67

In the 1980's a certain bank with its headquarters in Edinburgh has a problem with (IBM) disc storage that had to be kept online for live customer account information for branch and ATM machine operation that it ran out of city buildings to put the disc drives in. Yes: Not just a building, but buildings. Luckily, just after that time radical developments ...


52

Old COBOL standards were based around 80-column punched cards, and columns beyond 71 (or 72) were reserved for line numbers. They were little used, but a numbered deck, if dropped, could be sorted by a collator. Because of this, some compilers would not parse beyond a certain column (which could be 70, 71, or 72). So, in the interests of compatibility, it ...


41

Word size is not really an issue in implementing C on a given architecture. There's no requirement that C types have a power-of-two size. There's only a problem if the word size is too small, but this can be simply worked around by using multiple consecutive words to represent C types like int and long. There's a long list of C compiler implementations for 8-...


30

But I can't seem to find any pictures of a computer filling an entire room, much less a whole multi-story building. (Image taken form Centre for Computing History) Well, for example look at this picture of a 4341 setup. This is a small entry-level mainframe of ~1980. With a believable setup for such small machine with: CPU (in the middle against the 'wall'...


25

Yes, IBM System z mainframes (and their predecessors) have been using "mainframe-on-a-chip" microprocessors for a couple decades now. In 1995 I used a IBM PS/2 with an IBM System/390 Processor Card in it running MVS. It executed System/390 instructions natively, using (I believe) one of the same microprocessors used in the System/390 mainframes of the time. ...


21

The excellent history book "AN/FSQ-7: the computer that shaped the Cold War" describes the size of a 1950's era radar monitoring air defence computer. A single installation (a single computer) was built in a specially designed four-storey "blockhouse" - 74 feet high and providing 90,000 square feet of floorspace. A separate building housed the generators ...


20

Here's a picture of the "Strela" (arrow) computer (1954) Vacuum tubes, 2000 op/sec (on 43-bit fixed point), 150kWt, 300 m³


19

There is some code left over in the pcc codebase showing how the GCOS compiler (for the Honeywell/GE 6000 series) worked, it used 9-bit (ASCII, most likely) characters natively, but supported 6-bit BCD characters with `STRING` syntax for encoding them in the source. The lexer support for these string tokens can be seen at old/pcc/mip/scan.c, the strtob ...


18

What is the purpose of the yellow wired panels It's the backplane, simply the wiring of the machine. on the IBM 360 Model 20? Not just there, but next to every mainframe was made that way. Depending on planned (and ordered) production run some would get printed boards, but usually all wiring was done as wire-wrap. The -20 was sold in quite high numbers ...


17

The main computer hall of the company I worked for in the 1970s and 1980s was about half the size of a soccer pitch - about 200 feet by 150 feet. That contained three IBM S/370 mainframes at one end, and the rest of the room was packed full of disk drives, stacked up to 6 or 7 feet high with narrow walkways between, with the outside walls lined with tape ...


16

In the old days, I remember we were told to never go beyond the 70'th column in the text editor (the actual value was usually something above 70, but less than 80). [...] If it makes a difference, this was when programming COBOL. No, it doesn't, as it was more of a feature of the underlaying priciples and standards for handling punch cards. By default ...


16

On the basis that a picture is worth a thousand words, I include my scan of a punched card: As amply described in the other answers, it shows how the columns are visibly marked on the card for different purposes. It makes sense when you see a card. It makes less sense when you're using a computer display or are using paper tape!


14

Here's the computer room of the Shuttle Mission Simulator (SMS), building 5 of NASA's Johnson Space Center, in the early 1980s. Most of the boxes are parts of a Sperry-Univac 1100 mainframe, but some are "intelligent controller" satellite computers, Perkin-Elmer 8/32s. There are also some Singer-Link Flight Simulation proprietary visual system cabinets and ...


13

It seems to me that a smart terminal would need a microprocessor, so I would expect them to start showing up in the early seventies, Not really, as discrete, specialized processors could do the job even before that. When did they arrive on the scene? TL;DR: Gradually between 1964 and 1971 As with every 'first' question, the answer is rather vague and ...


12

Such rooms were not FULL in the sense of not being able to get any more stuff in them, like a storage locker might be, because you had to be able to get to the various pieces. There was room to walk between the various items, and open panels for servicing, although sometimes not very much. But they were full in the sense that almost all available, useable ...


12

@raffzahn describes object files, which are not executable. They need to be read into the linkage editor, which produces a load module. That is what CSV (the newer name of the component that loads modules and relocates addresses) loads, and then the operating system eventually branches to the entry point (not always the first byte). What you are looking for ...


11

I found the explanation in chapters 23 and 20 of Mackenzie, Charles E, Coded Character Sets, History and Development (Addison-Wesley, 1980), which was linked in a footnote to Wikipedia's ASCII article. In the early 1960s, 7-bit ASCII was being standardized as an communication format (the last I in the name comes from "interchange"), but this does not ...


10

One of the largest computers ever built was the SAGE system, built to gather information about surprise attack on the US. It filled a building. One might argue that SAGE was more than just one computer. But if you accept it as just one computer, it meets your criterion. Wikipedia Article Edit: A closer look at the Wikipedia Article shows that SAGE was ...


9

It wasn't just a Soviet thing: … This time I decided to look closely at the program deck. By now I knew just about everything there was to know about the source deck. The program deck was quite different from the source deck. To start with, it was a much smaller stack of cards. There were no letters typed on the top of the cards, and ...


9

Consider ENIAC. From wikipedia: It weighed more than 30 short tons (27 t), was roughly 2.4 m × 0.9 m × 30 m (8 ft × 3 ft × 98 ft) in size, occupied 167 m2 (1,800 sq ft) and consumed 150 kW of electricity. That's roughly building-sized.


8

A mainframe in the 1970's was not too different from today's desktop computers, except for physical size. They had a CPU, which was about the size of a refrigerator. They had disk drives, each of which were about the size of washing machines. They had I/O devices, which often ran the size of a desk. They had cooling, which was the size of a whole-house ...


8

None of these answers are guaranteed to be the first computer with the feature mentioned, but they're the first I'm aware of. Hardware interrupts. (Presumably the earliest machines didn't have these.) None of the machines of the 1940s had them. They were available on later models of the IBM 709 for IO channel events in the late 50s. The PDP-1 ...


8

That quote sounds quite chaotic. My experience about tapes (and disks) moved to/from storage in /370 installations is of orderly carts made to hold up to 50 tapes or 6-8 disk stacks, fine labelled and handled on a fixed schedule (twice daily, some places more often) by a dedicated service. No running with tapes up the arms or alike. Everything planned ahead -...


7

It depends on the configuration, but here are some specs: Console: 390 lb MCU Disk units: 480 lb MCU Card reader: 1020 lb Central computer: 8800 lb etc... NOTE: the documents below are for the Cyber-76, which was the new branding of the 7600. The 6600 became a Cyber-74, and the 6400 became the Cyber-73. As far as I know, this was a rebranding effort and ...


7

Couldn't find much on the purpose but physically those appear to be terminals that are used for wire-wrapping. You see this application used in all manner of early electronic equipment and its used to interconnect various circuits. IBM Service technicians (customer engineers or CEs) would be the ones to actually change these (not customer serviceable). ...


6

According to this site, the 3481 uses the 3270 protocol, which isn't that difficult to parse and process, but definitely not dumb. I have seen "middleman" applications that allow to use a 3270-type terminal to interact with other applications (e.g. z/OS UNIX) which expect dumb terminals, but usage is quite different from what one is used to. It shouldn't be ...


6

Arguably the prototypical smart terminal was the IBM 3270. According to this link IBM History the 3270 was first demonstrated on May 23, 1971. While the Intel 4004 was shipping already at that time, the 3270 didn't use it - and the 4004 really wasn't powerful enough to run a terminal like the 3270.


6

An interesting contemporary example is the Analog Devices SHARC 21488 and friends. sizeof(char) == sizeof(short) == sizeof(int) == 1 This is fully compliant with the C standard (But not POSIX), and given that the usual use for these parts is as special purpose audio processors the extra space for character strings is not a problem.


6

TL;DR Yes, there where sevelal professional mainframe (related/connected) devices that did use analogue recording. Most of them developed arround 1970 and used until the early 80s. The key reason to use them was cost reduction in a large volume installation and higher reliability. Where ever the low transfer speed and the serial nature of tapes was ...


6

The TI TMS34010 Graphics System Processor was capable of addressing memory in any particular transfer size you liked (2, 4, 6, 8, whatever bits). This was a natural outgrowth of its focus on graphics, where different color depths might be represented by different #s of bits per pixel. The C implementation simply deviated from the standard, and had the ...


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