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Mainframes arrived in the 1950s. They are still with us!
Since the advent of the PC, the imminent demise of "big iron" has been predicted, but they are still here - alive and well in the cloud. The Museum's largest computer, the huge ICL 2966 of the 1980s, is coming back to life and there is a Marconi TAC from the late 1950s.
TAC - Transistorised Automatic Computer from around 1958/60
This is one of the more unusual systems we have on display. Contained within four large cabinets and a control desk, it was one of the first transistorised computers made in the UK. Ours was used as a monitoring system for a nuclear power station. It gave sterling service for many years from its installation in the early 1960s to finally being decommissioned in 2004 - that's over 40 years! That is amazing considering the technology being used. It was kindly donated to the museum.
ICL 2966 from around 1985/7
This is by far the largest system we have on display at the museum, taking up almost a third of the floor space in the large systems gallery. What is more surprising is that we did not actually have room for all of it.
This system uses a lot of power - you can't run this from a 13A plug - so we had to have a separate mains supply fitted to enable the restoration to continue. At least we know that on cold winter days the large systems gallery will probably be the warmest room in the museum (assuming our resident ICL Mr fixit can get it going!)
The system itself was used up until 1999 at TARMAC, who after having decommissioned the system, donated it to the museum where it was put in storage. It was not until late 2007 that we had enough floor space to put it out on display and it certainly is impressive to see.
The long and difficult process of restoring the system to full working order is now well under way. We are lucky to have help and advice from the ICL/Fujitsu engineer who maintained the system during it's working life at TARMAC and actually decommissioned it.
Restoration work takes place on most Saturdays.
You can follow the latest technical developments in restoring the ICL 2966 computer here.