my 3Mbits/s DSL

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    I think you'll find the original spectrum 48K was still 3.5MHz, even the ZX81 came in at a muscular 1.8 or so...

    The rubber keyed one was however 48K as you say

    And hey Lez, fancy seeing you here -.o

  34. Geoff Mackenzie

    Re: SPAM comment, and the finer points of Orics

    Calm down, Jack - who's it an advert for? This kind of thing gets posted on The Reg because people think it's funny (like all the others who've commented so far, and countless more who didn't).

    And to David Jones: only the Oric 1 looked like a grey doorstopesque Spectrum with flimsy keys; they followed it up with the Atmos, which had a lovely keyboard (not seen the likes of it since, though I do like this Microsoft gull-wing job - and yes, Jack, I'm on commission, heh). The Oric 1 and Atmos were otherwise quite similar internally - at least the later release of the Oric 1 without the nasty ROM bugs. The Atmos got a disk system based around 3" disks like the type used by Amstrad PCWs which made it a real machine - particularly as the controller also supported 5.25" and 3.5" drives. The only thing it really lacked was an 80-column display.

    What really killed the Oric was lack of software support. The Spectrum had all the good games, in other words. Game developers didn't like the Oric's serial attribute display, but with only 48K of RAM this was a good move since it gave you colour and (for the time, reasonably) high-res graphics in just a few K of RAM (unlike the BBC B, which had 32K and used 20K for its 80-column mode or higher colour depth graphics modes).

    Oric's Stratos and Telestrat (Europe only; a Stratos with a modem) were 'real machines' and could've been actual business micros if things had worked out differently...but ain't that always the way. All of the Orics - even the 1 - kicked seven shades out of the Spec in terms of being nice, finished products. If I remember correctly the Spec didn't even have a Centronics parallel port, which was a hell of a thing to miss out in those days. Also, its motherboard jutted out the back like it had pushed too hard on the can in an ugly edge connector, where the Oric had real ports.

    Anyway ... that's more than enough retro geeking out now. I do apologise. (I currently own a BBC B, Acorn Electron and Psion 3, having sold up most of my retro collection a few years ago...bah, I had an HP71B, amongst other Gems... having said that I'm a poor junior software developer so most of my machines probably seem pretty retro to an average person; my all singing all dancing PDA is a Psion 5 and to me that's bleeding edge!)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Standard Security

    Someone there has a sense of humour. It is standard when Hardening a Server for security purposes to make it report as a different type of server when queried over the web, someone at ebuyer obviously has a sense of humour.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Web Site not that hard to run...

    Web sites in general are really not that computer extensive in power needs. That is unless you're trying to feed 1,000,000 hits an hour on a single machine. Under mostly DHTML encoding just about any machine could handle this type of traffic need. It ain't rocket science folks!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nice to see there are some old-timers contributing to these comments. There's hope for the zimmer frame manufacturers just around the corner.

    I was just starting out in the computer industry when the HP9825 and HP9845 were launched in '78. Serious pieces of kit that pre-dated the IBM PC. At home I bought myself a brand spanking Dragon 32 at the local Carrefours, cost me £175 thank you very much. Anyone who hasn't had it tough won't have experience of the 40 character wide display of uppercase alphanumeric only!

    Upgraded to an Amstrad 6128 (colour) when that hit the streets. Now despite what people might think of Amstrad, the 6128 was a very nice piece of kit IMHO.

  38. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Lighten up Jack!

    > Even the so called geeks who are also commenting on this article before me

    > seem to fall for it.

    > It's a big publicity stunt. They hacked the apache source files.

    Well, deary, deary me, Jack, I'm sure NONE OF US knew these headers were spoofed.

    Sigh, were you the bloke at school who always needed jokes explained to him ?

    This is a light and funny article, and the replies.. All the replies are posted along the same vein.

    And where's the advert, or the spam ? Um... *answers on a postcard please...*

  39. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Gah, yes

    Gah, yes - was getting confused (but not as confused as the original author)... it was the ZX80 that ran at 1MHz, not the ZX Spectrum. Long, long time ago that I did programming in "machine code" on the Spectrum - about the same time that I did it on the Commodore 64...

    As fore requiring hacking of the Apache source, I'm pretty sure that the sever string is just a configuration setting somewhere.

    @Murray Pearson - interesting point about using technology like that for industrial purposes - sometimes it's much, much cheaper to use kit like that compared to "industrial" kit that can easily cost 100 times more...

  40. John Colby

    Errors apart ...

    Errors of detail apart, they are pretty good as jokes.

    Just wonder how many server identities are spoofed and how many people have been highlighting the stats as 'proof' of their success in some fields of endeavour. Or how many will now disguise what they actually have.

  41. David Jones

    Hacked the Apache source

    Well firstly you can do it with mod_headers no need to go near the Apache source.

    And secondly, if you were a long time reader of El Reg you would know this is exactly the kind of article they are known for. And that's why we love them :)

  42. Jason

    We run....

    6 servers with 600 shops on each, each has 2 X core 2 duo 1.9Ghz, and 4GB RAM.

    With 600 shops on that, I don't see how running one shop on that lot should be too hard :)

  43. J


    Now I want to make my server report that it's running IIS on my Palm VIIx. I know, hardly classic, vintage material. But you've gotta do with what you have... :-)



  44. Kurt Faasse

    Six of one, half a terahertz of the other

    There is also a CRAY in the list. Fair and balanced computing?

    Seriously, though, are you having a laugh? Or, is it that is having a laugh by fiddling with the I.D. strings?

  45. Turbojerry

    What? No Gibson?

    You know, supercomputers they use to like, do physics, and look for oil and stuff?

    So not 1eet...

  46. Gianni Rossi


    I hope these guys can help me out: I need to install Oracle 10g on my Apple II...

  47. Daniel Ballado-Torres


    Hey! They left out the Gibson!!

    Though with Windows being a resource hog and such, I wonder if these computers would run any kind of software faster, as long as it is specifically designed for them ;)

    If someone was able to make a web server on a microchip, why not a C-64?

  48. Dom

    No BBC B - I'm disgusted!

    Far more robust (once a couple of heatsinks were sorted out) & more expandable than those other 8-bit toys, especially the Torch Z80 2nd processor (added over the 1Mhz bus, IIRC), which would enable relatively easy porting of PC-specific code ..

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    C64 Executive

    Ha knock them if you will but I sold my C64 "Executive" for almost $1,400 USD on eBay about 18 months ago. Anyone remember those? They were about the size of a modern full size PC case with an incredible 4" (monochrome)monitor that folded out of the front and a REAL floppy drive.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1Mhz ? ... Rubber Keyboard ? ... 1200 baud ? ... East Yorkshire ? ...

    You were LUCKY !!

  51. Joe Cassara

    What's The Big Deal?

    Even if the site did run on an amalgam of those old machines, what's the big deal? You can implement enough of the TCP/IP and a webserver on an 8-bit system to do just that. Have a look at ContikiOS.

  52. my crap

    How could they miss

    The jupiter ace

  53. Greg

    Re: Cripes!

    "Even my computer is better than these things. Heck, my computer could quite possibly do more than most of those combined."

    I should bloody hope so! :-D

  54. Mike Bennett

    Of course...

    Of course there's no Gibson, don't you know how easy it is to hack the Gibson?

    I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

  55. Simon Greenwood

    I am reminded

    That back in the day Easynet's core routers were called things like Centipede and Galaxian, which made traceroutes slightly more interesting.

  56. Daniel S.

    It brought tears in my eyes...

    ... someone correcting the article on exact (PAL) clock frequency of ZX Spectrum, A500 and Sensible Socker (Kick Off was better, I think), C64 and one cycle per instruction (kind of) processor (which is slightly faster then beloved Spectrum's 4 cycles at least), writing on border by changing background colour and TCP/IP stack for Amiga...

    Gosh, it all reminds me how old I am!

  57. mad clarinet

    Now I see

    I've worked out why their site can be such a pain at times then.

    I'd have used a reliable BBC Model A or B - maybe upgrade it to a BBC Master (maybe even add the 65C02 co-processor)...........

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They encourage me... host my own website on my cell phone, since it is some 20 times more powerful than all those machines combined, at least.

    Too bad it will a bit exposed to viruses, worms and such, since it has enough memory to load and run a virus code. These vintages probably can't even load viruses in their tiny memory, which kinda explains why they keep up and running since 1983.

    Nice hoax, though. I bet, in fact, there are some chunky clusters behind the fake names. It is something like labeling 'salt' on the sugar container so the ants won't find it.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Server Masking

    Nothing special about this it doesn't even deserve a news peice to be fair. Its a simple case of some little 12yr old utilising the masking capability of Mod Security or some such add-in for Apache.

    Get a life you sad gits and stop with the shameless self-PR.

  60. Sir Runcible Spoon

    Forgotten? Not by me..

    Will no-one spare a thought for the Atari-800, I may have been a cmd fanboy in my youf, but that atari had some wonderful graphics...ahhh.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Was I the only one to get...

    ...a TI99/4A back in 1979 when Uncle Clive couldn't deliver a Speccy in time for christmas... Sadly, it turned up a few days before christmas and had to go back. Still, I learned to do more than LOAD "", and Parsec was class :)

  62. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    All work and no play...

    "Nothing special about this it doesn't even deserve a news peice to be fair. Its a simple case of some little 12yr old utilising the masking capability of Mod Security or some such add-in for Apache.

    Get a life you sad gits and stop with the shameless self-PR."

    All work and no play makes for a very miserable individual. If you can't at least *try* and have some fun in IT occasionally, you might as well crawl back into a darkened room and order some more pizza. Mmmmm... pizza....

    Obviously as this thread is read by folks that were around in computing the same time as me... does anybody remember the computer that was touted as "being the worst ever"? Was it the Oric Atmos, or something like that - I vaguely remember it being an attempted ZX Spectrum knock off that was built and designed so badly that it started occasionally and when it did it just crashed for no reason at all. Some things never change... :0

    We seem to have missed out the Commodore +4, Commodore 128, Amstrad CPC, Spectrum+ (or whatever it was called, after sinclair sold it)... the others seem to have been mentioned. Would including such delights as the Sharp computers count as well?

    As for the C64 "Executive" - glad I'm not the only one to remember that "luggable" piece of kit - portable is just the wrong kind of description!

  63. Adrian Inman


    They're using an ISAPI plugin to put off would be hackers. Lame trick as a proper vulnerability scanner will see past this advertisement.

    Tools here:

    Was mentioned on a Security course I was on a while back.

  64. John Freck

    Not all toys

    Please note there's a Cray in there - probably just front ending the important stuff

  65. David Cole

    Nintendo uses its own hardware

    Check it out:

    Nintendo uses GameCubes!

  66. Simon Painter

    out headers...

    Our pen testing suggested we do something similar. I am toying with making our IIS servers report as apache 1.0 on an apple ipod (see for feasability).

    If it has a chip in it then someone will try to boot Linux on it so maybe my headers should read: Apache 1.0 running on a Cod Supper.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Web Pservers

    There were actually two web servers available for the Psion 5 (and other EPOC devices), one of which was written in Perl, so presumably it would be possible to run a site like that using Perl or Python based CGI for all the backend stuff for real. The bottleneck would be the Serial link only going up to 115K baud, so it would be a bit slow for broadband users.

  68. James Penketh

    Re: Nintendo uses its own hardware

    OMG! They're running Solaris8 on a Gamecube.

    T3H L337!!!!!!111one!11eleventyone!

    Hmmm... I wonder if I can run *nix on my Amstrad PPC640?

    640KB RAM, 16bit 8088 CPU (Yeah, I know I'm lucky.), crappy 9inch LCD monitor.

    Now that was one helluva brick^w laptop.

    My first computer was an Amstrad 464plus, 8bit glory... in a 16bit world.

    PPC640 (16-bit) made ~1987. 464plus (8-bit) made 1990.

    I wish it still worked... *sniff*

  69. Nano nano

    Cray speed

    In case some of you were thinking that the Cray might make up for the relative lack of MIPS of the other hosting machines, although the Cray series was good at doing vector floating point multiplies, I doubt whether its pipelines and functional units would give much of a boost to running Apache, though maybe its peripheral processors could serve web pages independently.

  70. Roland Korn

    Ah those days back in ....

    High-School. They had a WANG 2200 and I was at home banging on a Apple IIc soon to be follwed by a salvaged Apple III and then a Mac Portable .... monochrome LCD but the battery life dropped to only 6 hours with the backlighting on.

    Ran my BBS of a Apple IIgs with a LAVA drive card and a DEC cable to string together a number of 20 meg drives. This was long after running the BBS off a Apple III with its single hard drive, dual floppies and that disk pack thingy that switched 5 1/4" floppies for you.

  71. david mccormick

    God I'm old

    " I vaguely remember it being an attempted ZX Spectrum knock off that was built and designed so badly that it started occasionally and when it did it just crashed for no reason at all. "

    No Nick your remembering the speccy. I had the 48k rubber key and after spending 5 minutes at a time loading ghouls and goblins a level at a time it always crashed a level from the end forcing me to start again.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Even masking the server isn't enough to stop a hacker. TCP Fingerprinting would give you the "actual" OS right off the belt... Totally pointless kids playing with new toys! and at the same time trying for self-PR.

    Ebuyer are indeed the sux. :-)

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They missed the best...

    My old TRS-80 Model I made everything else on the consumer market at the time look sick. 16K RAM as standard and if you got the expansion box you got 48K and could drive up to two cassettes and eight floppies. Home of my earliest experiments with Z80 assembler...

  74. David Allan

    I am not a geek

    ahh, I still have a Commodore 64 with a tape drive, could plug into a decent sized television in it's day, *sigh* ah the nostalgia.

    Someone once asked me if it's possible to get internet on a C64... to this day I'm still not sure.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Anyone who hasn't had it tough won't have experience of the 40 character wide display of uppercase alphanumeric only!"

    There was a rather nice piece of software you could get for the Dragon that gave you full screen display, mixed case with a few fonts and controllable sprite graphics. All ran in 2k, so left you enough RAM to write something usable with the features. Unfortunately, I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, although I think that the company that wrote/sold it may have been called Oasis????

    I could never understand why Dragon Data didn't buy the boys who wrote this out and ship it in ROM. They'd have had a world-beater on their hands.

    Still got the Dragon. Unfortunately, the box that I put all the manuals, tapes etc. in appears to have gone missing sometime in the distant past.


  76. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice one

    Of course they're spoofing. They're actually running PDP-11s. (Sigh)

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