The Jim Austin Computer Collection
Just visiting - An overview and pointers to the best ones...
So what are the best items in the collection and how are the organised? The following lays out the collection indicating the best examples in each category.
I have been trying to get at least one example of every type of computer. This has been successful as the following shows.
These are the first types of computing machines, operating just of mechanical methods. In the category comes many mechanical calculators, the best in the collection is the Madas 20AZS, which is a full function machine. To be a computer, it needs to be programmable. The tabulator is the finest example, its a great piece of mechanical engineering. It can be programmed (by changing some elements of the machine) to add up data stored on punched cards and print out the total.
This is a computer controlled using relays rather then solid state electronics or valves. There is one machine that uses relay logic in the collection.
Valves were much faster than mechanical and electrical machines. It would be nice to get a complete example. Needless to say these machines are impossible to find. The collection has a number of parts of some important valve machines.
If the EDSAC 1 was one of the first real computers (stored programme) you will understand why bit of the EDSAC 2 in the collection is so important. There is one bit of this machine in the collection.
The other parts of a valve based machine is Pegasus. There are all the input/output units for this in the collection. It was one of the very first real computers used on real problems.
Transistor based machines
This is the dawn of the solid state era, using transistors. The Elliott 903 is a complete transistor based machine made in the UK. The 803 was the machine where much of the important computer science was done in the UK. The 903 was a later machine, smaller than the 803.
Integrated circuit machines
The introduction of silicon chips made possible reliable and fast computers. The US now overtook UK in the development of the computer as a result of its lead in silicon chips. The following sections break these down into various types.
Small Scale Integrated circuit machines
These represent machines which do not have a micro-processor. The main processor is made from individual chips. The best example of this type of machine is the Wang Basic machine (one of the first machines in the collection). Also the Univac card punch also represents this era well. The Burroughs B80 is an example that uses 9 chips to make a processor.
Medium Scale Integrated circuit machines - the micro processor
The development of integrated circuits allowed more devices per chip. Medium scale was represented by 1000s of gates per chip. Here we see the introduction of the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004. There are no machines in the collection with this device. However, the next chip, 8008 is in HP terminals, which there are a few in the collection.
The early micro processors included the 8080, used in the MITs Altair 8800b. This is a very important machine as it was one of the first home computers. You had to make it your self! This machine originated in the US. In the UK at the same time Nascom was developing its machines, also home made.
These machines are placed between the Mainframes and workstations. They usualy have a large rack containing large disks and the main processor. Classic examples are the Digital PDP 11 range which were the main stay of many universities and companies during the 70's, 80's and early 90's before the PC took over.
The 'workstation' was (and probably still is) a dedicated machine for people to work at. Usualy it contained a relatively powerful processor. The collection contains many workstations as this is the focus of the collection. There are plenty of nice examples. Most of these are listed in the microcomputer section. Good examples are the Sun 3, the DEC machines and SGI. Again, the PC has taken over in most cases from these machines and this name.
The name 'mainframe' seems to have come about in the 1960's. In many documents the big box where all the main bits of the machine are held was called the main frame. Its was literally the frame that held the main bits - mainframe. The IBM 3084 is a classic mainframe, being an IBM 360/370 compatible machine. The IBM 360 and 370 were one of the most important mainframes during the 1960's and 70s and allows IBM to dominate the computer scene for may years. The 3084 was also Cambridge Universities last main frame, so its rather important. Many people will remember using this machine ( it was called Phoenix). There is also a IBM System 390, a 1990's mainframe. Not so big but very nice.
Small business machines
This is a class of machines used by small companies before PCs were widely used. The Cifer machine is a good example. It ran a stock control system for some time, and had a novel networking ability. Other examples are many of the digital machines (DEC).
Before the PC these were the mainstay of computing in the home. They were made to be cheap and fun, with games and other utilities. The BBC micro was the most well known in the UK during the 1980's. Other machines include the Oric Atmos, the Jupiter ACE and texas Instruments machines.
These represent the fastest machines at any time. However, today's supercomputers are typically tomorrows desk top machines. The collection has a number of these machines, here are tow examples:
Cray builds supercomputers, and there name is synonymous with such machines. The three machines in the collection are just small ones. I would really like a Cray 1, so if you find one let me know! There are four complete Crays in the collection, three small machines and one 'real' one, the T3E. Used to predict the weather and the like. There is also a Cray 3 card, that is out of the rare Cray three and a card from a Cray 1 from serial; number 1 machine.
Fujitsu VPX Supercomputer
This is a real beast, massive (30 ft long!) and was very powerful. It was the last water cooled supercomputer developed by Fujitsu.