'It's' nearly here, Elliott 803 tape reader investigations and another BBQ

Post this page to popular social media

Work on revamping the workshop continues at a pace and the electronic office goes dark and gains additional walls.

Workshop clearance

The area designated for the new system has had all the walls painted and re-wiring done by Tony F and others during the week. Thursday is the day when the new system arrives from Birmingham and a number of volunteers will be there to see it arriving and to help carry the system to its new home. We are also expecting the BBC and other TV/Radio companies to be on hand to see it.

Electronic Office revamp

During the week the remaining ceiling and light fixtures were removed, the windows boarded up and partitioning installed to convert the room into four sections. This is just the start of 4 weeks of intensive work to convert the room in time for the October school term.

Elliott 803 paper tape reader maintenance

Peter O spent most of Saturday with his head and hands stuck in the paper tape reader. It's reliability has been getting worse over the past few months so it was time for it to be serviced and adjusted. Once the covers were off and some of the mechanism inspected it was soon clear that wear and tear was playing a part in the problem. After a few adjustments and a bit of trial and error Peter O managed to get the reader working more reliably and he was able to read both large ALGOL compiler tapes in without problems. On Sunday, Kevin B started the system up and was able to read in a music tape after 5 mins rather than the 2 hour wait the Saturday before, so it looks like it is OK for a while. To improve it further, John S suggested replacing the guide rollers which had worn far beyond their expected specs so this should be done in the next few weeks.

Shut the 803 down... something is burning!

During the tape reader maintenance a sudden paper burning smell was detected by Peter O and the Elliott 803 quickly shut down. Several of the volunteers spent the next 10 minutes looking over and smelling various parts of the 803 to try and discover where the burning smell was coming from. Doors were opened, bins emptied but no sign of any problems were discovered. The smell was stronger near the paper tape station but again nothing was found. Peter O then checked the scope being used for checking the reader and the smell was there, but very faint. The scope was taken into the lab and with Peter V holding an extinguisher just in case, the scope was switched on again and the burning smell returned. We were all sure it was the 803 but turned out to be the only item we least expected to fail. Oh well!

Elliott 803 ALGOL compiler and a temperamental store

For the first time in many, many years, having now fixed (almost) the 2nd 4K store, it was possible to load both ALGOL paper tapes into the system and compile a test program. This was a major milestone so well done Peter O. I say the store was almost fixed... while it did function normally for a while, it did start to generate parity errors again. On further investigation it appeared to correspond sometimes with closing the rear door panel of the second store. It looks like something may be shorting when the panel is fully closed. Several years ago the rubber seal on the panel had been removed due to it falling apart, and together with a slight dent in the panel may be causing it to close too far and make contact with other metalwork. Further investigations will be needed to confirm this next week, but with the panel open, the store was working without error.

Volunteers association AGM

As well as all the other activity going on on Saturday, we also found time for our volunteers association annual general meeting. We spent almost 2 hours doing the usual AGM activities including the Chairman's Statement (John S) who gave a round up of what we had done over the past 12 or so months - it was a lot more than most had realised!, Treasurers statement (Ben) with the grand total of £96.20 in the kitty (most of the expenses are now covered by TNMOC so this is mainly coffee/drinks money now), and discussing various items on the agenda. John S was unanimously voted in to continue as chairman for another year with new people voted in for deputy chair (Johan), secretary (Peter O) and treasurer (Barney). It was a very constructive meeting.

Volunteer BBQ

After a very busy Saturday, it was time to man the burning charcoal for our second BBQ of the year. It was a bring a bottle affair with Lin organising the food and Peter V cooking it (with a little help from Barney!). With a turn out of over 25 we all had a good time. The only minor issue was it got rather cold towards the end but the BBQs were put to good use after all the food was cooked to keep everyone warm (who could actually get to them!).

So a really eventful week but we are all looking forward to next Saturday when we can all see the new system.


So the story is out... the Harwell Decatron Computer arrived on Thursday to much press coverage. Another added attraction to the ever growing TNMOC.

Support us

The Museum has not received government or Lottery funding, so your help is needed.

Become a member »
Make a donation »
Become a volunteer »
Sponsor us »

Latest Tweets Follow