An ICL system 25 arrives, the Elliott 803 has a day off and a request for information

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More news and goings on (and off!) at the museum over the past 2 weeks...

ICL system 25 - what do you mean it's on the 1st floor and you have no lift!

Several weeks ago one of the museum volunteers spotted a system being offered for sale on E-bay. It appeared to be a complete ICL system 25 including processor, dual EDS80 disk drives and a line printer. This was considered a rare find so after a few phone calls, a visit by Kevin M to see it and a kind donation from the ICL pensioners organisation, the museum was able to purchase the system to add to it's collection.

The following weekend, Kevin M, Delwyn, Johan and Peter V volunteered to go and fetch it (it was only about 20 miles from the museum). Initially the thoughts were to use several cars to transport it but having checked the size of the systems and their weights, it was clear a van and car were needed. So with Kevin and Johan in the van and Delwyn and Peter in a Land Rover they set off.

On arrival, the first of many problems that day surfaced... The equipment was on the 1st floor and the building had no lift! (It soon became apparent this was the main reason why it was never scrapped), the disk drive cabinet was too heavy to carry, the printer had a large motor and transformer and was also too heavy to lift, the processor cabinet, while possible to lift with 4 people, had no wheels. And finally the van had no tail lift (the one originally ordered did but did not arrive back in time to the rental company). We won't be back for lunch!

Undaunted, Delwyn set about dismantling the 2 EDS80 disk drives and they were carried down the stairs to the van. Johan dismantled as much of the printer as possible and this was man-handled by 5 people down the stairs one step at a time and out the main entrance - this took over 1/2 hour and we still did not know how it would get into the van. The processor cabinet had it's covers removed and it was very carefully carried down the stairs, again one step at a time and into the van. All the documentation (5 boxes), the cables and the 6 disk packs were loaded into the Land Rover. The last remaining job was getting the printer into the van and our bacon (and backs) were saved by the seller saying... "I'll just get our fork lift truck from the factory and it can put the printer in the van for you". 5 mins later we were all loaded up and all totally knackered! Thankfully we had plenty of helpers at the museum so unloading and re-assembling was much easier and quicker. Well done guys... you certainly earned your beers at the pub after closing time.

Elliott 803

The Elliott 803 had been working well for several months.... until last Thursday, when at 15:10 the CPU decided to turned itself off. Not knowing why, Tony F closed it down and left it to be looked at at the weekend. However, we had an important group of visitors from Holland in the museum on Friday and it would have been a shame if the 803 was not able to be demonstrated to them. On advice from John S, Kevin M was instructed to attempt to power the system on one time only and fortunately it did turn on at the first attempt and it ran successfully for the visitors. However later in the afternoon it turned itself off again so something was clearly wrong.

Saturday arrived, and the system was started up OK by Peter O so it was not a failed fuse. Investigations then continued... Over temperature seemed to be a likely cause and John W suggested checking the fans were all operating. A check showed two of the fans in the CPU cabinet were not spinning; clearly the 803 was now doing it's bit for global warming by not running all it's fans!

After powering down, both fans were removed, cleaned and lubricated but a motor in one had failed so needed to be replaced. After a sort search of the spares, Peter O located a fan he had donated to the museum last year. It was tested and serviced before being placed into the CPU cabinet. It was a slightly different model of fan to the faulty one and John S remembers it being the type that Elliotts provided to their field engineers to replace fans that had failed. It spins faster, moves more air, and makes more noise!

Hopefully that will be the end of the automatic shut-downs, but with the likelihood of other fans failing, external temperature sensors are being looked at to try and warn of future overheating problems.

IRIS air traffic control

We are sure that IRIS is feeling neglected because after many months of faultless operation the resident air traffic control system, originally at West Drayton, has started to play up again. This is a new fault where the 2 PDP 11/34 processors responsible for driving the 2 radar screens are failing to load their programs, rendering the system unusable. Investigations are continuing as to the cause so the system is unfortunately out of action for the foreseeable future until Peter V is able to fix it.

Computer Weekly archive

Having hinted at this in the last blog we have now received an almost (see below) complete and nicely bound archive of Computer Weekly magazine covering nearly all of it's 40 years of publication. This is a really nice addition to our ever expanding Museum archive and offers an insight into the computing industry and related subjects over a long period of time.

However.... the archive is not complete so the following is a request from our archivist, Brian A

"Unfortunately, there are a few gaps. Consequently the Museum is seeking any copies of Computer Weekly from 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1977, 1981, 1999, 2001 and 2004 to 2010, in order to make this very valuable computer history archive complete. A tall order, I know, given that there are 52 issues of Computer Weekly per year, but all contributions will be gratefully accepted."

So time to search the loft to see what you have.... If anyone is able to help with this request please contact us with details of what you have.

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