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Oh man @LivingComputers is too cool. I walked in to a Cray 1. Look at all that wiring! Hand-wired in Minnesota, if I recall.
And here’s an Enigma, the German WWII encryption device that Turing broke.
But here’s the real deal, a PDP-11. This is where Unix was born. This particular -11 wasn’t from AT&T, but amusingly, it was actually Microsoft’s.
Notice that the disk emulator is a 2U Dell server. So this actually had two short 19” racks side-by-side, which I never realized.
Here’s a PDP-8. This one’s actually from Maynard, MA. (The -8 in my local computer museum was made in Europe so it says “Digital Equipment Corporation, Galway, Ireland” instead.)
The PDP-8 actually has its disk. A decpack, and disk packs.
The terminal hooked up to it is the same one that we used in my library, to look up books in their electronic card catalog or order books from nearby libraries.
Here’s a PDP-12, which I didn’t know was a thing until today.
I... have no idea what this is, but the blinkenlights are incredible.
It’s being worked on. (The patch on his shirt says “Jeff”. Thanks for keeping history alive, Jeff!)
Here’s an Interdata 7/32 from 1974, which I’m not at all familiar with. But it is a handsome machine, resplendent in yellow.
And it’s running Unix! I know this!
The CDC 6500 was a Seymour Cray supercomputer before he founded Cray Research.
That’s just the console of course. Here’s the actual computer. We’ve now moved into a proper raised floor machine room (but this monster is liquid cooled so it doesn’t really even need it.)
Not as shiny as the PDPs, the VAX was a workhorse. Some of the first Unix systems I used were this exact model.
The VAX (and VMS) was popular enough that they kept producing them forever. Let’s zoom in on this pizza box resting on top of the VAX 11/780, capable of running all those jobs so many years later.
Never seen one of these Xerox minis before. Don’t really know anything about it but it sure is handsome.
If you’ve never been in a “proper” machine room, you may not have understood why I said they had raised floors. That’s where the cables go!
(You may have also escaped the tinnitus that comes from the A/C and fans trying to keep these things from melting.)
As much as I love a PDP, I’m surprised there’s so little IBM mainframe love here. But here’s a card punch machine and sorter.
My father in law claims to have actually used one of these in University, but I certainly never have. So the best I can do is write my name.
Fun fact, the college that my grandfather and uncles worked at bought enough punch card stock to last a lifetime. After they were obsolete they started using them for paycheck stubs just to use them up.
Here’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s first computer. A custom 8008 to support their first business that modeled traffic patterns, “Traf-o-Data”. (Their second business was a little more successful.)
That second company started with the kit computer that kicked off the microcomputer revolution, the Altair 8800.
I couldn’t find a copy of Bill’s “letter to hobbyists” (they have a copy at the Cambridge Computer History Museum in case you’re ever in England).
Apple I.
I’m sure this was a fine machine in its time but I’ll never not call it a “trash 80”.
The C64 was my first computer. I adored it. One of my favorite games was Marble Madness!
I can even remember buying that game, from a Waldensoftware, back when we computer stores in our local malls. I had to wait patiently for my mom to get her hair cut before I could go home and unwrap the shrinkwrap and play.
In school of course we had the Apple II. Here’s an Apple IIe with - of course - Oregon Trail.
I liked Oregon Trail but I *loved* another game from MECC, Gertrude’s Puzzles. I definitely liked the puzzle solving “games” over the simpler stuff.
Also, shoutout to the Midwest. So far we’ve seen everything from educational software (MECC) and supercomputers (Cray) coming out of the upper midwest.
Here’s an Apple III. I’ve certainly never seen one outside a museum. It was... not a big success.
If you’re wondering why: “The Apple III did not have a fan or air vent for cooling, and instead, used a cast aluminum for its base to absorb excess heat. This fulfilled Steve Jobs’ desire to eliminate fan noise, but caused catastophic system failures from overheating.” 🔥
The IBM PC 5150. When I was a kid I thought this machine was ugly and tactless. Now I love it.
Plus that keyboard. I don’t care which fancy switches you’re using in your mechanical keyboard. The buckling spring feels better.
And the big red switch.
I thought the PC/AT was ugly too, but I’ve come around on that one as well.
Plus this mouse!
This screensaver on this Mac very much reminds me of middle school computer labs.
The NeXT Computer, one of my favorite workstations ever.
I thought they all shipped with Mathematica. I *really* wanted to see that blast from the past, since I worked there in the 2.2-3.0 timeframe, but it’s not on the hard drive. 😢
Whoa! A PLATO terminal! I was disappointed that they wouldn’t have one of these but I was wrong!
More Midwest tech - this was an educational machine from UIUC and growing up we had one in every classroom talking to a mainframe at the University.
My second favorite workstation, the venerable Sun 3. This ones a monster Sun 3/160, I worked on one of these when I did a sysadmin internship at UIUC Dept of Astronomy.
I still remember how to boot it from the boot prom, but alas.
Library! With some old software as well. The original Sim City. ❤️❤️❤️
Outside the library is a Xerox Alto, innovative in user interfaces.
Oh! Off to the side, I found an Apple IIgs. I think this was the end of the Apple II line and I really wanted one of the IIgs Woz series when I was a kid.
I picked the right day to visit, btw - today is the Pacific Northwest Vintage Computer Festival.
Some people are showing off their vintage SGIs (another blast from the past, we had a bunch of these at Wolfram as well).
But I’m totally here for this young man’s project, he’s teaching me 8085 (yes, 8085, that’s not a typo) assembly on his single board computer. 🤯
Okay having now learned some 8085 assembly, I’m exhausted and it’s time to go. But of course I got lured into the gift shop and they have a t-shirt for me.
(My very first job was an internship working on a Cray 2, so I’m exceptionally here for this t-shirt.)
Oh and a bumper sticker! Obviously I wish it said “my other computer is a Cray” but this will have to do. 🤣
Okay, having now loaded up with Cray merch, it’s time for me to leave. Thanks for coming with me to @LivingComputers Museum. I trust you’ll go next time you’re in Seattle!
Quick follow up: after having slept on it, I’m reasonably convinced that the mystery blinkenlights machine is the panel for an IBM mainframe. Compare the one at the Living Computers Museum...
To this panel from a System 360 at the Computer History Museum in California.
Notice the colored rectangular buttons that are eminently touchable? And the dials? Gotta be an IBM.
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