Elliott 803 investigations, the ICL 2966 gets hotter and the IBM 1130 takes off its clothes

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Very much a techy weekend for the volunteers with work progressing on a number of systems - we also had some visitors!

Elliott 803 store fault investigations

Peter O and John S spent much of Saturday investigating the 2nd store fault. Peter O's new test program came up trumps and identified a faulty bit. John S suggesting moving the sensor amp to the next bit to see if the problem moved with it, and it did. The faulty sense amp was replaced and programs could now be successfully loaded into the top 4K of store and run. However... running one of the main store test programs, COM213, resulted in an occasional fault being reported. What was more worrying was the fault was showing up in the bottom 4K of store. Further investigations showed it was only failing on odd cycles but why remains a mystery. This could actually be the original fault John S saw several years ago.

Another milestone on the ICL 2966 restoration

Pete H, ably assisted by new volunteer John G, have reached another milestone. They successfully powered up the 2nd cabinet containing the main store with main backplane and all cards fitted, and it ran for over an hour. The only problem now is the amount of heat being generated and the need to keep the cabinets cool, which will need to be solved before any more cabinets can be worked on. Pete H has a cunning plan involving some wood, gaffer tape, some tubing and two fans so we will wait to see what he comes up with. They have also made some progress in getting one of the fixed disk drives working, a fall-back in case we can't read anything off the removable disk packs, but they still have a number of logic board faults to fix before it will spin up properly.

ICL 2966 in Russia

We were recently made aware of another ICL 2966 computer in existence, in St Petersburg, Russia. This is a fully operational system which was due to be scrapped at the end of June, but having expressed an interest in it, it has now been postponed until October. Pete H has been speaking with the people who currently own the system to see if it is possible to get some spares and software from them, but there is a lot of bureaucracy to get through so it could prove difficult. The Computer Conservation Society have kindly offered to fund a visit by Pete H to Russia so we are putting a formal request together to send to the Russian government in the hope that we will be able to visit.

Air conditioning again

The air conditioning system in the server area is now fully functional and not peeing all over the carpet now. Peter V, assisted by Kevin M, John G and John S drilled a new hole in the wall to take the now repositioned drain pipe and it now pees all over the garden outside.

IBM 1130 takes its kit off

Preliminary work has started on the IBM 1130 system with the removal of several covers and an initial clean out of the remnants of the now degraded sound proofing foam. We have decided to concentrate on the card reader/punch and a quick inspection saw all the rubber drive belts were present but some of the rollers had flat spots where they had remained stationary for several years. After a quick clean, the unit was manually operated very slowly and all the mechanisms appeared to function, along with all the drive belts, pulleys and cams. There is still a lot of work to do on both the mechanical and electrical areas, but considering its age, the reader/punch was in remarkable condition.

Networking kit donation

One of our volunteers has been able to source several old but usable Cisco Catalyst workgroup switches from his company as a result of it being replaced with more modern equipment. This will allow us to put a high-speed gigabit fibre network throughout the museum and help with the networking requirement of the new galleries under construction. This will also allow us to replace the now failing Newbridge ATM switches currently in use so that is one less problem we need to worry about.

Tony Sale honoured

We would all like to congratulate Tony Sale, a director and trustee of The National Museum of Computing, for being awarded an honorary doctorate by The Open University for his work on the rebuilding of Colossus. Further details can be found here.

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