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Thread: Two-tonne Witch computer gets a reboot

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by macona View Post
    But will it play Crysis?
    How about Pong?

  2. #12
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    But does it blend?

  3. #13
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    Back in the 70s I worked for a UHF TV station. Back then that meant low budget. We (I) bought an old RCA video switcher for use there. It had about five "buses" or rows of buttons, each button representing a different video and audio source. Although it used transistor circuitry for the actual video and audio pathways, they choose relays for several other tasks. It had a "Preset" bus or row of buttons where the next video/audio source could be pre-selected to avoid mistakes on the air. This selection as well as the current on air selection was remembered by relays. Selecting it produces a bit of plainly heard relay activity. When the "Take" button was pressed, the real fun started. The relays transfered the preselected video and audio to the on air bus and the previous on air sources to the preset bus. This was done to allow quickly switching back and forth between two sources (like two cameras) in rapid succession. This meant a fury of relay activity in a second or so. It was a joy to hear working. It was almost musical and I used to say the relays were dancing.

    It was old for the day, but it was quite reliable and we got several years of good service out of it. After it's installation and initial set-up, it never required any maintenance beyond changing the lamps in the buttons and indicators (LEDs were practically non existent then). I have no idea of the ultimate fate of this great machine.

    On the shop side, the control panel was about 24" x 18" and made from 3/16" or perhaps 1/4" steel. It was quite a bit of shop work that impressed me, even back then and it weighed a ton. But, unlike aluminum panels that are drilled or punched full of holes, no additional stiffening was needed and it never bent, even a deflected by a discernible amount when operators took out their rage on it. I suspect that the holes were punched, but they were rectangular so that was a fun job that probably required custom dies. They probably only produces a few hundred of them so that work was probably by hand.
    Paul A.

    Make it fit.
    You can't win and there is a penalty for trying!

  4. #14
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    I have a few cartons of computer relics in my shed, core ram made by Ferranti (who, according to Wiki, marketed their first commercial computer in 1951), all manner of pneumatic valves and some sort of what I presume to be a pneumatic "logic block" not to mention all the selsyn/magslip type devices and strange mechanical contrivances.

    "Computers" must have been so much more fun 60+ years ago!

    Paul, I have a few panels of very nice aluminium plate about 9mm (inch equivalent I suppose 3/8"?) think. These were the front planels of mainframe type tape drives.
    Last edited by The Artful Bodger; 11-24-2012 at 01:43 PM.

  5. #15
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    That's my ID card that goes on top of the card deck of whatever program you are submitting for a run. I studied Comp Sci at UC Berkeley
    Last edited by Evan; 11-24-2012 at 03:42 PM.
    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Origin now settable to bottom left! All values positive. Click Here

  6. #16
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    We didn't have a computer as such. We had an IBM Accounting Machine that read punched cards. You had to wire a board to tell it what card columns to put where and what calculation to do. There was a limited number of registers to use so you couldn't do a lot of calculations--Mostly just add and subtract. It had a vertical bar of characters for each column on the printer. So when it printed, you had 144 (IIRC) bars all raising at different heights then a clank of the hammers to print a line. Sounded like a thrashing machine and read a card about every second. It ran all night to produce just a few reports. One mis-punched card could ruin the whole run. Can't really say "that was the good-ole days". It really sucked until the company got a IBM 360 Model 20. Man, we thought we were gods after that.

  7. #17
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    You guys make me feel young. I did not get into "real" computers till the late 70s. I only suffered through punch cards for 1 Fortran class. After that it was all UNIX and CRTs for years, followed by personal computers and PCs.

    There is something mesmerizing about watching the relays click in a well designed machine. I enjoyed working as a switchman at the phone company, essentially running a small mainframe which remotely controlled a few hundred thousand relays that connected phone lines together. The clatter (and later click) of the relays was somehow reassuring.

    It was a good job. We learned machine language, processor design, component level trouble shooting and much more.

    Daniel
    Measure twice. Cut once. Weld. Repeat.
    ( Welding solves many problems.)

  8. #18
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    Until the mid 80's our time punch cards had the start/stop time stamped on them and punched through them. They probably were fed directly into the computer instead of having a data entry person do it. Computers were taking job even back then.
    The shortest distance between two points is a circle of infinite diameter.

  9. #19
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    The clatter (and later click) of the relays was somehow reassuring.
    Did you ever get to visit a switch room for a good sized city exchange? I used to service equipment in the switch room in Victoria in the 70s. The switches were so loud you couldn't hear yourself think. We had the old strictly electromechanical switches with cord boards for the operators here until 1984. My wife was a supervisor in operator services back then and lost her job when they switched to a #5 computer switch. Up 'til then we still had magneto phones in the outlying areas.
    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Origin now settable to bottom left! All values positive. Click Here

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