Old Tech thread

mosaix

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This thread has brought back an incident from my youth that still makes me giggle.

I move from NCR to Honeywell in the late 60s. They had a system called the Honeywell 200 series. The system at Honeywell's office in Manchester didn't have a console but a set of buttons and lights on a panel that stood up from the processor.

The machine operated in octal (don't ask) and the lights displayed the state of the system and the buttons allowed entry of commands - again in octal.

Beneath the main set of lights and buttons were two additional pairs of buttons, Halt and Central Clear (basically a system reset) and Power On and Power off.

I was in the machine room late one night waiting for a collegue, Henry, to finish testing a program so we could go off down the pub.

The processor was against one wall with a 600 line a minute printer next to it. On the opposite wall was a set of six mag tape drives. Henry was looking at the tape drives and it was obvious he had a program run-away. Without turning he put one finger on Central Clear and the other on Halt. Except he didn't - he had one finger on Power Off and the other on Power On.

Now the buttons were of such a design that it wasn't absolutely obvious that they had been fully depressed so we had the habit of pressing them several times - just to make sure.

The Power On and Off were for the entire system including printers and tape drives. After a couple of seconds of Henry pressing them we ended up with the system on and the tape drives rotating in various directions. However the big problem was the printer - it was emptying the entire contents of a box of continuous paper onto the floor of the computer room - took about ten seconds.

The room was a shambles. We turned the machine off (it sounded sick) and tried to return the paper to the box - impossible. It was a mountain.

To cut a long story short we manhandled it out of the building and heaved it over a hedge opposite into small park - it was there for weeks.

A few weeks later Henry and I were sharing a table with a computer engineer in the canteen.

"Tell me," said Henry to the engineer, "what would happen if you pressed Power and and Power off, together, several times?"

The engineer paused with fork half to mouth. "It was you!"
 

Vince W

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I've found it. It's still in the packet with the instructions. Boots 10' Standard Slide Rule. I'd take a photo but I'm going to watch Task Master.
As a kid I said I wanted to be an engineer, for the next two years all I got for gifts were slide rules and socks! What does that say about people's perceptions of engineers?
 

reiver33

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As a kid I said I wanted to be an engineer, for the next two years all I got for gifts were slide rules and socks! What does that say about people's perceptions of engineers?
Engineers stuff balled-up socks down their pants and use the variable scaling on the slide rule to enhance the 'measured' effect even further...
 

Dave

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all I got for gifts were slide rules and socks!
I wondered what type of engineer they expected you to become?
I actually have distant cousins who first introduced frame-work knitting machines into Scotland and owned a Borders company. You wouldn't have heard of them, but you might have heard of their rivals, Pringles.
 

Vertigo

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I remember a particular hard disk drive we got in the early eighties. We hadn't been able to use the new fangled Winchester drives on our offshore survey boats because the movement of the boats would cause instant head crashes so we still had to use the big tape drives. Then one day this guy came in to demonstrate this new 5M hard drive. It was about the size of a modern desktop pc and I remember us watching with jaws thoroughly dropped as he picked it up (carefully) and moved it (gently) whilst it was being accessed and it didn't crash. We were gobsmacked and it duly went to sea, though we still didn't dare use it when the weather got a bit rough!
 

farntfar

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The IBM 360 was known to overheat (although I never saw ours do so) and consequently had a big red emergency toggle in the top right corner which you could pull to cut the power instantly if it ever started to do so. Unfortunately, if you did, or if you powered off any other way for that matter, it took a day and a half to ipl (reboot), so it wasn't a good idea to try.
Now this toggle screwed onto a shaft which went inside the machine, and after explaining all that to new employees, it was a rite of entry to get them to unscrew the toggle and then screw it back on without cutting the power.
Actually, you had to really yank it to power off, so there really wasn't much danger, but of course as a newbie, you didn't know that.
It felt like you were defusing a bomb.
 

mosaix

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I remember a particular hard disk drive we got in the early eighties. We hadn't been able to use the new fangled Winchester drives on our offshore survey boats because the movement of the boats would cause instant head crashes so we still had to use the big tape drives. Then one day this guy came in to demonstrate this new 5M hard drive. It was about the size of a modern desktop pc and I remember us watching with jaws thoroughly dropped as he picked it up (carefully) and moved it (gently) whilst it was being accessed and it didn't crash. We were gobsmacked and it duly went to sea, though we still didn't dare use it when the weather got a bit rough!
In the late 80s we were looking for a hand-held that we could program and sell to our customers for their reps to take orders in shops (before the internet) and transmit the orders back to our back-office system over land lines.

The machine had to be fairly rugged. For one demonstration we had the rep threw the thing across the room so it bounced off the floor. It was still working. It was waterproof down to about 5 metres and guaranteed not to emit sparks (so they could be used on oil rigs etc.). Don't think it had any type of disc - just enough memory to store a couple of orders until the next transmission.
 

mosaix

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Anyone remember the line printers that played tunes? Programmers printed and fed paper so that the sound of the printing and paper movement sounded like a tune. I remember an IBM 1401 playing the theme-tune from the William Tell TV series.
 

Ursa major

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Brilliant!

From Wikipedia:
As of April 2019 there are more than one hundred songs played with the Floppotron in Zadrożniak's YouTube page. The songs include Queen's "Bohemian Rapsody", Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit", White Stripes's "Seven Nation Army", Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams", Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Song 2" by Blur.
 
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