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United Kingdom Technology

Last Operating ICT 1301 Mainframe Computer Set To Run Again 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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Last Operating ICT 1301 Mainframe Computer Set To Run Again

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    • by bobthesungeek76036 ( 2697689 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:01AM (#45162193)
      With 12KB of memory I would think it would have a wee bit of trouble loading the kernel...
      • 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.

        • Strange as it might seem, the correct answer to every computing related question isn't always Linux.
          • You don't do something like that to be useful. You do it to see if you can.

            • 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.

            • by Anonymous Coward
              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?
          • 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.)

      • by gb7djk ( 857694 ) * on Friday October 18, 2013 @06:30AM (#45162777) Homepage
        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.
      • 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 19

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      "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.

    • 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.

    • 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).
      • 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.

      • by gb7djk ( 857694 ) *
        George 2 ???? George 3 for me! That's what Galdor moved onto after Flossie left and we moved on ICL 1905Fs.
    • Of course it runs netBSD.

  • by lxs ( 131946 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:20AM (#45162273)

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

  • Get a room (Score:5, Funny)

    by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @05:23AM (#45162497) Homepage

    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.

    • "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 ques

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

    • 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @07:57AM (#45163117)

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

    your mom.

  • 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)
  • Imagine a Beowulf cluster of these!

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"