Elliott 803 investigations continue, more ICL 2966 progress and a few antiques
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Another busy weekend for the volunteers as we were able to open on Saturday and Sunday - Thanks to all those who gave up their time.
Elliott 803 store fault
Peter O spent much of Saturday developing a PIC based hardware monitor to try and help discover why the top 4K store is failing with a parity error sometimes. He has made very good progress and he hopes to have a fully working 'capture' system working very soon. This will hopefully get him further in identifying what is causing the problem.
ICL 2966 takes a major step forward
Pete H has been making very good progress on restoring the ICL 2966. I will let him explain the current progress...
"Alasdair Lewis from Fujitsu came in on Saturday and we defined a primary configuration strategy to aim for with the hardware we have working to date. Our initial boot will be an engineering pack (minimal OS with test and exercise routines) from an EDS80 which will exercise everything we want. The three cabinets which make up the processor, store and peripheral interfaces are powered up with all interconnect cabling finished. Interface cabling to two EDS80's and operator command console are done, with relevant channel numbers selected and connected to. Getting very close to a test boot !! then the previously working ops console has packed up with what seems like a basic monitor failure, something is displayed but has no vertical sync. Watch this space."
We certainly will be watching in anticipation... This is a very exciting time both for Pete and the rest of the volunteers. Pete has spent the best part of a year on this project so it will certainly be a champagne popping moment when the system finally boots. Its not yet known what the problem is with the operator console so, frustratingly, it may be a little while yet before Pete is able to try the first boot in over 18 years!
Networking at the speed of light!
After testing the Cisco Catalyst switches during the week, the decision was made to swap out the failing Newbridge based network for the Cisco kit. The switches were fitted into the racks at both ends of the building and the fibre connection switched over to it and we got a green light. All the other cat5 cables were then moved over to the new switches and the network was operational again, but his time we had a full Gigabit fibre connection instead of the 155Mbs ATM used by the Newbridge. There was certainly a noticeable difference in the speed of the display screens in the museum. The next step is to connect up the main server using a Gigabit link (it is currently connected at 100Mbs) when we are able to source a cat5 Gigabit media adapter for the Cisco switch.
On Sunday, Bletchley Park hosted the Antiques Roadshow and had an estimated 3500 visitors during the day. All the regular valuers were there along with Fiona Bruce, who did interviews with Simon Greenish (showing the Enigma machine), and some of the original code-breakers who worked there during the war. We even had a fly past by a WW2 Spitfire. And just to add to the atmosphere, Kevin B created an Antiques Roadshow theme tune program for the Elliott 803, which was playing during the afternoon, along with the theme tune from Steptoe and Son - very appropriate Kevin!
Houston... the Eagle has landed
Thursday is the 40th Aniversary of the first moon landing when Apollo 11 lifted off with those 3 now famous astronauts; Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and that other bloke! (Michael Collins for those who don't remember - which is most of us - he was in the command module). What has this to do with anything you may ask.. well, what many did not realise was without a box 1 foot square, the whole mission would not have been possible by the end of 1969. The box in question was the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) used on the lunar lander. This was 1960s technology when core store was the main type of memory available and they managed to squeeze 76KBytes of storage into that box along with the computer logic itself (using integrated circuits for the first time), with the program being hard wired in the core store by 'little old ladies'. More details about this amazing achievement can be found in the BBC website article here.