IRIS is working again, a new gallery is open and other activities
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Things have been pretty quiet museum wise, although visitor numbers are still high, so here is a round-up of some of the activities in the past two weeks
The big move is almost complete
After several weeks of graft we have almost completed the relocation of a large amount of equipment to a storage area in another building. Kevin M has been doing a sterling job emptying the 85 storage crates we filled during the week as time allows. This has made a huge difference to the space we have in the museum and allowed us to concentrate on getting some new galleries open rather than moving stuff around all the time. Storage space is still a major issue for us as we get new equipment and donations every week which is more than can ever be on display. We are still looking for free additional storage space so if anyone can help in this respect we would be very grateful.
Work is still progressing but at a slower pace than recent weeks. The main issues are to do with the failed cards, which are proving difficult to diagnose and fix, and there are a lot of failures. Phil H is still working on and fixing the 5 failed power supply units, so it is likely to be some time before we have any news on getting the system operational.
Elliott 803 gets a new interface
The system has been running very well over the past few weeks with no sign of the parity or memory faults reported previously. Peter O is currently working on building an interface card for the 803 and a PIC based interface controller to simulate a 2nd tape reader and punch. Peter has hunted through our spare boards but has not found the necessary interface card so will have to build one from scratch - which will be a first for him. The goal is to be able to load paper tape images from a PC via the tape reader emulator and store the output from the punch interface to PC disk and show the output on the PC screen via teleprinter simulator. This will mean there is less wear and tear on the reader and punch which are starting to make a few 'warn bearing' noises, although John S assures us he has seen many tape readers like this and never had a problem for years.
New 'Scientific' gallery opens on a temporary basis
With a bit of system shifting and re-organising we have managed to arrange the systems in a new gallery into some sensible layout and opened it on a temporary basis last weekend. The working title for the gallery is 'Scientific' although this may change when it is completed and it is very much work in progress. The gallery consists of many of the larger systems from DEC, Prime, Sun, Alpha and Cray and allows visitors to see how big some of the early minicomputers were. It is currently a static display but over time we aim to get as many of the systems working as possible (noise and power permitting!). We are still looking for possible sponsors for this gallery to show it off at it's best, but for now we feel it is important to make the systems viewable in their current condition.
IRIS is fixed (maybe)
IRIS is working again... although the jury is still out whether the problem has finally been found. Peter V has spent the past few weeks replacing various cards in the two PDP 11/84 systems trying to isolate the fault with the RDI (Radar Data Interface). The difficulty being the fault could occur after a few minutes or a few days, making progress very slow and frustrating. The current situation is all the original boards are back in the system after changing all those associated with the RDI and the fault remaining. After much head scratching and discussions with others, Peter finally decided to remove all the boards from both PDP 11/84s, clean all the end connectors and card slots and refit the cards. Since this was done, the system has been on 4 or 5 times for the full day without any problems being seen so hopefully the problem has been fixed. Nice work Peter.
Wok continues apace with Tony F, Jo and others making progress on the WITCH computer power supply units and relays. More details on the progress can be found on the projects page.
Projects and other things
The fitting out of the history of packet switching gallery (which may yet be renamed) is almost complete by Bex and it is looking really good. This is a major milestone in the gallery construction but we still have a lot of work to fit it out with equipment and display boards. Decorating the corridors around the new gallery is also under way as is layout out additional displays for visitors to see once it is open.
The Electronic Office refit is making steady progress. Painting and decorating is about to start shortly after which fitting out the exhibits will start. We still have a lot of work to do here but it is starting to take shape.
One of the main reasons for moving our stored equipment out of the main museum building was to enable us to clear out a room which we hope to turn into a much larger museum shop. This is still in the early planning stage but decorating and fitting out should start in the next few weeks as volunteers and free time become available.
Change in opening times
In line with the winter opening times of the Park, the museum will now be open between 1pm and 4pm on Thursdays and Saturdays and where possible bank holidays.