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Australia's Largest Private Computer Collection In Pictures

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the that's-not-a-private-computer-collection dept.

Hardware 131

Da Massive writes "UNIX PDP-7, a classic DEC PDP-8, the original IBM PC, Commodore's C64, Apple's Lisa, a MITS Altair 8800 made famous by Bill Gates, through to a working PDP-11 that plays the ADVENTURE and DUNGEON games. Max Burnet has got it all. Burnet has turned his home in the leafy suburbs of Sydney into arguably Australia's, if not the world's, largest private computer museum. Since retiring as director of Digital Equipment Corporation a decade ago, Burnet has converted his home into a snapshot of computer history. Every available space from his basement to the top floor of his two-storey home is covered with relics from the past. On top of his hardware collection are numerous punch cards, tape machines (including the original paper tape) and over 6000 computer reference books. So in demand is his collection that one Australian film called on him to recreate a computer setting (PDP-9) for a movie about the moon landing in 1969."

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Even with all that notoriety... (5, Funny)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870825)

He's still struggling to justify all of it to his wife. It's a daily battle and hopefully, one day, she'll think it's cool having all that gear in the house. Just remember to wipe your feet if you visit.

Google Cache Link (2, Informative)

Skythe (921438) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871133)

Ah, mammaries, I mean memories... (2, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873041)

The only time my wife objects is when she stubs her toe on the old 029 card punch holding my study door open.

I used to use it with a Burroughs B3700 like this [vintagepaperads.com] back in the '70s. Them were the days, when men were men, and small furry things with teeth were small furry...

Ah yes, as I was saying, get off my lawn. [snore]

Re:Even with all that notoriety... (2, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871469)

I can understand that.

I have an unusually nice wife and every acquisition is a historical achievement in the fine art of negotiation. I can only imagine how hard it is for him to keep all this gear in their home.

Re:Even with all that notoriety... (1)

PriceIke (751512) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872733)

So how many percentage points does her shopping budget increase with each new acquisition?

Favorite old-school, large computer! -Cray 2 (2, Informative)

Nomadic_Z (855528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870845)

Re:Favorite old-school, large computer! -Cray 2 (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872207)

Looks remarkably similar to something from Space 1999. [wikipedia.org]

Actually... (5, Informative)

femto (459605) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870851)

Max Burnett [acs.org.au] is a founding member of the Australian Computing Museum Society [acms.org.au] and I think you will find the PDP9, and probably most of the rest, are part of its collection and that Mr Burdett is storing them since the ACMS does not have a permanent home. They were possibly collected by Mr Burnett in the first place and donated to the society, but they would still be part of the ACMS collection. Any ACMS members care to fill in the details?

Presumably you too could join the ACMS and after a while have a house full of vintage computers too! :-)

Re:Actually... (5, Informative)

JohnDeane (1403849) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871675)

Max Burnet started the collection, pretty much as 'Da Massive' says. It expanded into a Digital Users' Group then those folk formed ACMS in 1994. Max bought the initial collection when he retired and many subsequent donations have been made to ACMS. So there are two collections managed in a somewhat overlapping and cooperative way. And yes, the lack of a secure store/museum means that quite a lot of the material is in members' homes awaiting space for proper organisation, documentation and display. Sigh. (I'm the current President of ACMS)

Oh, for Idol's sake! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25870879)

Can't we go even one day on Slashdot without an Australian "story"?

Why don't you Aussie /. editors just launch slashdot.org.au and be done with it?

Oh, right, of course... Because you know that only Australians (if anybody) would give a shit about slashdot.org.au, and the whole point of spamming this Slashdot is so that Americans will "notice" you.

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (3, Funny)

Enter the Shoggoth (1362079) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870939)

Sure! No problem!

As long as we get an American free day as well.

Can't we go even one day on Slashdot without an Australian "story"?

Why don't you Aussie /. editors just launch slashdot.org.au and be done with it?

Oh, right, of course... Because you know that only Australians (if anybody) would give a shit about slashdot.org.au, and the whole point of spamming this Slashdot is so that Americans will "notice" you.

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (2, Funny)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871357)

That's a brilliant idea!
We can do all the countries, not just Aus and USA.
Tomorrow could be 'Nigerian Free Week' where no stories on, about, referring to, alluding to, reflective upon and commented would a start.
So much for Net neutrality!

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872527)

As long as we get an American free day as well.

But America is relevant. (When was the last time you saw Germans going apeshit over the election of a new Australian PM?)

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25873073)

Your post mistakenly implies that Germans going apeshit is "relevant". Who cares, really, what Germans think about anything?

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25870977)

There's your problem: this is the /Internet/. What you want is a LAN so you can continue trading material with your cousins.

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871145)

Oh, for fucks sake. It's not like they're any worse than the rest of the stories around here. I first started reading here because of a story about a bloke who rigged an automated sentry gun out of some servo's, a webcam and an Airsoft rifle. Where have those stories gone? You know, the ones about people actually doing things?

Instead, we get a sprinkling of news, usually about court cases, linux, or both, surrounded by stuff that is typically boring, physically impossible, or both, press releases presented as news, poorly written essays presented as news, or blogs talking about poorly written essays presented as news.

Compared to all that, at least this has some geek appeal.

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (2)

beav007 (746004) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871801)

Can't we go even one day on Slashdot without an Australian "story"?

Why don't you Aussie /. editors just launch slashdot.org.au and be done with it?

Oh, right, of course... Because you know that only Australians (if anybody) would give a shit about slashdot.org.au, and the whole point of spamming this Slashdot is so that Americans will "notice" you.

Wassamatter? 1 single story out of 20 per day for an international technology leader on an international technology site?

You could always go back to reading idle...

Re:Oh, for Idol's sake! (1)

not-my-real-name (193518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872365)

I don't care where it comes from. I think that this is cool. Years ago, I had a PDP-11/10 and a DECSystem 350. Unfortunately, they got lost in a move. I still miss them. :-(

One Australian Film? (4, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870895)

Gee, were they talking about The Dish? [imdb.com] They could have included the title.

Re:One Australian Film? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25870917)

Maybe they didn't know what it was called? I've never even heard of it, and I bet most other people haven't either. Or do you expect us to be familiar with every single obscure foreign movie ever made?

Re:One Australian Film? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871001)

Good on yer, mate! After all, we know that nothing really exists outside the US, don't we?

I liked the comment on the imdb database, where an American questions whether the Aussie struggle to keep the Moon Landing pictures coming through really happened. And this from a country which has no problem with Ben Affleck winning the Battle of Britain on his own before America even entered the war....

Re:One Australian Film? (3, Funny)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871361)

After all, we know that nothing really exists outside the US, don't we?

Except the World Series! Oh wait.....

Re:One Australian Film? (2)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871397)

You mean The World Series? [wikipedia.org]

Re:One Australian Film? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872287)

oh my! someone doesn't know something and calls it foreign... they must be an american! lynch them! i guess to aussies everyone outside of australia is an american.

Re:One Australian Film? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871037)

Really?

Damn. Put that one on your 'to watch' list.
Based on true events, very funny and it shows a nice slice of history.

Re:One Australian Film? (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871179)

If someone thinks it's an 'obscure foreign film' they may not appreciate the humor. Some of the jokes are very Australian. I also wonder how the American anthem played in the US.

Re:One Australian Film? (1)

Hittite Creosote (535397) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871337)

Well, I'm British and know the film (and have it on DVD - the version I've got came with a lot of extras, including the original moon landing footage). I personally think it's a great film, and although I'm perhaps more likely to remember it because my tastes match with the subject matter, I would have thought those tastes - humour, technology, scientists/engineers as the heroes, the moon landings - would have appealed to a fair few Slashdot readers as well.

As to the person who complained that someone shouldn't be expected to know an obscure foreign film - it isn't a foreign film. Or, at least, if you're writing from Australia, as the .com.au on the address of the article (and the Aussie sounding name of the author of the article) would suggest, it's not.

Re:One Australian Film? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871211)

I love it how many people claim often that Americans are "too sensitive of criticism", yet when someone points out an obvious fact, such as that an Australian film isn't necessarily going to be well-known outside Australia, they get modded -1 by some bitter-and-twisted Australian!

Re:One Australian Film? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871769)

Because the Australian /. community, like every national /. community, is comprised of the most bitter, egocentric nerds out there. And I should know, being the HEAD bitter-egocentric-australian-slashdotter.

The movie is called 'The Dish' (4, Informative)

Jacques Chester (151652) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870933)

A brilliant little film about how Parkes, near Canberra, was the ground station that actually received the moon landing signal. Same guys as 'The Castle' and 'Bad Eggs', so naturally it's very funny too.

Re:The movie is called 'The Dish' (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870949)

It was actually Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra that got the signal, but it was dismantled so Sich and co. based the film around Parkes, then filmed in Forbes. They're also the crew behind the Hollowmen.

Re:The movie is called 'The Dish' (4, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871005)

It was actually Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra that got the signal, but it was dismantled so Sich and co. based the film around Parkes, then filmed in Forbes. They're also the crew behind the Hollowmen.

Almost right.

Parkes didn't get the initial portion of the signal, but they got the moonwalk, since it was only Parkes that could handle video at the time. Honeysuckle dealt with the initial audio.

That's all the film claims, in fact they make it fairly clear that Parkes was late because of the difficulty with the moon being so low in the sky.

Re:The movie is called 'The Dish' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871999)

Wrong again. Honeysuckle Creek had the capabilities to receive video and audio (in fact they had the scan converting equipment on site to transmit the received video to the world in NTSC, Parkes didn't and they had to re-transmit their telemetry signal to Sydney to be converted before going out to the world), but because Parkes had a larger *receiving* only dish their signal was stronger. Honeysuckle was a tracking station meaning it could send signals as well as receive them, Parkes was only a recieving station.

Re:The movie is called 'The Dish' (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873281)


Anyway, regardless of exactly who did what, as an elderly geek, I can recommend Mt Stromlo as a great place to visit, for anyone who is into observatories (or mountain biking for that matter), even after all the fire damage. Lots of burnt-out wreckage of old observatories to prowl around, and some newly-built. Canberra isn't my favourite place in the universe, but this was a short trip from the city that was definitely worthwhile.

Re:The movie is called 'The Dish' (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871047)

I watched the moon landing with my classmates in Sydney. At the time I thought the moon was somewhere out in the bush.

I find it rather amusing that Parkes, from where the TV signal I was watching was coming, was indeed just a few hundred miles away, in what I would have thought of as the bush at the time.

I love the film, It reminds me of my childhood. Before we lived in Sydney we had a milkman who used a horse and cart too.

Judica Cordiglias (1)

berend botje (1401731) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871739)

For a truly awe-inspiring tale of space radio receiving:

Italian [svengrahn.pp.se] brothers Judica Cordiglia [forteantimes.com]

There is also a marvellous documentary about these two guys.

That page loads so slow.... (4, Funny)

KozmoKramer (1117173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870935)

That page loads so slow. It might be running on one of the relics on display in the museum. The pics are cool.

Re:That page loads so slow.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25872659)

Not cool.

Those fuckers at CIO magazine want you to click 51 times to view 52 images so they can get 52 times as many advertisement impressions.

Ridiculously onerous websites = Just Say No.

He has PDP-7 Unix??? (4, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870937)

Back in the mid '80s, a friend of mine at Caltech, Fritz Nordby, was planning on celebrating the 15th anniversary of Unix by designing a PDP-7 clone on a chip, and making a limited production run. He contacted Ken and DMR to see if he could get a copy of PDP-7 Unix, and they said they didn't have one, and as far as they knew, no copies existed, and that was the end of the commemorative PDP-7 clone idea.

If this collector really has a PDP-7 running original Unix, someone should make a copy and offer it to Ken and DMR. Or make it available on the net (after getting suitable permission). Maybe for the 40th anniversary of Unix, someone could make a PDP-7 simulator to run it. (Hell, you could probably do it in Javascript on a modern desktop machine and be faster than a real PDP-7!)

Re:He has PDP-7 Unix??? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871359)

Maybe for the 40th anniversary of Unix, someone could make a PDP-7 simulator to run it.

Enjoy [slashdot.org] ...

Re:He has PDP-7 Unix??? (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871981)

The "Enjoy" link 404'd. This one works [aracnet.com] , for me anyways.

obligatory.... (1)

holywarrior21c (933929) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870969)

imagine beowulf cluster of this! i can finally run Microsoft Dos!

Re:obligatory.... (1)

quantumphaze (1245466) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871723)

That's great and all, but does it run Linux?...

I'm sure most geeks have a few old computers.. (3, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25870983)

...lying around the house. Problem is , while most of us of a certain age look back wistfully to times past when there was so much more variety in the computer ecosystem with cool ideas popping up left , right and centre - the truth is (and I speak from personal experience) that when on occasion you get those 8 bits or whatever out their box and fire them up you realise that actually , well, they're a bit rubbish really and computers today really are so much better. Still , its nice to preserve them , just not so much fun to use them!

I have my old zx spectrum. (4, Funny)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871029)

I showed it to my son last year. He looked at it for a moment then asked me where the dvd drive was....

There are, it seems, some things a parent is best not sharing with a child.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871063)

I know what you mean. I said "before they had mobile phones" to my daughter and some of her friends the other day. They looked at me as though I had said "before they invented the wheel"

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871075)

If you'd shown him a microdrive with its tiny little cartridge he may have been impressed! :)

Well ok , perhaps not if he's clued up on SD cards...

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (4, Interesting)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871107)

I showed it to my son last year. He looked at it for a moment then asked me where the dvd drive was....

There are, it seems, some things a parent is best not sharing with a child.

That's nothing. While explaining importance of disciplined backups to a group of freshers, I was telling this story of a screwup while upgrading hard disk. When I mentioned 'while upgrading the hard disk from 20MB to 40MB', these all freshers burst out with laughter. I somehow handled situation while saying, 'you would laugh more, if I tell the configuration of my first PC. 8088, 4.77MHz, 256KB, Dual floppy, CGA card with Monochrome Monitor'.

Sometimes difficult to explain the world we have lived with.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (3, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871151)

"these all freshers burst out with laughter."

Unfortunately that attitude seems to me to lead on to the rather flagrant waste of resources in modern software. A lot of the new coders think that because they so much resource available they don't need to make any attempt to make the program they're writing efficient in any sense - CPU, memory, disk , you name it. This also applies IMO to the fashion for compiling to VMs rather than raw machine code.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25871749)

I agree.

Just booting up my windows pc at work, I find that the OS and the programs running in the background take up a combined ~300 MB or so. Not a huge problem, of course, since there's much more RAM available, but still, it always makes me pause and shake my head.

I mean, it's ten times the size of my first hard disk. And the CPU is about 500 times as fast in terms of MHz alone, and much more than that if you consider that it also is much more efficient at crunching numbers. Hard disks are in the TB range nowadays. Yet still, it seems that nothing's really gotten faster.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (4, Insightful)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871213)

When I arrived at Penn State my dorm president gave my an old Commodore Amiga 2000HD with a 1 megabyte hard drive. I tried a couple times to reformat it to a larger size, but it stubbornly refused. So there I was, stuck with a hard drive no bigger than a floppy. Not too useful.

If some freshmen laughed at me I'd remind them that just in the time since they were born (circa 1990) to their first year of college, we've moved from 10 megahertz to 3000 megahertz, and from 1 megabyte to 4000 megabytes. Someday their "uberpowerful PC" will look pretty primitive when Intel develops 300 gigahertz Hydra-Cores with 2 terabytes of RAM. Technology moves very rapidly. (I'd also remind them that they're going to look back at their photos in ten years and laugh at themselves.)

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871545)

I think your memory is playing tricks on you.

The A2000HD came with a 50MB harddrive, it did however have 1MB ram (and the diskdrive takes 880k disks).

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871815)

No really.... it was formatted as a 1 megabyte hard drive. I don't know why my dorm president used that method, and I tried reformatting it to a larger size after he gave it to me, but without any success. I also thought maybe he had partitioned the HDD as a 1 megabyte and 19 megabyte, but I couldn't find any other partitions except the main 1 megabyte one.

It was very weird. I finally reached the conclusion that after ~10 years of student abuse in the study lounge, something had probably damaged the hard drive, or the controller, such that it couldn't see anything higher than a megabyte. I eventually gave up and sold it on Ebay.

I still have my Commodore Amiga 500, without hard drive, which is fine because the entire OS fits on a single floppy. Works great.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

eric-x (1348097) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871221)

> When I mentioned 'while upgrading the hard disk from 20MB to 40MB', these all freshers burst out with laughter.
I never understood what's so funny about the fact that computers were less powerful years ago.
Perhaps a false sense of superiorly, like as if you are using that old equipment right now.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871555)

"Superiority" is the key.

I remember back when I was a teen, we had arguments about whose computer was faster (Amiga versus Atari versus IBM) and compared CPU speeds or graphics' capabilities. It was a competitive viewpoint to demonstrate you had a bigger dick... er, machine than your peers. I imagine teens today still have the same arguments, and still try to use their computers to "one-up" the competition. When their professor discusses old technology they probably feel vastly superior to the old fossil.

"20 megabytes??? Ha! How tiny he is."

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (2, Insightful)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871281)

And you know in 20 years they will be in exactly the same position. Software and hardware will have progressed so much the youngsters will say: "what less than 20 cores?"

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

lenski (96498) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872807)

And you know in 20 years they will be in exactly the same position. Software and hardware will have progressed so much the youngsters will say: "what less than 20 cores?"

When I was in college, I worked on a PDP-8/L on the third floor, when an IBM 370/168 was running in on the (entire) fourth floor. That 370 had an 8 MHz CPU clock, 1 Mbyte core memory, 1 Mbyte of new-fangled MOS memory, and 20 disk drives adding up to about 200 Mbytes.

The Gumstix Verdex Pro [gumstix.com] has far more resources. Their new Overo Earth [gumstix.com] is even better equipped while being smaller yet. Low power, low cost, and way more powerful.

Ray Kurzweil writes in The Singularity Is Near: One could argue that the information processing capability of the most advanced life form has an unblemished record of exponential increase from day 1. That record continues today.

I believe that in 20 years, the question won't involve counting cores any more than today's questions involve core.

I am 51 and I've worked on essentially all the machines in Mr Burnet's collection. In college, I would have exchanged my soul for a PDP-11/45, but it (the soul) wasn't valuable enough! :-) :-)

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (4, Funny)

bazorg (911295) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871309)

did you explain what CGA was? and why of those 4 colours, 2 were pink and light blue?

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (2, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871821)

Now, now, you could have black, white, cyan and magenta but you could also change the palette and have black, yellow, green and brown. You could also change from 320x200 to 640x480 resolution but then you'd only get black and one color from a selection of 16. After that EGA and VGA were amazing.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873951)

My grandfather showed me how to work on radios back when Heath was big time. Heath would send us a catalog every month. When They came out with the H8 I put my pennies together. So. My first computer was a Heath H8. It was fun to build and ran HDOS "Heath DOS", Pascal and had a built in compiler. I didn't get the floppy drive add on. It was too expensive. But the tape drive worked great. It was the most fun I ever had with a computer.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (2, Interesting)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871159)

I disagree. For me pulling out my old Commodore 64 or Amiga 500 is as satisfying as firing-up the old Atari VCS, Nintendo ES, or Sega Genesis. I still enjoy playing those old 8/16 bit games, because even though they are 2-dimensional they are just as much fun as playing a Gameboy..... even the kids enjoy the old C=64 games when I hook them up.

As for productivity, well, I have experimented with GEOS 64 and text-based websurfing, and it works, the only flaw being the pace. GEOS works just great (like a black-n-white Macintosh) until you try to print something out and all you have is a dot-matrix printer. Or websurfing with a slow 2 kbit/s modem. Even so I still enjoy the nostalgia factor.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (2, Interesting)

DiLLeMaN (324946) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871223)

My 7 year old son still mightily enjoys The Great Gianna Sisters. I think he has some sort of platform fetish, because he also loves Mario Bros on the DS and SuperTux on the Mac.

Some kids will be curious about the digital past. They'll want to learn about those ancient systems, and they'll wonder how we survived. Most, however, won't give a rat's ass.

Me, I was *delighted* when I found some ancient graphics beast the size of a small filing cabinet. I don't recall the brand, but I do remember googling them; they're still in business, but they do something with flight simulators nowadays. When I found them, it was already worthless junk, but it still fascinated me.

Re:I have my old zx spectrum. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25873211)

Picture 25, 1st rack up from the bottom. Maybe you can play HIS Sega Genesis.

I have to say, I was honestly surprised to see that in there.

Re:I'm sure most geeks have a few old computers.. (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871131)

I have a few old computers lying around. The difference being they're old desktops. Nothing 'unique' about them since by that point they were made into consumer commodity machines.

1000 different variations, all of them the same.

Compared to the stuff mentioned in the article, not worth preserving. Those computers of yesteryear are more akin to gaming consoles today. Not endlessly customizable, and new revisions don't come out every week.

It's a shame (4, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871247)

It's a shame that most of these computers probably don't run any more - it's a bit like going to an aviation museum and seeing all these planes that will never fly again - it's a little bit sad. I'd love to see a museum with as much hardware *working* as possible - where you can see the blinkenlights, type something at the console, or whatever. Unfortunately, it's probably not very practical with many of these machines.

My own interest in the retrocomputing scene is the old 8 bit systems, and for those, it's very practical to play with them. The best thing about the old 8 bits is that they are fun. Modern computers, especially the ones running Windows, are no longer much fun to work on. Everything's closed up in secret recipes, EULAs, and corporate BS, and in any case there are layers and layers and layers of abstraction before you get to the hardware. Linux or BSD is of course infinitely better, and the reason I love open source software is it gives me the freedom to tinker. However, it's still extremely complex, and it can take a lot of code just to get something simple to happen - for instance, if you're making a piece of hardware, you've got to write a device driver before you can even start experimenting with your creation.

So I still love to tinker with 8 bit systems because it's fun and you can do some surprising things with them. Like, this weekend, I did streaming video on my Sinclair Spectrum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf8rz0sb298 [youtube.com] - with an ethernet card that I made for the machine.

Re:It's a shame (1)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871401)

I was thinking a similar thought. I used to work for SORD Computer in Japan, in the 1980's and it was exciting to come up with new, innovative programs.

One thing I remember was that I never had to fear a patent troll suing me over their "Method to place two or more characters next to each other on a computer display or printout".

How we have slowed to a crawl over silly software patents and corporate fear.

Cheers

Re:It's a shame (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871669)

Actually, if you bothered to go and look at the pictures, you'd have seen that many still do work.

Re:It's a shame (2, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871781)

I actually had bothered (despite the site being molasses slow), and many of them weren't actual complete computers but just front panels.

Re:It's a shame (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873449)

If they were anything like the old Burroughs machine I mentioned in an earlier post, just the power bill would be a big "ouch". That beast, plus the load from the air-conditioning it needed used to make the streetlights dim. If ever the air-con broke down, we had about 40 minutes to wind up our (batch) processing jobs before the temperature in the room got to 50 deg. C and we had to shut the machine down.

Re:It's a shame (2, Informative)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871679)

It's a shame that most of these computers probably don't run any more - it's a bit like going to an aviation museum and seeing all these planes that will never fly again - it's a little bit sad. I'd love to see a museum with as much hardware *working* as possible - where you can see the blinkenlights, type something at the console, or whatever. Unfortunately, it's probably not very practical with many of these machines.

Maybe not, but there are people who are restoring the old machines. Here is a video of a restored IBM 1401 running [right-net.com] . Their web site is here [ed-thelen.org] .

Re:It's a shame (2, Informative)

MBAFK (769131) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871849)

The Computer Museum at Bletchley Park in England (where the first programmable digital electronic computer digital computer was made) has the majority of their exhibits working and they let you play with the computers on show.

http://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/ [bletchleypark.org.uk]

Here is a Mac they had in the 8-bit room:
http://www.matthewgrove.co.uk/personal/moblog/view/2008-11-15/resized_15112008531.jpg [matthewgrove.co.uk]

Re:It's a shame (1)

cyphergirl (186872) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872611)

"It's a shame that most of these computers probably don't run any more - it's a bit like going to an aviation museum and seeing all these planes that will never fly again - it's a little bit sad."

If you're ever in the area of Addison, TX you need to see the Cavanaugh Flight Museum. It's privately owned and everything there still flies. Mr. Cavanaugh takes them out for a spin whenever he feels like it, and even flies the B-24 out to Airventure in Oshkosh most years.

http://www.cavanaughflightmuseum.com/ [cavanaughf...museum.com]

Re:It's a shame (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872709)

My own interest in the retrocomputing scene is the old 8 bit systems, and for those, it's very practical to play with them. The best thing about the old 8 bits is that they are fun.

KidBasic, a.k.a. Basic-256 might interest you.
http://kidbasic.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
http://www.salon.com/tech/feature/2006/09/14/basic/index.html [salon.com]

Re:It's a shame (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873111)

It appears most of the 8 bit personal computers do work. A lot of the DEC hardware works as well. It's the IBM mainframe stuff that's only front panels.

Who cares about these computers ? (3, Funny)

naden (206984) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871371)

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.

Re:Who cares about these computers ? (1, Insightful)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871569)

Perhaps people who are actually interested in computers?

But I understand that kids who just want an intarnetbox to access myspace would be less interested.

Re:Who cares about these computers ? (1)

NinthAgendaDotCom (1401899) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873633)

It's an inside joke and a reference to a comment made by Taco awhile back.

Re:Who cares about these computers ? (1)

d0mokun (1227718) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872177)

Whoever modded you a troll obviously had a serious humour failiure..

This museum needs a home and a benefactor(s). (5, Insightful)

speleolinux (227558) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871409)

It's a shame that CIO Magazine which goes to many business people who lead large computer companies made no mention that this museum needs help. Maybe they weren't asked, perhaps. Most of those machines will probably go to the wreckers. A few dedicated individuals maintain this museum at $1000/month out of their own pocket. Over the years of people asking for financial help and space not a single company is interested in helping to preserve this history. Nor has any Federal or State Govt come to help as they don't see that Australias track record in computing is important. Having immigrants answer a question about Don Bradman on their citizenship test is far more important. There are enough computer companies in Australia that owe so much to computer history that they should find a permanent place for this treasure and support it.

     

Re:This museum needs a home and a benefactor(s). (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871585)

"Having immigrants answer a question about Don Bradman on their citizenship test is far more important."

That question is an urban legend, it doesn't exist and it never has. Having said that, the rest of your post deserves a +5 informative.

Re:This museum needs a home and a benefactor(s). (2, Insightful)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871607)

Instead of begging for handouts, why don't you try a free market approach - CHARGE for it. If I were in this guy's shoes, I would set up displays in my basement and charge an entrance fee to tourists to "come see the history of computing".

Another possibility is to join forces with a local car museum, to see if you can borrow an empty room for your computer history display. Since people are already looking at the old cars, they're likely to have an interest in anything that's old, including computers. Don't display everything, but just pick out a few key computers that changed the course of history and charge $1 to enter the room. Perhaps have one of them (like the C=64) setup to play a game (say Arkanoid).

Most of us are engineers. We're used to solving problems. "Funding" is just another problem to be solved; be creative.

Re:This museum needs a home and a benefactor(s). (1)

dutchd00d (823703) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871653)

I didn't see much that was particularly Australian, so I'm not surprised that pitching it from that angle gets little support. But there's no doubt it has a lot of incredibly cool stuff. I'd love to have a little rummage around. I might even have one or two items to contribute. :)

Classic model railway controllers, too (1)

bears (21313) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871477)

Check out the Hammant & Morgan pair above and to the right of the Apple ///.

Two classics, a Clipper and a Duette. Both probably older than most of the computers in the collection. The man is a true connisseur.

stiffy (3, Interesting)

JohanSteyn (818168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871613)

FTFA: The first floppy disk was 9 inches in diameter and very "floppy".

At my first job in the late '80's I worked on old Honeywell TDC4500's in a petrochemical plant in South Africa. I think they stopped making those machines in 1979, but due to sanctions and budget restrictions we kept using those trusty workhorses, which used 9 inch floppies.

This was round about the time that the 3.5 inch floppy came out, which was less "floppy". In South Africa we referred to them (innocently) as "stiffies" - something that never caught on in the rest of the world...

Re:stiffy (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871845)

I used to use 8'' floppies as coasters. I could put an entire dinner plate on them. I worked with people who remembered the 5.25'' floppies but they couldn't figure out what was wrong with mine.

Re:stiffy (1)

quantumphaze (1245466) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871875)

I have seen one of those massive floppies in real life.

My high school IT teacher had one complete with it's massive drive. According to him 9 inchers were called 'flippies'

Flippy -> floppy -> stiffy

It's before my time, but still very interesting.

Re:stiffy (1)

Diag (711760) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872029)

I have seen one of those massive floppies in real life.
Until just recently, I saw one of these massive floppies almost every day. I had it pinned on the partition behind my monitor. It was right next to my 3380 disk platter, and my (much later) quote for 300GB of SCSI disk for about $USD500,000.

It was my own mini-museum of data storage.

Yeah, I'm nostalgic. *shrug*

Sidenote for anyone who knows what a 3380 was (or is interested) : I once new a guy who used a 3380 HDA [wikimedia.org] as a base for a glass coffee table.

Re:stiffy (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873637)

Yeah, I'm nostalgic. *shrug*

I'm sort of nostalgic for a time when one of the funniest things I ever saw was a small set of punch-cards containing compile parameters for a trainee programmer's FORTRAN source code.

She had an idea that she could be really organised by storing them in a ring-binder. Needless to say, those nice round punch-holes made them a bit hard for the machine to read. I'll never forget the look on her face when I just held the cards up to her and raised an eyebrow... ;-)

9 inch floppies? (1)

suso (153703) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872499)

Never heard of 9 inch floppies, is that a mistake and they meant 8 inch? I can't find anything about 9 inch floppy in a quick search on Google.

Re:9 inch floppies? (1)

JohanSteyn (818168) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872657)

Seems like they exaggerated the size... which I didn't pick up on - thanks for pointing that out.

A 3.5-inch "stiffy" is better than an 8-inch "floppy", though both are as relevant to the average computer user nowadays as a bicycle is to a fish.

52 pics of wonderment (1)

tamarik (1163) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871721)

Absolutely lovely. All those toys and no regard to specific make or model. I'd heard of ultrasonic memory but have never seen it before. The early cores were cool to look at. I see several machines turned on or at least lit up; this is unusual.

And he has a train set in there, too!?!There are no pics of this (nor his bedroom, either...) and only the one reference. Must be quite a guy to know. Old time geek! From when they used to find real bugs (moths and such) and carry around a stylus with oil in it in their breast pocket.

Wonder if he can use this old IBM 128 console? How many times have I sent jobs to the print spooler and visualized a lazy little elf just chucking it on the stack while it went to sleep... Now I see the real thing - AND IT's NOT AN ELF! Another delusion shattered.

And the last photo, of his office door plates... My 1st php project was to write a kinda ticketing system. On the output, I had to use the company directory to find the recipient's manager's email and add it to the tkt. Accidentally wrote the output heading for this datum as 'Mangaler'. In 3 years of daily use (600k tkts), only 3 folks commented on it (shows how much people actually see) and only 1 change request to get it fixed (never completed).

ahhhh. thank you for the trip down core memory lane. This may be worth the price to go visit.

CIO : Your slideshow thingee sucks (4, Informative)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871791)

I hate re-scrolling the browser after I click the 'next' or 'back' buttons for the slideshow.

pdp 8/e (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#25871963)

I have working on a lot of those systems. 30 years ago, if you couldn't recite the boot loader for the pdp 8/e you were just noob.

Re:pdp 8/e (1)

lenski (96498) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872941)

I wrote a small enhancement to the OS/8 bootloader in our 8/L (RK05) and coded "JMS" (opcode 4) instead of "JMP" (opcode 5) when doing the hand-assembly. It took several weeks to figure out why reboots resulted in system instability...

DOH! :-) :-)

Meh, I know of bigger (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 5 years ago | (#25872437)

I take it many of you have never got to a Vintage Computer Festival http://www.vintage.org/ [vintage.org] Where people bring in their home computers to show off - as an example with one this guy's computers: http://www.vintage.org/pictures/LARGE/VCF%207.0%20Exhibitor%20-%20Pavl%20Zachary.JPG [vintage.org] (it's tough being a DEC fan)

The guy who runs the Festival, Sellam Ismael (hope I spelled it right), certainly has a sizable warehouse for his collection.

The West Coast US VCF has been held at the Computer History Museum, which is truly a massive collection of computers you are not likely to see anywhere else: http://www.computerhistory.org/ [computerhistory.org]

My collection is mainly Commodore 8-bits, about 30 or so, pretty tiny.

The closest analogy I think (1)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 5 years ago | (#25873377)

I think collections like this will very soon start to become more mainstream. Consider that for decades farmers would accumulate rusting hulks of past generations of implements. At some later date those have been lovingly restored in museums or even put into a new life of use at places such as Living History Farms in Iowa. So much innovation has happened within living history that it would be a shame for that insight to be lost. Sure in most instances the new rightfully supplants the old, but an exotic cooling solution from decades past might be the cat's meow tomorrow. An understand of where we have been helps us understand where we are now.
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