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Last Operating ICT 1301 Mainframe Computer Set To Run Again

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the antique-computing dept.

United Kingdom 56

Zothecula writes "What weighs 5.5 tons and has less computing power than your watch? A pioneering piece of computing history call 'Flossie,' the last operating ICT 1301 mainframe. The National Museum of Computing recently took delivery of the dismantled computer, which needed three moving vans to bring it to the museum's storage facility in Milton Keynes, UK. Rod Brown, custodian of Flossie for the past decade, said: 'Flossie has had an extraordinary life -- or more precisely four lives. After it was decommissioned at the University of London in about 1972, it was purchased at scrap metal prices by a group of students who ran an accounting bureau for about five years. They then advertised it in Amateur Computer Club Magazine and it was bought — again at scrap metal value. After languishing for a period in a barn in Kent, it was restored with the help of the Computer Conservation Society. Visitors could then come and see, smell, and feel the vibrations of a remarkable 1960's computer. Last year, Flossie was again at risk of being scrapped, but thanks to The National Museum of Computing the machine is safe again. The team and I are delighted with this news — especially because TNMOC has such an outstanding track record of restoring computers and maintaining them in full working order. We look forward to the day that it can go back on display.'"

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So, does it run Linux? (0)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about a year ago | (#45162111)

n/t

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162181)

No

Re:So, does it run Linux? (3, Informative)

bobthesungeek76036 (2697689) | about a year ago | (#45162193)

With 12KB of memory I would think it would have a wee bit of trouble loading the kernel...

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#45162291)

Linux has been run on 64k micros. Getting it down to 12k would be fiddley, yes. Extensive parts would need to be rewritten. But... it might just be doable.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about a year ago | (#45162345)

Strange as it might seem, the correct answer to every computing related question isn't always Linux.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#45162493)

You don't do something like that to be useful. You do it to see if you can.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45162673)

OK, let's find 5 lines from the Linux kernel and recompile them for this architecture.

Linux is not the pragmatic but lean&mean beast it once was. It suffers the same problem as every big project: a cadre of developers so intimately familiar with the system that adding bits here and there fits neatly into their already excellent understanding, while to newcomers it just raises the barrier to entry.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45163049)

Like landing a few test pilots in rubber suits on the Moon. I agree. But after you do it, you don't keep thinking about it do you?

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45172693)

Like landing a few test pilots in rubber suits on the Moon. I agree. But after you do it, you don't keep thinking about it do you?

Well, the Chinese are thinking about it. Maybe that means something in this respect.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45163057)

Strange as it might seem, the correct answer to every computing related question isn't always Linux.

You can always use the Forth, Luke! (Especially on very small systems.)

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162651)

Linux has been run on 64k micros

No, it hasn't.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45162713)

http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2012/03/30/linux-atmel-microcontrollers/1 [bit-tech.net]

well, yeah. it hasn't. since the port needs external memory module..

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45163187)

It's an AtMega emulating an ARM and requires extra hardware. If we're going to get into the fact that Turing Machines are a thing, then the entire argument is pointless: *I* could "run" the Linux kernel, with enough pencils and paper...

Re:So, does it run Linux? (5, Informative)

gb7djk (857694) | about a year ago | (#45162777)

It does not have "12KB" of ram. It has 2K of 48 bit words. Each word can contain 2 instructions. It is a decimal machine so each word can contain 12 digits. It also has (only) one accumulator (of 12 digits). Whilst this particular example has an indexing mechanism (actually a "pre-modify" instruction) which was added from a 1302, the standard way of indexing is by using "live code" i.e. doing arithmetic on the code on fly. The "2 instructions per word" structure actually makes this very easy to do. It was designed in the late 1950s and built in 1961. One can program it in machine code (very easy instruction set), an assembler, various obsolete specialist languages and, of course, COBOL. There is no C compiler. Flossie is very musical. She can play many tunes.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162877)

From TFA: "... It was built by International Computers and Tabulators (ICT) and had a clock speed of 1 Mhz, 12 kb in the main memory and 72 kb in each of eight magnetic storage drums for a total of 576 kb..."

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45163073)

"kb"? kilobits? If it's a word-adressing machine, it might not even have bytes in the first place!

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162993)

So it has 2048x48bits=98304 bits, which is 12288 bytes of 8 bits each. All your statements after your first two sentences have nothing to do with your first two sentences.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45163079)

The point is that "byte" is what the architecture defines it to be, and some architectures don't have bytes at all.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45163155)

Yes, but when you are writing an article for a large audience ....

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45165221)

You calling us fat?

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#45163717)

Right, moreover people unfamiliar with computing history very frequently underestimate the degree to which computer architecture has changed over the last three decades in particular. To give but one example: our current 8/16/32 (and now 64) bit word system, with each related to the other, is a concept that was pioneered with the IBM System/360, but wasn't standardized until the rise of the mass produced microprocessor as the standard processing unit for all computers, a process that started in the late 1970s and ended in the late 1980s (it wasn't an overnight change!)

The Linux kernel is based around an expectation of how certain computing concepts should work. It is almost certainly possible to port it to the IBM System/370, but it'd surprise many here how many of the 370's peers would be physically incapable of running it outside of an emulator for a more suitable architecture.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162241)

If it did, it wouldn't be worth saving.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45162405)

"Flossie will remain in storage against a time in the near future when, space permitting, the mainframe computer will be reassembled and set to running again."

it doesn't run at all currently.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162645)

No. I know the 1900 series ran an OS called george [wikipedia.org] , but I'm not entirely certain of the OS on the 1300 series. For those interested, this is a fairly long (and at times mind numbingly dull) history of ICL from the perspectives of ICL employee's [shedlandz.co.uk] , featuring lots of liquid lunches at the pub.....

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

Christian Smith (3497) | about a year ago | (#45162805)

It doesn't even run binary arithmatic. The whole thing works in decimal units (using a 4 bit ALU) and does pounds/shilling/pence in hardware. Hence why it was originally retired in 1972 (when the UK currency went decimal) I guess.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about a year ago | (#45162849)

Why would you want to run Linux on an ICL mainframe. The real question is "Will it run George 2?" (or, for those who like GUIs, Maximop? (Minimop if you live in East London).

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45163069)

Or even Exec 2S and Minimac on a 2904 - That's how I started in the IT business. Get off my lawn, etc. etc.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#45164891)

Lawn? I used an ICL 1903T. The 2904 was the wrong colour.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#45164875)

No, It won't run George (1, 2, 3 or 4) as it isn't an 1900.

(A Rasbery PI can run George 3 though).

And Maximop is a CLI based system, not GUI.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

gb7djk (857694) | about a year ago | (#45173471)

George 2 ???? George 3 for me! That's what Galdor moved onto after Flossie left and we moved on ICL 1905Fs.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about a year ago | (#45163469)

Of course it runs netBSD.

Re:So, does it run Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45164019)

Not likely. It's a strange architecture, with 48-bit 12-decimal digit words. Three digits per character. No bytes. No byte addressing. No base registers or memory protection. No stack. Decimal addresses from 0000 to 9999 only. A weird drum controller that relocates the addresses in the code when transferring it to memory. Kinda makes it hard to port a C compiler to it.

Nostalgia is for wusses (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162253)

Come on, stop looking back at the past. Look forward and move on! Who cares about a good-for-nothing relic from the Dark Ages.

Re:Nostalgia is for wusses (-1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#45162409)

Who cares about a good-for-nothing relic from the Dark Ages.

But that's enough about Islam

Re:Nostalgia is for wusses (-1, Troll)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about a year ago | (#45162429)

Don't talk about your mommas pussy like that.

Less computing power than my watch? (3, Insightful)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#45162273)

I doubt it. My watch has only a crystal oscillator with a fixed frequency divider in it.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (1)

troon (724114) | about a year ago | (#45162329)

I'm wearing a 1956 manual wind Longines. I'm pretty sure it cannot "compute" anything.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (3, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45162823)

It can surely increment a counter...

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45164631)

It can.

And don't call me Shirley.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45165255)

I wasn't planning on calling you, and my name's not Shirley.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45162765)

Exactly. I grow tired of these fallacious comparisons.

"had a clock speed of 1 Mhz, 12 kb in the main memory and 72 kb in each of eight magnetic storage drums for a total of 576 kb."

" Its main memory came in increments of 400 words of 48 bits"

That's quite a watch.

Why denigrate the past? It's bad enough a large subset of the geek population thinks we only have computers because of space, then they go around making ridiculous comparisons.

"My watch has only a crystal oscillator with a fixed frequency divider in it."

How do you set the time? I think there's a bit more than that in there, but still.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#45164367)

How do you set the time?

I turn a wheel on the side. That slowed down clock pulse ends up in a solenoid which drives the hands through a mechanical gear train like in a spring driven watch.I suspect that there's a friction coupling involved somewhere.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#45164519)

Mine is fully mechanical...but it's Russian so it only works right in cold weather. I live in Texas.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45165671)

Shhh. Don't tell anyone about those or their prices will skyrocket, and i want to get a few more first.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (1)

operagost (62405) | about a year ago | (#45169331)

Well, I'm sure someone here has a Galaxy Gear.

Re:Less computing power than my watch? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45186117)

Perhaps the OP is wearing a samsung galaxy gear watch...

Get a room (5, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#45162497)

come and see, smell, and feel the vibrations

Sure, when it's a computer it's okay, but try that with the exercise bikes in the women's gym and suddenly you're branded a pervert.

Re:Get a room (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45162693)

"Perversion", like "envy", describes something which may in fact be positive, neutral or negative, but which thanks to hypocritical puritanism nearly always comes with negative connotations. Their original words were respectively tied up in, "Don't stray from the Official (Church) message, heathen!" (do not be perverse) and, "Don't complain about your lot - God will reward your suffering after death!" (do not be envious)

We have the same two messages even in more secular society, respectively as: do not question the basis of authority; your struggle is virtuous and it's your fault anyway so suck it up.

Re:Get a room (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#45162835)

That's because the first word there is premature... Put it after the last one, and we're in business.

Re:Get a room (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45163121)

try that with the exercise bikes in the women's gym and suddenly you're branded a pervert.

And you wonder why? Watching 5.5 tons work an exercise bike? That just screams "pervert". (Or "bizarre fetishist" at the least.)

proper answer (4, Insightful)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year ago | (#45163117)

What weighs 5.5 tons and has less computing power than your watch?

your mom.

Re:proper answer (1)

hochl (759409) | about a year ago | (#45164675)

Clearly the answer must be "most women from North America" ;)

Re:proper answer (1)

Lisandro (799651) | about a year ago | (#45165277)

Give this man his prize. You know he earned it.

Milton Keynes, eh? (2)

Michael Casavant (2876793) | about a year ago | (#45163161)

Is this how the FIA is going to limit Red Bull Racing next year? "The only computer you can use is this one" (Adrian Newey will still make it work)

This fP for GNAA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45163215)

and tHe striking

(clears throat) (1, Informative)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year ago | (#45164801)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!
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