Stats on the first known HP Computer at the South Pole
tsw-cc at johana.com
Tue Nov 6 19:52:41 CST 2007
> Jay, other HP fans,
> I finally got a chance to re-examine the article on the wall down here.
> Someone hung up excerpts from "The Antarctic Journal", December 1976,
> page 286 (and parts of some presumably nearby pages). The article describes
> the "first" computer system at the Pole, which might possibly be true.
> the 1974/1975 Austral Summer, UC Davis sent down a pair of HP 2100S machines
> to Pole. They were both equipped with 32K of memory, and sported paper tape,
> at least one line printer, and a pair of 45 ips, 800 bpi magtapes. Other
> I/O equipment mentioned in the article include an HP 12930A "universal
> interface", at least one HP 2570A "coupler controller", and at least one
> HP 12770A serial interface.
> If I run across the original journal, I can see about making scans. Right
> now, there is a hodgepodge of xeroxed page fragments taped to the wall.
> Before anyone starts drooling, this gear was all long-gone 20 years after
> it was installed. Even the microVAX that was here 10 years ago was packed
> up and removed years ago. Closest thing I've seen to a "classic" computer
> I've seen in use here lately was a Dell 386SX/16 as the head-end for the PBX
> we tore out in 2004, and the Compaq 386N we used for RTTY (last fired up in
> 2004 as well).
> It's all modern, boring stuff here now. :-(
> (except for the classic goodies I pack in my luggage ;-)
Wow... Something I know about!
I was there for the installation for those computers. They were 2100A's (not
2100s). Both of the boxes had two 9 track drives with the 500cps paper tape
readers, and the Facit 75 cps punches. I dont' remember much about the line
printer, but there must have been one, probably one of those mini Dataproducts
goodies (80 columns). They were configured to use RTE-C, the core image
version of RTE used at the time. Thankfully they had 32k of memory, since the
RTE stuff took up quite a bit of room, and the machines didn't have disk
I ended up writing a memory resident version of the papertape system (I forget
what it was called) that would allow assignments of input and output devices to
tape files and the like. I heard that it was useful since they had to develop
the programs used in RTE-C that way.
The application for the machines was for weather observation at the station.
The UC Davis people had some nifty humidity sensors (heated, etc.) they were
The other thing we installed was a transmitting weather station (to a satellite
that orbited about once every 2 hours). Of course we didn't know when it
passed by so the logic (no microprocessors then) spit out the data about once
every couple of minutes. The Satellite was in polar orbit so it came by every
time. It waqs run from a couple of power sources, an RTG (big huge thing) and
a propane thermoelectric generator. I have fond memories of attempting to
start the propane thing and not getting the gas to vaporize. I had to use TWO
propane torches (one to heat the other) to get it working.
Yes, this is classic stuff. It dates to 1975, long before I saw a 6800.
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