back to article It woz The Reg wot won it! Big Blue iron relics make it back to Blighty

The team behind the mission to rescue a pair of aged IBM mainframes are celebrating after finally getting the hardware back to Blighty. The size, weight and delicacy of the ancient machines, along with limited crowdsourced funds, were threatening to put the kybosh on the whole project. Despite months of searching, they could …

  1. Balding Greybeard

    Wu Hu


    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Wu Hu

      It demonstrates the qualities of beer and good german sausages :-)

  2. Korev Silver badge

    Well done Gentlemen!

    A nice British flat and warm one for you -->

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      And more

      Beer, and conga rats.

  3. Victor Ludorum

    Hats off to you chaps

    But will it run Crysis?

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Hats off to you chaps

      Didn't you read the piece? Crysis was averted, they successfully managed to transport the equipment.

    2. Psmo Silver badge

      Re: Hats off to you chaps

      Sure it will.

      Wouldn't get your hopes up about frame speed though.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Hats off to you chaps

      No, but porting ADVENT to it would teach you a lot about programming it :-)

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Hats off to you chaps

        As long as it has a FORTRAN IV compiler the biggest problem would be memory size. I remember porting ADVENT (the Jack Pike version) in the late 70s, it wanted 40K memory and the ICL system I was using had 25K max. Took a lot of tweaking with DA files to hold the message arrays but I got there in the end! As long as their system has 24-32K it should be doable. Happy memories!

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Hats off to you chaps

          They've got two CPUs (CPU in this case referring to the entire cabinet, not just the chip), and they've found one has 16K (apparently the max for that model), I'm not sure about the other.

          They're 360 2020's if that helps.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Big Ideas!

    What a project! I'm pulling for them! I'm still trying to find the motivation to get a Commodore PET2000 operational again.

    1. james_smith

      Re: Big Ideas!

      Got my PET operational recently. It only needed the keyboard cleaned but I recapped the power supply as a precaution anyway. The surprise came when I bought an emulator that works like an IEEE 488 disk drive. Turns out a previous owner had pulled one of the ICs that the IEEE 488 bus uses...

      1. ricardian

        Re: Big Ideas!

        Handy book by Raeto West

        1. james_smith

          Re: Big Ideas!

          Great book - I actually got a copy along with my PET! The previous owner, the sadly departed father of the seller, was quite a prolific programmer of 8 bit micros back in the day,

      2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Big Ideas!

        Snap - the PSU ws always a little dody, but it boots, even runs a game I wrote many many many years ago at 6th form (the miracles was that the floppy was still readable AND I still had it)

    2. Jedipadawan

      Re: Big Ideas!

      I have a prototype Commodore PET MK II in the attic of my mothers. I checked with Jim Brain. It was not a standard model.

      Torn what to do about it.

  5. Mike Moyle

    "I love it when a plan comes together!" -- Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith

    Bartender -- a round of Attaboys for all concerned and put it on my tab!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time passes for Big Blue

    In the early 1990s I operated a SMB installing Windows for Workgroups, and the occasional Windows NT server. I was asked to install Windows NT on eight Compaq servers in the Exxon Baytown Refinery glass house. The room housed an IBM 3090 - 600E which was cold, dead, turned off, replaced by two RS6000s and 8 Compaq servers. Exxon had received 2 bids for the old hardware, one was removal and Exxon would pay the company $2,000 for the service, the other was for removal and the company would pay Exxon $2,000 for the machine. I was told the machine eventually wound up somewhere in South America.

    As John Mashey's internet signature said: "No one escapes the attack of the killer micros."

  7. fredesmite

    Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

    WHo knew how to use them -- to maintain them .

    1. HildyJ Silver badge

      Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

      The model 20 was introduced 55 years ago. Big Blue didn't need to get rid of the engineers, they died.

      1. rsole

        Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone


        You are overly pessimistic, in those days computers lasted and so they continued to need support until they were finally decomissioned. Finding someone interested might still be a challenge though.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

        Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.

        Seriously, there are plenty of folks still around who know how to wrangle a 20. Including a couple of the folks involved in the project under discussion. 55 ain't old.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

          "55 ain't old"

          It IS a bit old though.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Did you forget

            the MPV* tag?

            *Monty Python Voice

        2. CrazyOldCatMan

          Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

          55 ain't old

          Depends on the milage..

          (Spouses Morris Minor is a year younger than me and has had all the rotten bits replaced. Shame I can't do that with my dodgy bits.. MM is at ~ 110K miles and still using the original 1098CC engine. Phear the mighty power of the Austin A series engine!)

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

            OT: If you need new parts:

            a previous CEO/GM of Rover got f**ked off with the crippling&growing infestation of parasites (clueless corporatites, middle nonmanagers, etc), and bailed out. On his way out, he bought from them all the original designs and a lot of the machines to make the old Morris parts. He then set himself up (in Bristol IIRC) to re-make brand-new parts. Focussing his marketing on Morris Minors because that was where nearly all the demand was.

            Old fans of Morrises (like me: Morris Oxford Series 3 1957 & a pre-official release 1956) will know that Mr Morris was IIRC the first to design a vehicle range that had all-interchangeable parts. So any of those parts will fit/can come from an MG ("Morris Garages"), Oxford, Isis, Major, etc.

            And yes, rack&pinion steering on a separate chassis allows for quite startling cornering if you know what you're doing :D -- leave modern cars for dust when it gets twisty.

            1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

              Oh, and

              if you need new brake(drum)-pads or clutch, you can pop down to your local farm machinery suppliers (if you live anywhere near farmland) and get them to manufacture them from scratch. Same technology/materials, you see, and farm kit's so variable they still make them by "hand" locally.

      3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

        "The model 20 was introduced 55 years ago. Big Blue didn't need to get rid of the engineers, they died."

        This is what training is for.. So one generation can pass knowledge on to the next. Of course, someone needs to be interested in being the trainer, and someone needs to be the trainee.. Difficult to find either when dealing with mid 60s hardware/software.

      4. CrazyOldCatMan

        Re: Too bad India Business Machine has gotten rid of anyone

        The model 20 was introduced 55 years ago

        One of the CPU units was made in 1965 - the year I was born! And it was another 12 years after that that I first got to play with a computer (a 4-bit single board one - from memory it had very low memory (256 bytes?) and a 8-digit LED display..

        Further duckduckgo-ing reveals it was a MK14:

        After playing with that for a year or so we upgraded to a Nascom 1 (

        Now I feel old(er).

  8. Andy Non Silver badge

    Excellent news

    I have fond memories of learning to program (Fortran 66) on an IBM 360.

  9. earl grey

    olden days

    I worked a shop with 2 360/65s, a 360/30. a 7080. and eventually a 360/40 on which HASP was initially installed (my understanding being that this certain large corp had one of the first instances after Houston). I started to learn PL/1 on that as well as get a good grasp on JCL (well, as much as was possible), and later learned COBOL on a different site's 360/50 which was upgraded to a 370/155 (?). Memories; faded at best.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge

      Re: olden days

      I still have my green card (which meant something entirely different then).

      Fading but good memories, except for debugging core dumps.

      1. aks

        Re: olden days

        Creating tidy JCL and decoding core dumps were the fun bits.

        Cut my teeth as an operator on a 360/30 with 32KB and the much more powerful 360/50 with 256KB. Teletype machines using paper tape to send and receive data with far flung places such as Turkey.

      2. Bitsminer Bronze badge

        Re: olden days

        When they actually were core dumps!

      3. CrazyOldCatMan

        Re: olden days

        I still have my green card

        I think we have (somewhere in the garage) not one but two copies of the IBM POPs manual for TPF programmers..

        (Both of us were, for varying lengths of time, TFP programmers..)

  10. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    One of my greatest pleasures is reading about people coming together like this, and achieving something against all the odds.

    I didn't know whether to go for the thumbs up or the beer - but you seem to be able to manage that OK yourselves :)

  11. jake Silver badge

    Dancing rodents all around.

    The world needs to see more of this kind of thing.

  12. TheProf Silver badge


    *Sob* I love these heartwarming Christmas tales.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kudos all around!

    This kind of thing is what the Internet is really about...

  14. John Geek

    sigh, the /20 was the bastard stepchild of the system/360 lineup. it only has 8 16 bit registers, instead of the 16 32 bit of the rest of the 360 line, and its instruction set is very subset and incompatible. The /20 had 4-32KB of core memory, and you needed at least 12KB to run the DPS OS which wasn't very compatible with anything else in the 360 lineup. its a shame its not a 360/40, those could at least run the mainstream DOS/360

    restoring that thing to full operational state is likely going to be a major project. they used DTL logic, and ceramic hybrids rather than integrated circuits, which IBM called SLT. The DTL logic can be either 0-3V or 0-9V. I know a retired guy who restored an IBM 1130 of the same generation a couple years ago, it was about a 2 year full time project to get it fully functional. Part way through it, the front panel lights started dying of old age, and they were an unobtanium 'grain of wheat' lightbulb, so he ended up having to engineer and fabricate a LED based front panel replacement

    1. Merrill

      The were discontinued for System 370 and replaced by the System 3s. The /20 was sometimes used to drive card readers, card punches and line printers so as not to tie up the bigger models which could then do their I/O with tape and disk.

  15. Pirate Dave


    Glad that got sorted. And folks said the Internet would never be good for anything but pr0n...

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Congrats!

      I know folks who would consider such a collection of hardware pornography all by itself. Shit, people drool & get all sweaty over my aging Sun 3/470 ... and that's just watching the Sun logo screensaver bounce around!

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: Congrats!

      I am given to understand that a bit of pr0n does help though

  16. KevSilk


    Glad to have played a little part in the drama. Who would have thought running around Data Centres in darkest Gatwick and Andover with the Sunspeed guys all those years ago would have contributed to something actually worthwhile.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Finally

      Join in the ---->

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I'm rather envious of the A0 scanner mentioned in today's blog. My neighbour has an early C19th map I'd like to get scanned.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Talk to your local Uni, Dr.S ... most of them have access to that kind of hardware, and will be willing to share if they are allowed to have a copy of that kind of thing.

  18. Johnny Canuck

    I hope they video everything and post it to youtube or something like curiousmarc does.

  19. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Outstanding effort, guys

    There should be more of this sort of thing. So that there'll be more of that sort of thing!

  20. Blackjack Silver badge

    And of course...

    Figure what games you can run on it.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan

      Re: And of course...

      Figure what games you can run on it.

      I'm sure that there's a variant of Trek for it - there seems to be for everything else!

  21. phuzz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Article request

    Dear elReg,

    I don't know if you're planning a visit to the see the machine at any point, but a 'mini-Geeks Guide' type article on Creslow Park would be interesting I'm sure.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021