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My wine cabinet

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by ggr, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. ggr

    ggr Roadster R80 537, SigS P85 29

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    Now, this is really off topic. And it's a bit of a long story, so you probably want to just skip this. This is not the thread you're looking for. Move on.

    Anyway, a long time ago in a country far far away, the company I was working for inherited the cabinets for the first DEC VAX in Australia. It arrived at Sydney University around 1978 (flaky memory I'm afraid, but it really was the first.) Some years later, it was retired, and the innards were sold for spares, but we took the main CPU cabinet and installed a refrigerator for peoples' lunches and the milk for the espresso machine and stuff like that. We relabeled it "Frigital" instead of "Digital", and over a period of years basically forgot that it was unusual. We had some interesting moments, for example when the CEO of Digital Australia came in for a meeting and we made him a cuppacino and he almost had an unfortunate medical incident. One day the founders came back from a business trip, and it was gone. After a bit of detective work and torture, the story came out. The company's insurance agent had visited, and the office manager made him a cuppa, and he freaked out: "You can't have a refrigerator in a metal cabinet! Your insurance is void! Get rid of it instantly or ...". Whatever he threatened was enough for the manager (who didn't really get the whole historical significance thing) to have it removed and scrapped, and it was too late.

    Skip forward about 15 years, I was telling this story to a particularly creative (a.k.a. insane) group of people in my office in Australia, over some nice wine. Rather a lot really. Apparently they were taking notes.

    Last year, I returned from a vacation and showed up at work on the day after Christmas, having been out of email contact for about two weeks. I got to the office and saw:

    Frigital VAX.jpg

    Yes, they had been watching EBay for four years to get this for me. They had to get the facilities people to take the door off my office to get it in!

    So, nearly a year later, I'm leaving the company I now work for, and when I told my boss, pretty much his first words (after a short pause) were: "You have to take the VAX with you!" I had every intention of doing so anyway. Best Christmas present ever.

    So, tonight, Frigital 2 came home, and (with a bit of work last week to dismember it) became our new wine cabinet. There will be further mods to it over time. Anyone who can convince me that they know what a VAX is(*) (and I know at least some of you can...) can choose a bottle from it to share, if you come here to drink it.

    Frigital Closed.jpg

    Frigital Open.jpg

    (*)For those of you who don't know what a VAX is, it's like a cellphone but three orders of magnitude different in every metric: volume, power, memory, compute, storage...

    (**) That thing in the bottom right is an 8-inch floppy drive, for loading the microcode! Bottom left is a PDP-11/03, that boots the machine.

    (***) These footnotes are probably sufficient to qualify for the free offer.
     
  2. SCW-Greg

    SCW-Greg Active Member

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    This is sooo nerdy!
    I love it.

    I remember when Digital was the bomb.

    Edit: we used to be their old gear and flip it. There was tons of it in the day.
     
  3. Jason S

    Jason S Model S Sig Perf (P85)

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    Well... the google knows, but without looking... I only once ever used a computer with an 8-inch floppy drive and it was old when I used it (Intel 8088 days...)

    Oooh, I like how you still have the backplane in there. Tons of cards! Was it 16 bit or am I thinking PDP?

    That case just looks like a NOC battery housing to me now. Times have changed!

    Thanks for sharing!
     
  4. scaesare

    scaesare Active Member

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    Well VAX was the Virtual Address eXtension architecture, of course.

    Cutler, Gordon, Olsen, and the boys would be proud, no doubt.

    :)
     
  5. JakeP

    JakeP S P4996 / X P6028

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    Wow for a minute there I thought I was seeing the Nerdgasm FB page...fantastic cabinet, GGR!
     
  6. bonnie

    bonnie Oil is for sissies.

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    I no longer have the VAX/VMS administrator three-ring binders, but I can tell you they were bound in orange. And the joke 'back in the day' was that you could tell if it was a Digital repairman broken down on the road because he'd just keep swapping out tires until the car was level.
     
  7. stevezzzz

    stevezzzz R;SigS;P85D;SigX

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    Bonnie and I worked in R&D at the same startup in Boulder during the VAX era. We had a pair of VAX 11/780s that we used for digitizing Jeppesen approach plates and laying out the disc images for the CD-ROMs we published every 28 days. The portable flight planner product we created to utilize the CD-ROMs incorporated one of the very first commercial CD readers available, at an OEM cost of $600 per drive. The 4MB of system RAM cost us another $500. Somewhere I have the 1/2" tape reels with one of the system builds. These days, all that production work the VAXen crunched could be handled easily by one person with an iMac and a $100 scanner.

    We used to hand-carry the CD-ROM images to Terre Haute, and baby-sit them while Sony pressed our CDs in their immense facility; one time when I was there I saw hundreds of pallets of Michael Jackson "Bad" CDs, pre-release, ready to ship. I asked, but they wouldn't give me one. :biggrin:
     
  8. Kalud

    Kalud Member

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    Wow awesome!
     
  9. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

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    Yowza! GREAT story. Reminds me of when our PDP-11 was THE machine to have.
    Can you say "time sharing"? (For those who aren't of a certain generation, you probably use the word "cloud").
     
  10. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    Awesome! So how well does this actually work as a fridge? Looks designed to breathe rather than seal in cool air.
     
  11. dailydriver

    dailydriver Member

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    Beat me to it! I cut my programming teeth in college on the VAX and PDP platforms. Now I feel old and antiquated like obsolete computer hardware. I guess I am. :smile:
     
  12. scaesare

    scaesare Active Member

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    Hehe... I was waiting to see how many people got the specific correct answer, as opposed to the more generic "They were DEC Computers" version.

    Those boys at The Mill did some cool stuff. I read "The Ultimate Entrepreneur" a while back, and it was a pretty interesting insight in to how Olsen started and ran the company up through the 80's or so.
     
  13. ggr

    ggr Roadster R80 537, SigS P85 29

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    To answer some of the questions:

    Yes, 32 bit architecture with paged virtual memory. Clock rate was 1 MHz.

    The original one had a refrigerator in it. This one only has (inoperable) fans, at least so far.

    Yes, I'm a nerd at heart. I have not actually bitten the head off a live chicken though.

    Thanks for all the fun comments.
     
  14. dflye

    dflye S Sig Perf 414, VIN 814

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    Wow is this ever an awesome story and flashback to my misspent youth in college!

    Attending the University of Washington in Seattle in the late 80's, spent a fair amount of time working in their main computing center keeping track of their assortment of DEC, IBM and CDC Cyber hardware. Spent even more time in various computer labs around campus connecting to the above mentioned mainframes using what I still consider to be several of the best ever terminal / keyboard combinations originating from that era: the DEC VT100 and the IBM 3270 terminals.

    Over the course of time, eventually the aging Cyber (forget which model) was due to be removed... at which point they had to put a heating system into the building to replace the existing system that used waste-heat from the Cyber cooling system to heat the entire building in the winter!

    Ahh, those were the days, thanks for the trip down memory lane!
     

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