back to article Remember when enterprise administration was more than just a browser dashboard?

Keeping old computers running for everyone to enjoy is getting increasingly difficult as the years pass. Parts get harder to obtain, and the skills needed start fading away. Peter Onion can usually be found in The National Museum of Computing's (TNMOC) Large Systems Gallery, where machines include a huge ICL 2966 mainframe and …

  1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    Oh this would be a dream job for someone like me. Just way too much to relearn, it's been so many years since I did any assembly I'm not sure I'd remember the first thing. Plus I have almost no hardware maintenance skills, which could be disastrous. But still, I can dream...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My computing career started on the 2966. VME/B and VME/K. Used to be able to tell when the system was about to crash just by listening to the hoot. You also knew when OLTS (On Line Testing System I think it stood for) was about to finish - it sounded like R2-D2. 200Mb disk packs with drives the size of a washing machine. And the bright orange operator consoles. I still have a picture somewhere with a message saying "smile". The groan of the engineer when we called in snapped drive belts on the FD640 drives.

    I miss those days sometimes. You had to KNOW the computers to work out how to make things run faster (like how to lay out the filesystems on the disks to cut down on head travel time). And who can forget the magnetic tapes. Having to use that special tool to trim back the tape leader and add a new BOT marker!

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    A valuable effort

    I do hope they're going to keep that computer going for a long while. It is a worthy testament to the skills and engineering that built for us the world we live in today.

    But let's not knock slim and trim. Let's not look down on those slabs of Gorilla glass and toxic metals. The slowest of them have more power than the Apollo flight that reached the Moon.

    Slim and trim has brought us CPUs that do much, much more with much less energy usage. And are capable of auto-throttling their power consumption and thus their heat generation. That will be a very good thing for the space stations of the future.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    One big virtue

    No systemd and no pulseaudio.

    1. ldo

      Re: PulseAudio??

      Somebody hasn’t been keeping up with the times ...

      And yes, it can take advantage of systemd, too.

  5. Bebu Silver badge

    The ris[ck] of cyber-conversion :)

    A slippery slope as sir Humphrey might observe, replacing irreplacable parts with RPi SBCs emulating the missing bits.

    One day the 29000 will be all Pi or V.

    I suppose as long as its running its "living" history in some sense and enthusiasts can actually program it. One might port the Rust compiler :)

    A memorial to British computer industry that now rests with steam locomotives and Brunnel's ship "The Great Britain."

  6. Admiral Grace Hopper


    A highlight of being the room with the 2900 while it was running reminded me of how you could tell what was going on by the noise that it made as it ran the loaded programme. Of course modern processors generate sound too, but at frequencies that are beyond my ears and probably those of bats too.

    1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmmmmmmmaaaaaaaahhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhmmmmmmmm

      >>Of course modern processors generate sound too

      Possibly (though the amplitide of the vibrations would be tiny) however many sideband attacks rely of the equivalent in the RF spectrum (or the power LED, or the backlight of the monitor etc. etc. etc). Indeed many crypto functions are (being re-)written to make such sideband attacks much more difficult.

  7. ICL1900-G3


    Hot tango, if you don't mind!

  8. Steve Kerr

    Sad times!

    When I went to a visit to TNMOC, it was rather a shock to find a lot of the machines I've used from early home computers to large mainframes are now museum pieces!!!!

    I done work experience on an ICL 2966 running VME & George 3 and a financial institution I worked for had a couple of ICL 2966's, amongst other things like an IBM 4381, Wang, VAX's, HP 3000's, Tandem nonstop, Stratus! A bygone era.

    Used Prime computers whilst in college

    1. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: Sad times!

      Amen. It's been a long time (too long) since I have been to TNMOC but it was a fun game playing "I had one of those! We still use one of those!"

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Sad times!

      I was very happy to be able to run my fingers over the keys of a DRS20 once more. That keyboard had a lovely feel and action.

    3. ldo

      Re: Sad times!

      ICL were the ones who created that problematic Post Office “Horizon” system though, weren’t they.

      1. t245t Silver badge

        Re: Sad times!

        Why was Horizon allowed to go live?

        It was a prototype that had been bloated and hacked together afterwards for several years, and then pushed screaming and kicking out of the door. It should never have seen the light of day. Never.

  9. Scene it all

    A couple years ago I built a fancy light sculpture for the TV room, with randomly shifting colors from LEDs buried under some tubes filled with cut glass crystals. In the base is a small RISC-V single-board computer. I programmed the whole thing, bare metal, in assembly language and it turns out that the RISC-V instruction set is VERY similar to the old IBM 360 from over 50 years ago. All the same programming techniques. It brought back fond memories.

  10. JRW

    When you know, you know

    S 34,,l

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The TNMoC is a great place to visit!

    Esp. for IT types. As others have said, there will be a lot of - "That was my first computer!", "Ah! I used to own one of those!", "and my mate Tom had one of those!", "Oh! And one of those", "And one of those too!", "That was the first computer I used professionally", "That was the...." etc. This will go on for hours. You will love it. Guaranteed. :)

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: The TNMoC is a great place to visit!

      What about {S,H}WMBO? Is there enough there to entertain them?

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