A moment in time: the 370 arrives

It’s ages since I made an entry in the Blog, so I’m adding a little one (and 7 pics!) to remind you that it exists. Another, more important entry, is currently in preparation, describing the marvellous success of our Official Inauguration on the 13th June. (Frantic catching-up on other things, on the parts of all concerned with that success, has delayed the writing of that blog entry.)

Meanwhile, here’s another little gem, found just last Friday in the heaps of papers in Roger Broughton’s old office. This one is a letter describing how the IBM System/370-168 was to be delivered early in 1975: it’s a tiny, but classic, example of planning by the Operations Manager (i.e. Roger).

It is a letter to the City Police dealing with how Claremont Road was going to need special traffic controls when the new mainframe was to be delivered. Roger contacted the Police, they sent along a couple of chaps, discussions ensued, involving an IBM rep. as well, and conclusions were drawn which are described here. Installation of a mainframe was planned like a military operation.

We always go on about what a revolution the previous mainframe (the S/360-67) was, and what a monster of a computer it was. And indeed it was, as described by the speakers on Inauguration Day.

But the 370-168, which succeeded the 360-67 in 1975, dwarfed the 360, not only in power, but in weight (“4 tons of cables” is the first item to be delivered here). The 370’s circuitry was cooled by cold water (see the bottom of this page on Roger’s website ), so it had its own chilled water plant, as well as a new A/C plant. It weighed about 24 tonnes (twice as much as the 360!) according to Roger’s website . When the Amdahl 5860 arrived 10 years later, the corner had been turned: everything weighed less, but the power was immensely more than the 370’s.

A bit of a contrast to that phone in your pocket, whose uncanny powers, as we observe the 370 arriving, resemble a gargantuan alien spaceship looking down from the heavens on medieval peasants ploughing their fields. (Purely, need I add, in terms of computing power!).

(Well we know what date this was.)

Just so you know what mainframe cables looked like. (Roger is actually sitting on the cables taken out from the Amdahl in 1992, but it gives you an idea of what came in that first delivery, above.)

What nice-looking  young men, with all the world ahead of them! My guess is that they are IBM Engineers, commissioning the 370.

I had to put this one in too: they were obviously having a great time.

This is what they were looking at: the front console of the IBM S/370-168.


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About nmoca

Most entries in this blog from 'nmoca' will be entered by John Law (ex-member of staff of University Computing Service, and a voluntary curator of the Collection). 'nmoca' is the ID assigned to the voluntary group looking after the Roger Broughton Historical Computing Collection; there are half a dozen of us.

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