Volunteers Are Keeping an IBM 1401 Mainframe Alive

Discussion in 'HardForum Tech News' started by AlphaAtlas, Nov 6, 2018.

  1. AlphaAtlas

    AlphaAtlas [H]ard|Gawd Staff Member

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    Think your vintage computer hardware is old? Ken Shirriff, Robert Garne, and their associates probably have you beat. The IBM 1401 was introduced in 1959, and these guys are keeping one alive in a computer museum. The system is reportedly a pain to maintain, as the volunteers have to go digging through historical archives and do some detective work to figure out solutions to pretty much anything.

    The volunteers posted a video of their efforts, which you can see here.

    Many things that we take for granted are done very differently in old computers. For instance, the IBM 1401 uses 6-bit characters, not bytes. It used decimal memory addressing, not binary. It’s also interesting how much people could accomplish with limited resources, running a Fortran compiler on the 1401 with just 8K of memory. Finally, working on the 1401 has given me a deeper understanding of how computers really work. It's not a black box; you can see the individual transistors that are performing operations and each ferrite core that stores a bit.
     
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  2. DejaWiz

    DejaWiz Oracle of Unfortunate Truths

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    Wow, that is pretty darned cool!
     
  3. BloodyIron

    BloodyIron 2[H]4U

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    I love all these historical computer museum efforts. Including the blown up microprocessor where you can dial the frequency up and down in real time! Really fascinating Science behind all that and just like natural history, we should preserve our technological history too!
     
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  4. Chebsy

    Chebsy Gawd

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    Its amazing that it still works. Loading data from cards seems antiquated now, but I suppose they didn't have any other kind of storage back in those days.
     
  5. jeffj7

    jeffj7 [H]Lite

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  6. Joust

    Joust 2[H]4U

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    That's [H]ard to maintain.
     
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  7. daglesj

    daglesj [H]ardness Supreme

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    In 20 years...opening a Amipro doc.
     
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  8. iamjanco

    iamjanco Limp Gawd

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    ...but can it run Crysis?
     
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  9. Libast

    Libast [H]ard|Gawd

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    Don't you people have cell phones?
     
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  10. katanaD

    katanaD [H]ard|Gawd

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    having literally built a computer from the parts.. a heathkit 4bit? computer that was a foot square blue thing..a LONG time ago..LOL after that a fun project me and my dad did, though it was mostly me.. checking in with him.. ALOT.. was to design an interface board for our C-64 machine to control a robot, using that big expansion slot on the back side of the C64. That was also very informative in my early years. I have enjoyed really knowing how a computer works. I can look into a computer and tell you the path of shit and whats going on, where.
     
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  11. [21CW]killerofall

    [21CW]killerofall Aliens...

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    I bet the framerate is something like 1 fpd (frame per day).
     
  12. Advil

    Advil [H]ard|Gawd

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    Seriously, thank you for that video.

    That machine was a little before my time and actually seeing one run today with good cameras showing the process and equipment! What a piece of history. Other than the necessary emulator, that really makes you feel what using a state of the art mainframe in the 50s was like.
     
  13. sirmonkey1985

    sirmonkey1985 [H]ard|DCer of the Month - July 2010

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    yeah i always heard stories about it from my grandmother who used the 1401 when she was working for the air force.. but never actually seen one working outside of old ass video's that explained nothing about it. she absolutely hated it though, it was loud as hell and you had to make sure you didn't lose or miss sort the huge stacks of punch cards.
     
  14. Galvin

    Galvin 2[H]4U

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    Had a few jobs working on an IBM mainframe in the 90s. All I did was mount tapes, print stuff
     
  15. modi123

    modi123 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Amusingly they had card stacks for ASCII art and memes.

     
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  16. PigLover

    PigLover [H]ard|Gawd

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    Ah, nostalgia. My first programming job was a data management system for a school district written in a mix of Cobol and assembly code (really - yes). Late 70s, still running on an IBM-1401. We had one old guy keepign it alive while others worked to port in place to a 1401 emulator running on a Dec-20, then port to native. Ugh.

    Best memory was the "removable media disk". Looked like a top loading washing machine... Inside the from door, basically the motor cover, scrawled in grease pen, was "DO NOT KICK - CALL IBM SUPPORT".
     
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  17. Dead Parrot

    Dead Parrot 2[H]4U

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    Dropping your card deck really sucked and generally resulted in NSFW language. Unless you had the forethought to put sequence numbers in IIRC columns 73-80. Then you could put the pile into a sorting machine and get a correctly ordered deck back. My first couple of classes in Com Sci used punched cards. The terminals were for the advanced students. My typing sucks and I think my success rate on cards might have been as high as 1 out of 2 on good days.

    But yes, almost everything about that old tech involved lots of noise. The band line printer probably caused a fair amount of later life deafness for long time operators.
     
  18. modi123

    modi123 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Yeah it helped drawing angled lines down the edges of the stack to get that damn sort back in faster.
     
  19. EODetroit

    EODetroit [H]ard|Gawd

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    Yeah my dad still has two broken down Z80 Heathkits in the basement. I told him he should donate it to https://heathkit.garlanger.com if he's never going to get it running again. I really would like to play Galactic Warrior again though if he does get it running.

    Oh yeah, I've kept my Zenith 386 around. It runs but needs a new CMOS battery. Whenever I get around to getting it back to 100% my one goal is to stream Wing Commander 1 and 2 on the original hardware.
     
  20. Siersoren

    Siersoren [H]Lite

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    I believe it would literally be unable to store a shortcut to open Crisis. If I'm not mistaken, 8k is not enough for the icon associated with the shortcut. :p
     
  21. Bigbacon

    Bigbacon [H]ardForum Junkie

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    man if it was only a total troll program where C made her have a huge dick.
     
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  22. Kor

    Kor 2[H]4U

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    God I love that aesthetic, fill your house with old Mainframes and pretend your a 60's bond villain.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2018
  23. Red Falcon

    Red Falcon [H]ardForum Junkie

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    That's awesome! I believe that rigid disks are still sold to this day:
    http://www.athana.com/rigid/rd.html
    http://www.athana.com/rigid/alignpack.html

    CT%20Pack1.jpg
     
  24. Red Falcon

    Red Falcon [H]ardForum Junkie

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    Only if it's Octopussy. :D
     
  25. Karl_in_Chicago

    Karl_in_Chicago n00b

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    Yeah pretty much same setup when I was in school - Frosh/Soph limited to keypunches during "normal" hours with the TSO terminals reserved for upperclassmen. After about 2 AM they were released to the unwashed masses. Since I had to buy my own cards I was glad I had taken typing in HS; wasting money on data supplies cut into important things . . . like beer. Still, the early IBM 029 keypunch machines had no buffer - once you "oopsed" you had to eject the card and futz around a bit to fix your error. Went home for the summer and came back and lo and behold they had upgraded to the IBM 129 with its wondrous 80 byte buffer!!! Make a mistake? No problem, backspace, backspace, fix and continue. Press the "Release" key to have the buffer's contents translated to hole punches. Learned early to spend a little extra $$ on some colored cards for reuseable stuff like JCL and delimiters and just use the plain jane vanilla cards for code. Also invest in sturdy rubber bands (always use at LEAST 2 in case one snapped) and occasionally bring donuts for the data control staff to get your important jobs bumped up the line. All these years later still working on mainframes but they are nothing like what they were.
     
  26. Kor

    Kor 2[H]4U

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    Only the finest brain farts.
     
  27. craigdt

    craigdt Gawd

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    I'm pretty sure that's the system my work's ERP system is ran on.
     
  28. tangoseal

    tangoseal [H]ardness Supreme

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    In 50 years humanity fails to survive .... AI has killed everyone except the two guys keeping that IBM alive out of pure respect.
     
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  29. CombatChrisNC

    CombatChrisNC [H]ard|Gawd

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    It's the IT version of engineers keeping old steam engines/locomotives up and running.
     
  30. SlipperyPete

    SlipperyPete Gawd

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    They need to let Kyle in there to run some benchmarks and try overclocking it!