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  • #16
    Originally posted by RoChess View Post

    Worked for Royal Dutch Phone company in the early 90ties, and was part of the AT&T/Philips ESS-5 group, which replaced all those old Dutch mechanical stepper switches for the electronic version, and from one of the centrals I helped convert I got one of the stepper switches, looked like:
    Click image for larger version

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    Had some interesting talk with those maintaining them, and a lot of curse words were part of that conversation indeed.

    And to think that only took care of a single digit.

    They used bikes to ride through the building section that contained all those switches for a "city", whereas it was all replaced by a few ESS-5 racks.

    Buying one from eBay is not the same to me as having the one I tore out myself, but it was nice to be reminded on them by your post on history.
    Yup, that's the evil switcher

    Luckily, it was a small switch in a small town in Wyoming, so other than making a lot of noise (and maintenance) it didn't require any ladders
    Was soon replaced by an ESS as well once they started to lay fiber (many of the Railroads here in the US were some of the first to install it since they had so much right-of-way.. , ie SPRINT (Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications))..

    Z

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    • #17
      Originally posted by vasrc View Post

      Very cool. How was the data distributed afterwards? Any used for real time or printed reports to individual departments?

      That was a bit before my time. I worked mostly with DEC PDP and VAX systems (Pipeline SCADA control)

      Z
      Data distribution depended on lots of variables. For launches from Vandenberg AFB, we could pick up real time in-flight telemetry with our rooftop antennae in Huntington Beach, CA. From there we stripped out FM and PDM data channels to banks of strip chart recorders in real time. And yes, I've seen engineers unrolling strip charts on the floor down the halls a few times. Eventually we got a large dedicated room for strip chart display. After a launch, it was a horizontal wallpapering operation.

      Most of our launches were from Cape Canaveral. So we had to wait for analog tapes recorded at ground stations located there, Bermuda, Antilles, Tananarive, and other strange places I've forgotten.

      The strip charts were mostly for people in a hurry. We digitized the FM and PDM data, and stripped the PCM channels. It all went to computer readable magnetic tape reels -- thousands of them. Every rocket has thousands of sensors, and every sensor has unique certified calibration data. A major task for the digital computer was to apply each sensor's calibration info to convert raw bit counts to engineering units. (The strip charts didn't do calibrations.)

      Most commonly, calibrated data went to high speed (1000 lines/minute) drum based impact line printers. During busy periods we typically printed 5-10 boxes of 11" x 15" fan-fold paper per day. Our printouts went to individual departments -- Propulsion, Electrical, Thermal, Mechanical were big customers.

      The Huntsville Saturn engineer was right -- often, the most important frame of data in the entire transmission was the one you only got half of, because the rocket was exploding....

      Our CDC 924 (every line of code written in assembly language, assembled and committed to punched paper (or Mylar) tape!) eventually got phased out after we acquired our PDP-10 (DECSystem-10) computer, for which I was sysadmin. The new machine was a game changer. Switching from assembly language to Fortran (and an OS!) greatly increased our coding efficiency, and time sharing made it possible for individual engineers to gain direct access to their calibrated data. Most importantly, time sharing suddenly allowed software development to proceed concurrently with production jobs -- a major benefit! We eventually installed some Tektronix 4010 graphic terminals that allowed them to plot their data and print it on attached thermal printers.

      Which PDP computers did you use? I've also worked with PDP-6, PDP-11, PDP-15, and a few flavors of VAX. I enjoyed working with none of them as much as the PDP-10. Were you a member of DECUS?

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      • #18
        One day, somewhere in the '60s, I dropped by a circuit lab in my company. A friend showed me a a DIP chip he had just sampled. He told me it was an Intel memory chip, implemented entirely in an IC. I asked him how many bits it held, and he replied, "Eight." I opined that, if it were ever to become useful, a chip would have to hold a lot more than 8 bits. He said, "They're working on it."

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        • #19
          ​​​​​​My first programming was on an IBM 360-40. Coding in COBAL, RPG and my favorite Assembly ALC

          80 column punch cards. I remember a platter hard drive looked like a washing machine with a plastic dome on top.

          Wow those were the days.. moving/storing all that data..
          Blair

          HomeSeer: HS3 Pro 3.0.0.435
          Hometroller S6 | Devices: 601 | Events: 202
          Plug-Ins: Z-Wave .190 | HSTouch | RFXCOM | UltraRachio3
          BLLAN | NetCAM | Global Cache Pro | Blur-Iris :rolleyes:

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          • #20
            Originally posted by ericg View Post

            Data distribution depended on lots of variables. For launches from Vandenberg AFB, we could pick up real time in-flight telemetry with our rooftop antennae in Huntington Beach, CA. From there we stripped out FM and PDM data channels to banks of strip chart recorders in real time. And yes, I've seen engineers unrolling strip charts on the floor down the halls a few times. Eventually we got a large dedicated room for strip chart display. After a launch, it was a horizontal wallpapering operation.

            Most of our launches were from Cape Canaveral. So we had to wait for analog tapes recorded at ground stations located there, Bermuda, Antilles, Tananarive, and other strange places I've forgotten.

            The strip charts were mostly for people in a hurry. We digitized the FM and PDM data, and stripped the PCM channels. It all went to computer readable magnetic tape reels -- thousands of them. Every rocket has thousands of sensors, and every sensor has unique certified calibration data. A major task for the digital computer was to apply each sensor's calibration info to convert raw bit counts to engineering units. (The strip charts didn't do calibrations.)

            Most commonly, calibrated data went to high speed (1000 lines/minute) drum based impact line printers. During busy periods we typically printed 5-10 boxes of 11" x 15" fan-fold paper per day. Our printouts went to individual departments -- Propulsion, Electrical, Thermal, Mechanical were big customers.

            The Huntsville Saturn engineer was right -- often, the most important frame of data in the entire transmission was the one you only got half of, because the rocket was exploding....

            Our CDC 924 (every line of code written in assembly language, assembled and committed to punched paper (or Mylar) tape!) eventually got phased out after we acquired our PDP-10 (DECSystem-10) computer, for which I was sysadmin. The new machine was a game changer. Switching from assembly language to Fortran (and an OS!) greatly increased our coding efficiency, and time sharing made it possible for individual engineers to gain direct access to their calibrated data. Most importantly, time sharing suddenly allowed software development to proceed concurrently with production jobs -- a major benefit! We eventually installed some Tektronix 4010 graphic terminals that allowed them to plot their data and print it on attached thermal printers.

            Which PDP computers did you use? I've also worked with PDP-6, PDP-11, PDP-15, and a few flavors of VAX. I enjoyed working with none of them as much as the PDP-10. Were you a member of DECUS?
            Sounds both impressive, stressful and busy. I can imagine what direct access to data did for the engineers, let alone displaying/graphing it.

            Fortran was what we wrote our first SCADA system in first on PDP10's and then VAX's. We also used PDP11's in the compressor stations. At the time they were impressive but I can't imagine trying to do so nowadays. We (relative to what you were gathering) were only pulling in hundreds of pts/sec, tiny by today's standard, but done over 9600 baud (woo hoo!). I spent a lot of nights in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming/Utah/Washington/Colorado sleeping in a compressor station control room trying to debug DEC's Analog and Digital I/O boards or trying to explain to the station mechanic over the phone how to press (Ctrl-C) on the keyboard (What, you want me to push them both at the same time??)..

            Also, remember DECnet and hardline Ethernet

            Yup, was a member of DECUS.. Still have one of their coffee mugs with the Chesire cat.

            Good times..
            Z

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            • #21
              Originally posted by ericg View Post
              "They're working on it."
              In a way they are still working on it

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              • #22
                Originally posted by vasrc View Post
                ie SPRINT (Southern Pacific Railroad Internal Network Telecommunications))..
                Never knew their company name was an acronym and was related to railroad. Always figured it was tied to the English word for running/sprinting, which obviously it is a play on, but acronym makes much more sense with their history as it was much easier for them to lay down foundation network alongside their tracks.

                But those stepper switches sure would make a noise that was ear deafening when you stood inside the rooms. The rooms I had access to had about 500,000 of those switches in them, hence the need for a bike during maintenance. And it got all replaced by ESS-5 equipment that fitted in 1/1000th of the size with more capacity and much faster. Maintenance was mainly done from a console with the occasional walk to replace a faulty module that was highlighted by LEDs.

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                • #23
                  That is ALL so interesting to me. In some ways it does "blow my mind". Interesting that this was all in the 60's basically and when the "home computer" become available to the public. Depressing that the modem speed was same as my first dial up connection ( SLOW ) ha

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                  • #24
                    That’s a cool find! I love old tech like that.

                    I know these are not the greatest pictures (all the parts are currently wrapped in boxes). I plan on eventually doing new cleaner shadow boxes to protect them. My grandfather worked at IBM.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by dibble9012 View Post
                      That’s a cool find! I love old tech like that.

                      I know these are not the greatest pictures (all the parts are currently wrapped in boxes). I plan on eventually doing new cleaner shadow boxes to protect them. My grandfather worked at IBM
                      Very nice collection, you definitely should display it formally. The first image is gold. Your Grandfather worked for IBM when they were famous for taking care of their employees.
                      https://www.marketplace.org/2016/06/13/profit-ibm/

                      Z

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by vasrc View Post

                        Very nice collection, you definitely should display it formally. The first image is gold. Your Grandfather worked for IBM when they were famous for taking care of their employees.
                        https://www.marketplace.org/2016/06/13/profit-ibm/

                        Z
                        I found a whole lot of other stuff when he passed away. Lithography masks. Silicon wafers. IBM product presentation slides. And a few programming punch cards. I thought about lending them to a museum but most museums want them donated and I’m not willing to let them go completely.

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