The big equipment move, the 2966 is reluctant to play and other project news
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Here is a summary of what has been happening in the museum over the past few weeks.
ICL 2966 is reluctant to run
After getting the console working several weeks ago it was thought that it would not be long before some of the main system became operational. Unfortunately things have not progressed as quickly as expected with many of the backplane controller cards failing. They have already exhausted all the spares for the DCU from what was supplied with the system and the other 2 un-needed DCU cabinets. There have also been more PSU failures and Phil H now has 4 or 5 PSUs which he is trying to fix. In addition the main blower fan bearings have started to fail but replacement bearing have been found.
So the investigation has now got down to board level IC fault finding with Delwyn designing and building a PIC based testing card to help speed up fault investigation and fix. This are even more complicated (if they aren't already) by ICL using their own IC identifying marks, so finding out what the chips being used actally are is slowing down the process. So it looks like it may be some time before we have a working system. Keep plugging away guys, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Big equipment move
Storage of donated equipment is an on-going logistics nightmare for us considering the museum has been accepting donations from small hand held calculators to large mainframes over the past 15 years. As we have opened up more galleries the space available for the donations has been decreasing to the point where we had almost no more room. Adding to the fact that we have a number of new galleries opening soon it became apparent that we needed to free up more space in the museum. So the past few weeks has been spent planning a major equipment move from the museum to another storage building on the Bletchley Park site. Due to the size and amount of equipment being moved a local removals company was hired and no less that 5 full 7.5 ton lorry loads of equipment was moved out. This has been very had work and thanks goes to all the volunteers for helping box up all the smaller items and help shift many larger items.
The result has been a major improvement in the space available to the museum and it will allow us to open up more areas for general public access and to make plans for some new galleries.
Progress on the Harwell computer
Slow and steady progress is being made on the Harwell computer. Rather than repeating and summarising the progress you can see a more detailed account of what has been happening on the projects page.
IRIS air traffic control
After running fine for a few hours the RDI fault returned so it was time to change another board. This time Peter V changed one of the boards in the top RBEG PDP 11/84 to see if the fault was actually caused by the RBEG or the BEG. This was then left until the following weekend and within a few hours the fault had returned again. The big move and other stuff has meant Peter V has not had time to fix it yet, but hopefully the problem will be identified and fixed very soon.
Educational and commercial visits are on the increase
One of the aims of the museum is to establish ourselves as a resource for local schools and colleges to use when teaching IT and we are please to say that the number of school parties that have arranged to visit us, and Bletchley park, is on the increase to the point where we are often getting 1 or 2 visits each week. Thanks to Derek and Sheridan for organising and taking the various school parties around the museum. We hope to expand the resources available over the next 6 months.
We have also had an increasing number of bookings for private companies and clubs over the past few months who have organised conferences and club meetings, each of which also includes a private viewing of the museum. This is also a way in which additional funding for the museum can be obtained and we hope to expand this in the near future.
Other project updates
The fitting out of the new gallery showing the history of packet switching is going well with many of the display boxes and poles for the display boards already in place. Tony F has almost completed putting together the equipment we are going to show. It is really starting to come together and should be an exciting new gallery to visit when it is open.
The revamp of the electronic office is continuing with painting and wallpapering about to start. We still have a long way to go but the overall concept is pretty much complete but I can't say too much or it will spoil the surprise when it opens.
Visitor numbers increasing
We are seeing an ever increasing number of visitors to the museum on the days we are open, which is a very good sign. We are also seeing many people re-visiting several times both to see more of the park and to bring family and friends to the computer museum so we must be doing something right. Once again it is down to the dedication of the volunteers that the museum is such a success so the trustees would like to formally thank all those who are helping to make our museum an exciting and educational place to visit. Well done all.