Skip to comments.World’s oldest digital computer restarted
Posted on 11/22/2012 10:43:38 AM PST by Olog-hai
One of the worlds first digital computers to replace the handwritten calculations of human computors is getting an official reboot that could lead to a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.
The 61-year-old Harwell Dekatronabout the size and weight of an SUVwas originally hailed as a slow, steady machine capable of delivering error-free calculations while running for 90 hours a week. It has survived to become the oldest original working digital computer following the announcement of its completed restoration by The National Museum of Computing in the U.K. on Tuesday.
In 1951, the Harwell Dekatron was one of perhaps a dozen computers in the world, and since then, it has led a charmed life, surviving intact while its contemporaries were recycled or destroyed, said Kevin Murrell, a trustee at the museum.
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kind of cool that it still works
Yeah, but does it run Windows 8® without a hitch?
Interesting. Kinda neat to read about this from my smart phone.
Better yet, can it still stick a 1 foot floppy disk in it?
Makes my 28 year old Compaq Luggable a positive youngster by comparison.
It was paper tape, not disks.
Could be worse, you could be entering data manually in octal (fingerboning)
7500 6SN7's @ .6 amps filament current = 28.3 kw just to light up the filaments!
This was actually IBM’s first attempt at building a laptop.
Oh I dunno, the dude looks pretty cool...oh, you mean the computer!
I thought the first digital computer was the human brain linked to fingers and toes used to add things up.
Oh well, digits live forever, or until someone hits the delete button or wipes a magnet over the hard drive.
Wonder how much power it drains? The old computers used so much electricity that you could hard-cook an egg at the heat exhaust.
When I was in college I had a job tending a mainframe that required a specially air-conditioned room or it would overheat — and that computer use semiconductors. The Harwell Dekatron that was restored used vacuum tubes and would generate even more heat.
Anything that puts a frown on a greenie’s face is a good thing as far as I am concerned.
On Kadena AFB in 1970 i worked in a half acre room that was 3/4 filled with computers and hard disk stacks. The whole room was kept at , I think, 50 degrees fand the thing was never turned off. So long as it ren no tubes blew.
Yeah we pumped 48 deg cooling water.
The Philcos ran Missile Warning, Delta, 425L, Space Track and other missions (classified). We also had the bigger Philco 2000's but I can't find any pictures for them.
These were replaced with Honeywell 6080's and Level 66's starting in 1979.
Gosh, where are they all now?
I look at what you can get for under a grand now and just marvel. Heck, you can get an eight-gig thumb drive for five bucks. I still remember the first time I heard 'gigabyte' and thinking, whoa, that is a lot of data. Now you can blow that out in a minute of downloading.
My first program: “Hello, world!” written in FORGO, a two-pass cards-only compiler on the 1620 at IIT. No disk, no tape; just the external 28 KCharacter external core memory, which was a little larger than a deepfreeze. You just signed up for it for an hour at a time, walked in, and had at it.
I hope they powered it up on a variac first.
I wonder if those vertical cans on the right are covers for Strowger switches.
Under a grand? My latest laptop was $500 and it will even run Call of Duty.
Totally groovy too.
Thanks for the ping. Interesting piece of history.
You mean that it's possible for Win8 to run on something without a hitch?
nothing like banks of rows and rows of glowing leds and lots of noise as fans circulate air to cool the innards.. I was lucky enough to work on UYK-5s, core memory, tape transports, I remember bubble logic and assembly language and tape readers..
wonder if it takes long to boot? ;-}
Landed in Cam Ranh Bay August 1970...they made an announcment
they needed a programmer for an IBM something or the other.
Believe that was the first time I became aware of computers
The radio vans and radio bunkers I ended up working had to
refrigerated like those 70`s computers
UYK 20 guy here
Look at all those tubes! Man, and I thought some of my amateur radio gear had alot of tubes ......
I took my high school’s first-ever computer class in 1968. We toggled in our primitive programs on a DEC PDP-8.
I started working with computers back in 1967 after I got out of the Army. The first company I worked for, CNA Insurance in Chicago, hired me up be a control ‘clerk’ setting up jobs to run on the companies computers.
I shortly became an operator trainee and then an operator.
We had a 705 vacuum tube computer along with a fewer of the ‘newer’ 360 series machines and one 1401.
The 705 ran extremely hot and if one got too close to the vacuum tubes, they would get a nice ‘sunburn’ very quickly.
IBM had a few ‘engineers’ on site 24/7 to keep the machines running and it was fairly common to get a ‘machine check’ light on the machine when one or more of the vacuum tubes fauled. At the time of failure, an engineer would come in and replace the defective tubes and we would usually just hit the ‘start’ button and resume from where we stopped with no need to reboot.
The 705 only ran one program at a time and it was not uncommon for certain programming errors to occur and the operator would call the programmer responsible for the failed program, read some addresses off the console and get the actual machine code from the programmer and then simply restart the machine from the spot where it failed.
The 705 had dedicated air conditioning pumped directly into it to try to keep it cool. However, one day the machine actually caught on fire and had to be repaired.
I apologize for any typos, ‘Spell Check’ flagged every word as an error so I posted without it.
I toured the core memory factory in mInnesota after I got out of the service, interviewed there.. but it was on the tail end of its use in the mid70s.. I went into data cards instead.
The Marines got all the Navy hand me downs. some of the early UYKs were hugh, old fire control, trays of cards with hugh components. The UYK-5 was a lot of small circuit cards.
UYK-7s were the latest when I left and looked pretty slick, could have shipped over and worked with them, opted to go civvie instead and ended up working on a bunch of minis and micros , mainframe and servers in the SillyCon Valet parking lot over the years.. talk about shrinkage. lol
uhh,, I meant miniaturization of components and devices. a pocket spy pen now has more computing power than a space shuttle control computer. :-]