back to article Wanted: Big iron geeks to help restore IBM 360 mainframe rescued from defunct German factory by other big iron geeks

Three men we can safely call geeks are looking for help to restore an IBM 360 mainframe they rescued from a soon-to-be-demolished factory in Germany. One Monday evening in late April, Adam Bradley and Chris Blackburn were sat in the pub when they chanced upon a listing for an IBM 360 Model 20 or, as the German ad put it, "a …

  1. MyffyW Silver badge

    As somebody whose idea of retro computing stretches no further back than the 6502 processor, I can merely salute the sheer engineering grunt that has gone into this effort so far and offer my best wishes to the chaps concerned.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      There is a reason they called it "big iron".

      Well done, those (unmarried) men!

      ...and remember: "Face Down, 9 Edge First!"

  2. rg287 Silver badge


    I salute you.

  3. Blockchain commentard

    This is what happens when you use eBay when drunk.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      And a very good reason to do so.

    2. Killfalcon Silver badge

      It's a hell of a bargain! $62,710 in 1964 is a cool half a million now.

      1. Pen-y-gors

        And the rest. UK inflation since 1964 is 1990%

        A few years ago I found an old PCW magazine from the early 80s, with lots of ads for bits of kit. I worked out that to build a computer in 1983 with the spec of my laptop at the time (xGB RAM, yGB HDD etc) would have cost about £50million at 1983 prices. Heaven knows what my present laptop would have cost.

        1. Chris 69

          And the only lap big enough for it ..

          would have been Lapland...

          Just before I get my coat... Seriously though, it would be interesting to also work out the physical size of such a beast and the power requirement

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: And the only lap big enough for it ..

            Well, to get things started I've got a 256K Core memory array from an IBM S/360 Model 50 in storage. It is not mounted in a frame. It weighs about 500 pounds, is roughly the size of a three drawer file cabinet, and (from memory) it runs about 3,500 watts.

            This document might help you on your quest:


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        in the first half of the 1970s a used computer dealer offered us a great deal on RAM - a shoe-box full for only $300,000.

        That was a whole megabyte of S/360 RAM, and cheap even for used. He must have sold someone a system who didn't want all the RAM in a system he bought.

        1. Robert D Bank

          the 360 was carbon core memory, pre-silicon. I worked on a 360/40 with 48k main memory running DOS back in the mid 70's. Then moved to another place running the 370/125 which was considerably more advanced and included a screen for the master console, rather than the golf ball typewriter of the 360.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Be quick... Brexit looms....

    And then getting stuff in and out of Britain could become far less easy....

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: Be quick... Brexit looms....

      But Britain may end up being very grateful for imports of such state of the art facilities.......

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Be quick... Brexit looms....

        They could risk to be fined for smuggling German e-waste into Britain, and I don't want to think about the paperwork to import a system that probably is not complaint with all relevant regulations in place today... and hope there isn't some asbestos somewhere.....

        1. Beachrider

          Re: Be quick... Brexit looms....

          They kept the asbestos in the high-order 16-bits of the registers...

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Be quick... Brexit looms....

            I have found asbestos in wire and other insulation in early electronic kit.

        2. EvaQ


          "AsbestOS" ... that sounds like a firewall's operating system.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: AsbestOS

            Wasn't that a version of Linux that ran on the PS3?

            Agree that it would be a good name for a firewall's OS.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Grow up"

        You mean May, Jonhson, Corbyn & C.? I see the British Parliament broadcasted another episode of its soap opera today.

        I was just stating the obvious: if custom regulations changed, and for the worse, moving stuff between EU and England could become far more complex, time consuming, and expensive. Moving the stuff when it's still far simpler, would be smarter and cheaper.

        It's a simple fact - regardless of what one thinks of Brexit - everybody who had to move a lorry full of something across actual EU members before EU knows it well - as those who have to move stuff in and out EU too.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Be quick... Brexit looms....

        Got a site where I can read a cite of that sighting? Last I noticed, Brexit is nothing more than a lot of hot air, and rather hard to spot in the RealWord.

      3. Robert D Bank

        Re: Be quick... Brexit looms....

        it's 'citing', not 'sighting', in that context...

  5. Dave K

    A top thumbs-up to these guys. My retro computing only stretches as far as a couple of old SGI desktop machines, I can't imagine what my wife would say if I dropped 3 grand on a mainframe.

    Really hope they get it all working again!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "I can't imagine what my wife would say if I dropped 3 grand on a mainframe."

      I'd need to clear out the garage to put it in and SWMBO might decide that was good value for money.

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      I can't imagine what my wife would say if I dropped 3 grand on a mainframe.

      Oh, I can well imagine what mine would say. Well, I can imagine the words, but I don't think she'd be saying them - they'd be more likely delivered in writing from a solicitor who specialises in divorce law.

      1. Unicornpiss


        "Oh, I can well imagine what mine would say. Well, I can imagine the words, but I don't think she'd be saying them - they'd be more likely delivered in writing from a solicitor who specialises in divorce law."

        Well, you could rest assured at least that she wouldn't want half of it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Divorce..

          Mine calls my collection of ancients "the machineroom/museum/mausoleum/morgue". I knew she came with horses, she knew I came with old computers. There is give & take in any relationship. Fortunately for her (me?) I'm also interested in horses. Unfortunately(??) there is no way I'll ever interest her in old iron, unless it has an internal or external combustion engine ... her specialty is rapidly becoming hit-and-miss equipment from the mid 1920s back. My fault, really, I helped her restore a 1916 industrial washing machine to wash the barn's horse blankets :-)

          1. steviebuk Silver badge

            Re: Divorce..

            So true. It annoys me when people say "Well done those unmarried men". Sometimes a partner is very supportive in your hobby. My other half is somewhat glad I'm into computers as a hobby as well as a job, because she knows 100% I could never be bothered to have an affair as I'm too busy pissing around with my home network setup and virtual machines :)

            Oh and of course cause I love her as well :)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I can't imagine what my wife would say if I dropped 3 grand on a mainframe."

      Nobody ever got into trouble for buying IBM

      1. BebopWeBop

        That was then, this is now.

      2. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Nobody ever got into trouble for buying IBM

        Brilliant !

        1. FunkyD

          Nobody today gets *hired* for buying IBM..

          Sad looking back.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Nobody ever got *fired* for buying IBM. We never said anything about divorce.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: correction

          I've been married...

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Nobody ever got FIRED for buying IBM

        Said nothing about divorce...

    4. Dr. G. Freeman

      "I can't imagine what my wife would say if I dropped 3 grand on a mainframe."

      Mine would say, "At least it's not another Motorbike, isn't it ?", before returning to her Reality programs and prosecco.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        her Reality programs and prosecco

        Fortunately, mine has no interest in either of those.. (too intelligent for the 'reality' programmes unless they involve food, doesn't like fizzy wine. Parma-violet flavourewd gin on the other hand.. Mind you, she is a really lightweight drinker and more than a single shot sends her to sleep..)

    5. J. Cook Silver badge

      Probably something like " Better hope the couch|dog house|shed is comfy."

    6. JLV

      On the plus side, she probably wouldn’t nag you to hang it up in the hotel lobby.

    7. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      I can't imagine what my wife would say if I dropped 3 grand on a mainframe

      I'd be slightly more worried about what she'd say when we get the first quarters electricity bill post-restoration.. those things really, really suck power.

      (And she might be slightly nostalgic - after all, she was a systems programmer in our S/370+TPF days. She really didn't enjoy iy though..)

  6. Portent

    I bet Gordon Clark could put that back together...

    1. vports
      Thumb Up

      Halt and Catch Fire Fan!

      Another fan...I sell this show to every person I meet, greatest under the radar show ever! And guess what GoT fans the ending is great as well!

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: Halt and Catch Fire Fan!

        Yup, it has actually ended

  7. Pen-y-gors

    Just bunged them a tenner

    I learned to code on an IBM 360/44 at St Andrews in the mid-70s. Amazingly advanced really, 256K core, usually split to 2 partitions, one for foreground time-sharing system, supporting a dozen VDUs, the other for background jobs. For something big you could request 'full core'!

    Played my first computer game on it - a lunar lander that ran on a raster graphics terminal.

    Then moved up to IBM 370s when I started paid work.

    Ah, the good old days, when computers were real computers, and you had to wait hours for a compilation to run. Tell that to kids these days...

    1. oiseau

      Re: Just bunged them a tenner

      If anyone at IBM (BoD, PR, etc.) has any sense they would reach out and give these guys a hand.

      But I would not hold my breath for too long ...

      A case of ale to these guys. --->

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner

        That's a big if you've got there.

      2. Dave 32

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner

        I really doubt anyone is around IBM who was around when the S/360 was being designed, or even used. I've been in the I/T world for 36+ years, and I started in the 370/XA era, so I missed the S/370, and the S/360. :-(

        1. Mark 85

          Re: Just bunged them a tenner

          The way IBM has been dumping "older" workers, I doubt that anyone there now even has a clue what any machine older than 10 years is.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just bunged them a tenner

            There are a few, but only a VERY few, of us old timers left. But, I can't say for how much longer. :-(

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Just bunged them a tenner

            I doubt that anyone there now even has a clue what any machine older than 10 years is

            "How do I get it on the wifi?"

            "Does it have Facebook?"

        2. aks

          Re: Just bunged them a tenner

          My first paid work was as the operator on a 360/30 with 32k and a super-duper 360/50 with a whopping 256k.

          Both machines ran DOS with two partitions, foreground and background. Foreground for the application and background for printing. Both had tapes and removable disks as well as the expected card reader/card punch and printer. It also could read and write paper tape. The console was a keyboard. No screen in sight.

          My second job was with the IBM Ireland Data Centre where we also had some very old kit such as a 1401 with 16k plus some *really* old kit where the program was configured using plug-in cables, similar to those used on an old telephone switchboard. These were applications that were infrequently run and had not yet been rewritten for the 360. I tweaked a 1401 emulator written in 360 assembler to run most of these programs on the 360.

          Fun days.

          1. Dave 32

            Re: Just bunged them a tenner

            "I tweaked a 1401 emulator written in 360 assembler to run most of these programs on the 360."

            But, did you know that certain models of the S/360 offered special microcode to allow it to think that it was a 1401, as well as some other systems?


          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just bunged them a tenner

            I took the opposite path. My high school (or whatever you Brits call the school before University) had unit record equipment, including a 402 Accounting Machine which was programmed using a "telephone operator" board and patch cords (think cords with old headphone jacks on both ends).

            Periodically we got to go to the School Board offices to use their 1401. I remember trying to calculate pi to 1000 decimal places using the 1401's Autocoder programming language which did native decimal arithmetic and had variable length registers - easy peasy, just set the registers to 1000 bits and plug in the equation - except after running overnight with no result the office needed it back for real work so they shorted it.

            In college the mainframe was a Unisys but it could run a 360 emulator so I got to learn 360 Assembler. I didn't get to work on actual IBM mainframes (some 360s but most 370s) until I got a real job in 1973.

        3. Robert D Bank

          Re: Just bunged them a tenner

          still here, started on a 360/40 and DOS in 76. Now on Z/OS and z14's...ffs that reveals a bit too much!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner

        Did you say "sense" and "IBM" in the same sentence? Delusional are we?

    2. AndrewD375

      Re: Just bunged them a tenner

      You did? Really?

      Et in arcadia ego... I remember that lunar lander game, it rocked didn't it.

      I even remember the phone number you had to call from the Chemistry building, to get the audio coupler modem thingy working.

      Ah happy days.

      1. Pen-y-gors

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner


        We also had access to some sort of mini-computer in the Observatory that we could use 'to help with our calculations'. They used it to steer a telescope as well, but to 'use it for calculations' we had to load a Basic compiler from punched tape! Most of us by then had programmable HP Scientific calculators that worked to a higher precision. It was usually easier to just wander down to the North Haugh and use the big beast.

      2. Old Used Programmer

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner

        That would be an acoustic coupler modem. How soon we forget...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just bunged them a tenner

          For the youngsters, acoustic couplers started out running at 300 baud or about 30 characters per second.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Just bunged them a tenner

            300 baud was possible in the early days, but typically they ran at 150 baud. Many ran at 110 baud because the signal to noise ratio on the telephone lines in those days was atrocious. Vadic had 'em cranked up to 1200 baud by the early 1970s, on clean lines.

            I encourage all y'all to read up on Robert Weitbrecht, if you're not already familiar with the name. He was one of the pioneers of the modern world. Or was that the modem world?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Just bunged them a tenner

              300 baud was possible in the early days, but typically they ran at 150 baud. Many ran at 110 baud because the signal to noise ratio on the telephone lines in those days was atrocious. Vadic had 'em cranked up to 1200 baud by the early 1970s, on clean lines.


              Three hundred was the fancy new fast ones... initially it was generally 110 baud or 134.5 baud for the really expensive and fast IBM terminals. Two of them could keep a corner office warm in the winter.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Just bunged them a tenner

                "initially it was generally 110 baud or 134.5 baud for the really expensive and fast IBM terminals."

                Or less.

                The HF transmitting station I spent the end of the 1980s doing penury in had several racks full of 45.5 and 50 baud signalling gear and we had a few matching acoustic couplers in the stores - still in their boxes - dating from the mid 1950s (along with several thousand ww2 era russian 802 triodes of very dubious quality - they'd last about a week in service but at 10c each it didn't matter.)

                Granted the terminals spoke Murray code rather than ASCII, but they still managed to be used as computer interfaces somehow.

    3. Old Used Programmer

      Re: Just bunged them a tenner

      I learned on an IBM 1620 Mod. I and moved on to work on S/360 DOS systems. Looks like I started about 10 years before you did.

    4. IEFSD095

      Re: Just bunged them a tenner

      The "kids" in those days used to ask which piece of kit was the compiler.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just bunged them a tenner

      I learned to code on an IBM 360/44 at St Andrews in the mid-70s

      256K core, usually split to 2 partitions


      Oh ye spoiled, callow youth... :)

      I started on an IBM 1602, at a local university. It was a decimal machine, not binary, with tens of thousands of digits storage. One program at a time, read from cards.

      Later I moved on to an IBM 7094, at a different university. It had 32K words (36 bit) and an enormous disk drive with about 30 million characters storage. Also one program at a time.

      Third group was several 360 computers running BOS, TOS, or DOS.

      Later on MFT and MVT. It was amazing how much performance improved when HASP got added on top.

      The fun continued, including Univac, Control Data, Xerox, Tandem, DEC, and others, though I never got to play with some of the more exotic ones...

      Then minis from different manufacturers (HP had an interesting one with writable firmware so you could customize the instruction set for each job/workload), followed by micros...

      The 'ecological diversity' of computing has largely vanished, so there isn't as much variety any more... practical, but a tad dull.

      1. swm

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner

        I started on an LGP-30 vacuum tube (valve) magnetic drum machine. 4K of 31-bit words.

        Modern kids don't know about "real programming".

        1. this

          Re: Just bunged them a tenner

          Valves! You were lucky!When I started out we had to make do with a steam powered difference engine.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Just bunged them a tenner

            My steam engine[0] has lots of valves ... I think you mean "tubes". As in "cathode ray tube", "vacuum tube", "phototube", "thermionic tube" and of course the boob tube ...

            [0] Traction engine, actually ...

    6. AlokA

      Re: Just bunged them a tenner

      I learned to code using Algol W on the IBM 360/44 in St. Andrews in late 1970s as well, just before they bought a couple of DEC 780s running VMS.

      The good old days of submitting punch cards and coming back the next day to find your compilation had failed again...

      1. Pen-y-gors

        Re: Just bunged them a tenner

        Ah, good old Algol W in the 1st year Maths course. It lasted me well. I did some Fortran IV as well, but when I got my first real job programming, a year after graduating (spent working in the Students' Union Bookshop - BESS) the company I went to was using PL/1, which was based on the Algol structure. Very handy. Then ended up moving to COBOL (boo!) under CICS before entering the modern world of Java and websites. But then found myself moonlighting to teach a TurboPascal course at the local FE college. Nowt changes.

  8. Martin J Hooper

    Here is an IBM 1401 demo -

    Not sure whether these were after or before the 360's but just as interesting...

    1. James Anderson


      I can collect my bus pass in two years time, but these machines were before my time.

      My first computer was a 370/135 which was replaced by a 138 shortly after I arrived,

      This was augmented by a rack of PDP/11s with thier pretty blinking lights.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "This was augmented by a rack of PDP/11s with thier pretty blinking lights."

        Trust me, early mainframe blinking lights were the best... and if you looked at them long enough, you could generally tell something about what the machine was doing (long enough in months, not minutes, but once you learned it stayed with you).

    2. Chris Miller

      1401 was before the 360:

      "God sent us this 360 and lo, our 1401 payroll programs run no slower than before."

      Stan Kelly-Bottle "The Devil's DP Dictionary" (1981)

      1. disgruntled yank Silver badge


        Stan Kelly-Bootle, but upvoted for quoting him.

        1. Chris Miller

          Re: correction

          Curse you, autocorrect!

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: correction

          "Stan Kelly-Bootle"

          I often wondered whether "Bootle" was really part of his name or just an end-of-Fylde marker.

          For the kids: an amazing bloke, folk singer, 1st computing PhD from Cambridge, wrote The Liverpool Lullaby (ask your grandparents) and, in addition to the Devil's DP Dictionary, wrote a regular hilarious column in Unix Review.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: correction

            I learnt how to use a Unix system from one of his books. Looked him up recently and was saddened to hear of his passing, but amazed to learn from his obituary what he'd acheived in many different fields.

    3. vtcodger Silver badge

      The 1401 dates from 1959 and was a pretty decent mini-computer -- a term that hadn't been invented yet. The 360 dates from 1965 and is mostly remembered by those of us who were around back then for its badly botched operating system and Job Control Language. A friend described 360-JCL as "The world's first syntax free language" -- which seemed (and still seems) to me to pretty well sum it up. It didn't help that the JCL documentation was late, hard to follow, and none too accurate.

      1. Old Used Programmer

        There were two versions of JCL. One for "small" systems--like S/360-30 and S/360-40--running TOS or DOS and another version for bigger system running OS/360.

        1. Dave 32

          "There were two versions of JCL. One for "small" systems--like S/360-30 and S/360-40--running TOS or DOS and another version for bigger system running OS/360."

          Ah, but note that the S/360 model 20 is architecturally different from the rest of the S/360 product line. The rest of the line had 16, 32-bit registers, while the model 20 has 16-bit registers, and not the full complement of 16 of them. :-( Thus, it will require a specialized Operating System, or, more likely, a custom program which runs on the bare metal without an O/S underneath it.


          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Those reel to reel tapes will just look so 1960s Bond. Need a flickering light panel too of course. If the 360 doesn’t have one then add one.

      2. Vometia Munro Silver badge

        I remember the shock of encountering JCL at my first proper job in 1989 and commenting to one of the Mainframe Beards that the stuff looked impenetrably weird and "how could anyone use that?" etc. He just gave me a Look and pointed out that as the new girl hired to do stuff with this newfangled and frankly suspicious Unix thing, I was basically a witch and JCL was entirely wholesome and sensible by comparison.

      3. aks

        As the 360 operator, I became the JCL guru. Made perfect sense (to me).

        1. ScottME

          //SYSIN DD *

      4. Professur

        AARRGGHHHH ... I'd managed to purge JCL from my memories .... why did you have to bring that up? I'll have nightmares for weeks now. Years of therapy wasted ...

    4. Spanners Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      @Martin J Hooper

      A very interesting item on YouTube. Cheers!

    5. Old Used Programmer

      Well before. The 1401 came out in the late 1950s. The s/360 line was launched in 1964.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        The s/360 line was launched in 1964

        When I was employed as a TPF programmer in the early 1990's, some of the segments I was working on had initial copyright dates in the mid/late 1960's..

    6. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    360/20 - even older than the 1907 I started on.

    "If anybody has a way to safely and slowly optically read 80 column IBM punched cards that would be extremely helpful."

    Maybe they should go back to eBay and see if anyone has a card duplicator and a supply of cards. They'd need to supervise it carefully - I once came across a friend leaning nonchalantly against the duplicator not noticing a partial jam had lead to the output hopper converting all his copy into origami.

    1. jelabarre59

      I would think hacking together something with a flatbed scanner and image recognition software would be what they're looking for.

      Hey, I know what, Google could use the scanned punch cards for the next variation of their ReCaptcha....

    2. Stoneshop

      Reading old punchcards

      Maybe they should go back to eBay and see if anyone has a card duplicator and a supply of cards.

      I see they have an 029 in the pile, which you can duplicate cards with. But you'd rather not read those old cards mechanically. Optical is the way to go, plus you can more easily share the trove with TNMOC, the Internet Archive and similar organisations. Some image processing to turn those pics into binary code or data should be pretty straightforward, and the electronics to emulate a card reader those files can be fed into aren't that complex either, though you need to get the signal levels and polarity right.

      That said, we've got a lot of paper tape media for various machines, and nearly all of it has held up well. Probably stored under better conditions than these cards, though.

  10. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Plug for the National Museum of Computing

    Pity a link is missing. As important as Bletchley Park was, the museum is arguably the more interesting thing at the site, for proper boffins at least, though it's restricted to some prefabs at the unfashionable end.

    Proud that some of the stuff my dad appropriated from the Department of Medical Computing at Manchester University, when it was closed at the end of the 1970s, because as the Dean of Faculty of Medicine said at the time, "there's no future for computers in medicine", made it's way to the museum. In particular, I believe to docs for the IBM 7090 were warmly received as these are often harder to find than the machines themselves.

    1. Justin

      Re: Plug for the National Museum of Computing

      The National Museum of Computing is well worth a visit. It has a separate entrance to Bletchley Park, and is easy to get to: it's within walking distance of Bletchley railway station, which is about 45 mins from Euston. I'm also proud that stuff once hidden for a few decades in our garage is now on display there

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Plug for the National Museum of Computing

        "it's within walking distance of Bletchley railway station, which is about 45 mins from Euston."

        Euston's further from here than Bletchley.

  11. karlkarl Silver badge

    Extremely cool!

    I look forward to seeing how this project goes :)

    1. Callown User

      another knowledge resourse

      There is a mass of IBM history at the IBM Hursley Museum including CE tool sets etc.see

      and also

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I take my hat of to these guys

    ... and I I was a {cough}few{cough} years younger I'd take my jacket off too and give them a hand.

  13. TheVogon

    But why would you want to? A mobile phone could outperform this many times over.

    1. BebopWeBop

      But not with such style - and you can (probably) fix one of these.

    2. David Neil

      It's the granny rule

      Sure it may be old, a bit slow and often infuriating, but you can't help love them for what they are

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: It's the granny rule

        And you wouldn't be there if they hadn't been.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      There's loads of things that a full 360 is better at than your mobile phone:

      1) Being a doorstop

      2) Heating up a room

      3) Using enough electricity to keep a couple of coal plants running

      4) Looking cool (it's got blinkenlights and reel to reel tapes)

      5) Being somewhere to put your mobile phone. Hell, there's enough room on the desk for a proper rotary phone

      6) Briefly causing every compass within 100m to twitch when you fire up one of the disk drives

      7) Can be programmed using nothing more than some cardboard and a hole punch

      1. MrBanana Silver badge

        "4) Looking cool (it's got blinkenlights and reel to reel tapes)"

        That picture of the red system, with the two tape drives, is so Joe 90.

        1. jelabarre59

          That picture of the red system, with the two tape drives, is so Joe 90.

          But would it play cool Go-Go theme music when it spools the tapes???

        2. Deimos


          You beat me to the Joe 90 comment.

      2. Stoneshop

        Better than a phone

        8) if you drop it, it's the floor that breaks.

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "But why would you want to?"

      I don't think the US had got round to putting back doors into 360s - apart from the ones for the engineers to get at the bits.

    5. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Real Computers...

      ...have switches and lights...Sonny.

  14. Patrice

    Computer History Museum might have tip.

    The computer history museum seems to have expertise in restoring computers from that vintage. They might have tips for these intrepid restorers. I would look here:

  15. Patrice

    And CuriousMarc also has expertise

    And CuriousMarc also has expertise in the domain. Check out his channel here:

    They are currently restoring an Apollo (the rocket, not the computer company) AGC but he's restored other stuff. If nothing else use it for inspiration.

  16. LordHighFixer

    A very nice heater

    It will be cool if they get it running, but I would not want to pay the electric bill. And like another poster commented, if I were younger, I would pack up my gear and be on a plane to help them out. IBM should send them everything they have on it, gratis.

    1. Dave 32

      Re: A very nice heater

      The problem is that I really doubt if IBM has much, if anything, left from the S/360 era. That's been close to 50 years ago, and modern businesses typically don't hold onto anything that is out of warranty/maintenance. :-(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A very nice heater

        IBM would have offloaded the old documentation/paperwork shortly before they offloaded the old employees.

  17. vtcodger Silver badge

    A couple of potential problems

    Two things that would discourage me:

    First: Air conditioning. My vague recollection is that even "small" computers back in the 1960s needed impressive amounts of cooling and were kept at really nippy temperatures.

    Second: ICs. My belief is that IBM used custom ceramic ICs in the 360 products. Where are they going to find spares for those? Earlier computers from other manufacturers used, I think, either industry standard discrete transistors or off the shelf RTL(?) ICs.

    1. Dave 32

      Re: A couple of potential problems

      It wasn't just that it needed cooling; it needed the temperature to remain constant, despite the rather incredible amount of power that it consumed. For, you see, System/360 systems were based on magnetic core memory, and magnetic core memory is temperature sensitive.

      I had a bad experience with an IBM 1403N1 printer, attached to an IBM 2821 control unit, which was based on magnetic core storage, about 30 years ago (Why do I suddenly feel old?). When you switched the 1403N1 and 2821 on in the morning, it quickly overloaded the air conditioning in the room it was installed in, and the temperature went from a chilly 68 degrees F up to about 93 degrees F, at which point, the 2821 would start throwing machine checks (e.g., errors), due to the core memory failing, because of the temperature change. We called in an IBM CE, who walked in, took one look at it, threw his arms up, and screamed "That thing is older than I am!", before he turned and walked out. They finally found an old CE, who knew about the 1403/2821, and he told us that he could calibrate it, and get it working at one temperature, but, as the temperature fluctuated, the core storage would start misbehaving, and causing machine checks. Basically, there was no way we were going to get it to work, without completely reworking the air conditioning system (which wasn't going to happen, since that was in a set of temporary trailers). So, the 1403/2821 was ripped out (They had to take the front door off the hinges, in order to get the 1403/2821 in/out of the building.), and a more modern, smaller, yet faster, printer was installed.

      As for the "ICs", the System/360 used SLT (Solid Logic Technology), which were cards containing hybrid integrated circuits. The original idea was to standardize on a couple of SLT cards, and build the system out of combinations of those. Unfortunately, the number of specialized SLT designs grew like crazy, resulting in hundreds, if not thousands of specific SLT card designs.

      As for the age of the system, it's quite possibly over 50 years old.

      I seem to remember that most S/360s required three-phase power, which could be a bit of a problem in most residential installations, although there are (expensive, large, heavy) ways of overcoming that.

      Also, the S/360 model 20 was very architecturally different than most of the rest of the S/360 product line. While the rest of the S/360 product line standardized on 32 bit registers, the model 20 used 16 bit registers, and did not have the complete set of registers. I think I remember that the I/O subsystem was also rather radically different. The net result is that it required a specialized operating system.

      I'd offer to share my COFFEE program, although, while it's designed for a S/370, it should be fairly easy to port to a S/360 (It's a guessing game to determine who amongst a group of operators is to buy the round of coffee.). It's designed to be IPLed from a card reader, and uses the system console for I/O.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: A couple of potential problems

        A faster printer than the 1403 N1 in that context? Mine (a lowly model 3) does about 23 pages (~1400 lines) of 11X14 (132 columns) per minute. Can crank up to over 6 feet of paper per second if the printout contains a lot of blank lines. It's rated at 1,100 lpm, but easily beats that in practice. It's over-kill for the 1401 that it came with ... and indeed, IBM's internal docs suggest that my 1401 shouldn't have had a Model 3, just the slower M1 or M2 ... The 1401G used the M4, M5 or M6.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A couple of potential problems

          Plus, given the speed of the M2 attached to a 1401, by programming the right characters into the lines and opening the hood you could get it to play music. At least at a quality amusing to teenagers like myself and my classmates.I've still got my 1401 printer ruler if they ever come back in style.

      2. yoganmahew

        Re: A couple of potential problems

        They also needed to maintain a certain level of humidity. I remember being dragged in with my dad on a Saturday morning to place saucers of water around the computer room of a minor bank in Dublin, as it was "dry as a witch's tit" as the humidifier had broken on the A/C and there was a danger of damage to the 360 (no idea what model).

        My father was a 360 operator/system programmer and my mother smelled of punch cards.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: A couple of potential problems

          Or, if you prefer to be slightly more politically correct, "dryer than a popcorn's fart".

          Humidity is kept up in air conditioned space primarily to cut down on static. We usually run around 50% or thereabouts, and about 65F. This has to be managed, otherwise the AC will wring all the moisture out of the air. Conversely, you have to make sure not to inject too much moisture ... watch that dew point!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: A couple of potential problems

      "Where are they going to find spares for those?"

      When they got into the building they discovered they'd got a whole second 360 so they should be OK for spares although, of course, sods law....

    3. //DLBL SYSRES

      Re: A couple of potential problems

      The 360/20's worked ok in large office environments, as long as there was a high ceiling and opening windows.

    4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: A couple of potential problems

      Third: IIRC, the cooling worked thusly; chilled air was pumped under the raised flooring. Whence, it emerged through openings in the bottom of the equipment, where it did its cooling duty, and exhausted through openings in the top or rear of the equipment...

      They are going to need a raised floor.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bare metal is best!

    We used to have a couple of 360 mainframes in what is now the Modern Tat museum... Amazingly I still have Fortran IV software created for the platform still in use in a production environment. Admittedly, it runs in an S360 emulator inside DOS; with punch-card input emulated from text files. Of course, the DOS instance is itself hosted in a VM, inside OS itself abstracted to the high heavens.

    Sometimes going back to bare metal is best!

    PS the software isn't worth respeccing and redoing on a modern platform; after 50-odd years of service the old routes this are (finally) approaching the end of their service lifetime.

  19. Old Used Programmer

    The good old days...

    The article reminds me of when--in 1969--a lumber company in Ft. Bragg, CA gave the College of Engineering Computer Club at UC Berkeley their old computer. I think they shipped the CPU to us, but I drove a 6-ton stake bed truck up there and back to pick up the card read/punch and printer. I gave my passenger near heart failure by driving the loaded truck from Ft. Bragg (on the coast) to Willits, a distance of 35 miles, in an hour.

    The machine in question was a Univac SS/90. The "SS" being for "solid state" and "90" because it used the original Hollerith design 90 column cards (45 columns in the top half, the other 45 columns in the bottom half). The club members were more than a little non-plussed when when we opened the back of the printer and found ourselves staring at an array of 132 thyratrons. They were the drivers for the print hammers. Main memory for the CPU was 5000 10 digit words of drum memory.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: The good old days...

      Old Used Programmer, I think we may have met. The lumber company was Union Lumber Company. My dad helped to convince them to make the donation.

      FB to Willits on Hwy 20 can be done fairly comfortably in ~40 minutes ... if you know the road and none of your passengers gets car sick. Granted, in 1969 it was a trifle twistier than it is now. And longer ... today it's only 33 miles. By way of reference, the Golden Gate Bridge to Fort Bragg is almost exactly 3 hours by road, if you don't hit traffic and don't bend traffic laws too much. If you haven't been back to FB since, it's well worth a long, quiet weekend.

      Just remember to pull over and let the log trucks pass you on Hwy 20 ... They know the road, are on the clock, and are doing the speed limit.

    2. Mike 16

      Re: The good old days...

      @Old Used Programmer

      We must know each other. The CPU was not shipped, but loaded on that truck along with the rest of the gear. I was the one that rented that truck, although I do recall being a bit startled to see the result of asking for the "largest I could legally drive with a class 3 license" And I was 20 years old. A couple of comments at the risk of boring other readers...

      The club already had one SS-90, gift of the I. Magnin department store. IIRC, there was another, in much worse shape, stored in Richmond at the former Ford Motors assembly plant. Dunno what happened to it. The two that were actually running in the basement of Cory Hall were bought for a small, token payment (again IIRC) by two members when the EE department threw us out of the basement.

      I actually ended up buying it (them) from the service bureau (run by those members), when they shut down (about 1974 or 75). One had been scavenged for parts to keep the other running. So then there was one. I moved it to a corner of a printing plant whose owner was keen on the idea of having a computer, but despite his beliefs, the 480V power he had for his presses was the wrong flavor (Delta vs Wye, IIRC) and the power company wanted something like my annual salary to bring in the right flavor. He got tired of waiting for me to somehow manage it, and called the scrappers without telling me. Thus endeth the saga of the first computer I ever owned, although I never ran it while I owned it nor owned it while I ran it.

      Despite the "SS" name, there were valves/tubes, many in the drum read/write stuff, but also six 4CX250 (forced air cooled tetrodes with max plate dissipation of 250 watts each) in the "clock", which was really the main power supply to the diode-core logic.

      There were, (again IIRC) 65 Thyratrons in the printer (which had been adapted from an earlier Univac printer), because the drum was "checkerboarded" to reduce ghosting, so only 1/2 the hammers could fire at once

      More than you probably want to know at

      and some manuals at

      The drum is in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View CA. I had pulled it out for the trip, and was not intending to re-install it until we had power. So it escaped the scrapping.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The good old days...

        Your post scratched an old memory, so I made a phone call ... According to an friend who was at SAIL with me, the system at Richmond was scrapped just before a grad student at SAIL could grab it, in the late 1960s or very early 1970s. It wasn't an SS90, it was an SS80 (Hollerith 80-column cards, not RemRand 90-column), or so he remembers. If either of us can dig up or remember any more info, I'll post it here.

  20. Ken 16 Silver badge

    maybe rent it out to films?

    It might pay for itself (and it's transport and housing) as a prop

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: maybe rent it out to films?

      Lovely plumage.

      All those 1970s primary colours...

  21. Jeffrey Nonken

    Hmm. IBM 360 restoration run by an 1130 caretaker. 1130 was my first (high school), 360/50 in college. All they need is a 1620 to compete the trifecta.

    Very fond memories of that 1620. Taught myself machine language on it. Very simple operation set.

    1. Dave 32

      Ah, yes, the IBM 1620 "CADET" system (Can't Add, Doesn't Even Try).


      1. swm

        Yep. Change the add and multiply tables and you had an octal machine!

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      My high school had a 402 accounting machine, and a course on how to wire the panels.

      You bet your sweet bippy I took that course. Though I have never again used that knowledge, and have forgotten most if not all of it, the opportunity to actually use one of those beasts was too good to pass up.


    The very machines on which I started in computing. All punched card, no mag stuff. Marconi Marine, Chelmsford. Wipes tear from eye.

  23. keith_w

    My first job

    My first job was working as an operator on a 360/20, with the magnificent Multi-Function Card Machine (MFCM, Mother-fisking card mangler), a printer which had it's characters in groups of 5 on a bar that moved left and right while printing, and 4 Telex 2319(?) disk drives. We sorted using the MFCM (2 input, 4 output hoppers) and fed thousands of cards per day through it until we got a tape drive which didn't have vacuum columns but did have a tilted face that you threaded the tape across on various rollers when we switched from card punches to tape input system. I remember the address knobs, the IPL button and the "I/O multi-tasking" switch.

    The RJ2780 remote input/output unit was based on the same frame.

    1. Dave 32

      Re: My first job

      At least you didn't have to work with (or even mention) the IBM 2821 Data Cell, aka the "Noodle Picker", aka the "Noodle Stuffer".

      Sorry if I've brought back nightmares for anyone. And, don't even bother to think about the IBM 3850 Mass Storage Subsystem. Ah, the joys of a dropped cartridge, one of which looked identical to all of the others, but didn't contain the same data.

      1. Mike 16

        Re: My first job

        "Noodle Picker"? I made a similar comment at dinner one time, to be faced down with an icy stare from a guy who had been on the design team. Pro Tip: Never call _any_ baby ugly. Papa or Mama may be within earshot.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: My first job

          Anybody interested in finding out what a noodle picker is, see:

          I only saw these things "in the wild" at SLAC, LLNL and SNL. The only system I got my hands on was the one at SLAC ... Somewhat surprisingly, the kludge worked quite well!

          1. swm

            Re: My first job

            A RAMAC 305 was a wonder to watch running. One head bouncing between many platters.

            1. Mike 16

              Re: My first job (RAMAC)

              You can see such a drive in action, most Wednesdays, at the computer history museum, Mountain View, CA

  24. Alsibbo

    Same here...

    Good effort chaps! The same happened to me and now I have a HP Superdome 2 sat in my living room! no idea why I need 16 quad core Itanics but never mind...Will keep the house warm if nothing else :)

  25. Beachrider

    The last that I saw a 360

    I went to work at an insurance company in the early 1980s where they still had a 360/50 bolted to the floor. They were using it for 7070 emulation. One of my key projects was to take an AO Smith 7070 emulator work on MVS/XA. The guy that built it, in the 1970s, was succumbing to disease. My company needed to be his last paying customer. With a little adapting, it worked.

    1. Mike 16

      Re: 7070 emulation

      I recall getting a phone call in 2000 when IBM finally stopped supporting 1401 emulation. Guy was still depending on it, although the last 1401 rolled off the line in 72-74 (IIRC).

      Impressive in these days when your phone will stop being usable in under 10 years, and be irritating to use within 3, due to "upgrades".

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: 7070 emulation

        The 1401 was available from 1959 to 1971ish. You could still get the NOS parts from IBM to build one until 1980ish, if you had a .gov or .edu purchase order, but IBM wouldn't ship it as a complete, working unit.

  26. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I donated a fiver so here's the gratuitous "does it play Crysis?" comment.

    1. Ozzard

      I always thought IBM kit *caused* crises? (Obligatory "Where's the kaboom?" icon)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Sure, just punch the Crysis code on the cards...

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, but...

    If it boots, IBM will want big money for s/w licences.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, but...

      IBM doesn't seem to care what you do with old code, as long as you aren't making money with it or sharing it.

      For example, I have two separate card decks, and a Mylar tape, for the final version of Amdahl FORTRAN IV. They all match from a ones & zeros perspective. It seems to work as it should. I have archived them to more modern media.

      However, IBM's lawyers tell me that they are still the owners, and will sue the shit out of me if I release it into the wild. Seems that .gov & .mil contractors still use it. I'm allowed to own access to the source, to archive it, and to run it off-line, but not to distribute it.

      The mind absolutely boggles ...

      Fujitsu (who bought Amdahl), seemingly a more enlightened company in this regard, has basically told me "whatever, dude, follow your bliss".

    2. swm

      Re: Yeah, but...

      As I recall, originally software was free with the machine.

  28. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    they need some Real Programmers

    Because a Real Programmer can do anything in FORTRAN.

    Shopping list on the back of the 5081 tab card in the pocket.

    1. H in The Hague

      Re: they need some Real Programmers

      "Because a Real Programmer can do anything in FORTRAN."

      In some dusty corner of my office I have a copy of the Oxford Concordance Program - software to analyse word use in documents, written in FORTRAN, surprisingly.

  29. earl grey

    OMG old person here

    First computer job i had the place had one 360/30 which we calls "the pits" and was used variously for card-to-tape, printing, and card punching. 1403 printers were the choice du jour. If you have one, hope you got the roll of carriage tape material and a punch to make it dance (and have spare chain elements to boot).

    We also had 3 360/65s, one of which had an LCS. Consoles were IBM selectrics. There was also a 7080 which (if you learnt how), you could program from the control panel of the console. It allowed for all kinds of good mischief.

    We later got in a 360/40 on which to install HASP. That was a change.

    Full panoply of card mangling machines, from keypunch to collator, interpreter, and sorter. You only need learn your field and numerics to make (remake) almost anything. Had an imager which would allow you to actually read a 7-track tape (again, if you knew how). Wonder what happened to all that stuff?

    Third shop was Unisys stuff... including 1004, 1005, fastrands, 1782, 432, 494s run in 490 mode and eventually into 1100 series.

    Won't even talk about the greatness of learning PL/1 on the 360 as it supported a football game (which i was told not to do as we weren't

    "programmers"). arseholes.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: OMG old person here


      The little round thing with a window full of magic fluid and iron dust that was attracted to the magnetised areas on the tape? Always wanted to have one of those!

  30. steviebuk Silver badge

    They should contact....

    ....CuriousMarc on YouTube. He'd be very interested, I'm sure, in helping with this. He recently helped in restoring the old Apollo AGC

  31. Anonymous South African Coward

    Bit late to the party, never worked with big iron, but it looks cool.

    Here's to them to get it up and running!

  32. Chris Parsons


    Ah, BAL on a 360/30, with 3x2311 disk drives. The beginning of my IT (or computing, as we called it then) career. Never seen a red one, though.

  33. TurtleBeach

    Yet another batch (job) of memories

    How time flies when you are having fun. In the early 70's I paid my way through the University of Virginia engineering school baby-sitting from midnight to 8:00A a 360/50 (8-10 tape drives, 8-10 drum discs, line printer, card reader) - used to reduce radio telescope data from the "Big Ear" in Greenbank West Virginia. Every day someone from Greenbank would meet someone from Charlottesville midway (the top of a mountain) and exchange tapes. The new tapes returned to Charlottesville, and I ran them overnight. Rinse and repeat 5 days a week, catch up on weekends. I learned to sleep with all the noise, but would get awakened when something finished and the console started typing away (I hated the short jobs).

    My last year, I had to write a thesis, but had no typewriter. Begin an engineer, and more interested in solving a problem rather than concentrating on the thesis, I wrote, in PL/I using the console as my input device, what is now called a word processor, so I could finish the thesis (An Analysis of the Judiciary as an Information Processing System) and print it legibly. According to my faculty advisor, I almost was not granted my nuclear engineering degree because I printed it on the line printer, which did not have lower case.

    While all this was going on, I was constantly harassed (in a collegial way) for writing software instead of my thesis, by a radio astronomer named Chuck Moore, who led by example and developed the Forth language (written in Fortran and run on the 360/50), since he was not satisfied with the telescope control system he had to work with. I'm not sure he ever processed any telescope date.

    Those were the days...

  34. Wisteela
    Thumb Up


    This is truly wonderful stuff.

  35. Johnspain

    Long before we get to worrying about the JCL or the operating system and programs got to get those disks working. The ones that use hydraulics and oil to move the heads , and not even think of a head crash and a bright operator moving the disk pack around because he had a data check and thought it may work on another drive but did not hear that tinkling sound of a head crash and now we have two drives down, Sometimes moving the pack once was not enough lets try it on the complete string . ( I had an ops manager move a pack 4 times on a string of 3330`s before an op stopped him).Certainly brought the night shift to a halt. Now lets send for the hardware CE its OK because hes not in bed just running round the city fixing half a dozen other problems. I think these guys deserve a very large beer for just thinking of getting this project off the ground. The 1403 is not from the mod 20 but probably attached via an adaptor to the 370 125 no 2821 needed (but again plenty of hydraulic oil) Happy Days

  36. dietermontanez

    where are you based guys? UK?

    I am in Germany .. would be glad to offer help.... I am married .. but she is very very understanding.

    I have artitis .. so no longer very good with tools .. but I know something about mechanics and electronics.

    And love my mainframes ... though I started with 270s .. 3083 ... in the 80s.. later 3090.

    Know my software very well too...

    Still work a daytime job with very weird hardware and software constellations.

    well .. that's my application

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