what IBM system is this?

Brent Hilpert hilpert at cs.ubc.ca
Sat Jul 4 21:41:40 CDT 2015

On 2015-Jul-04, at 6:32 PM, ANDY HOLT wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Chuck Guzis" <cclist at sydex.com>
> To: General at classiccmp.org, Discussion at classiccmp.org:On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts <cctalk at classiccmp.org
> Sent: Sunday, 5 July, 2015 1:13:31 AM
> Subject: Re: what IBM system is this?
> On 07/04/2015 04:37 PM, simon wrote:
>> found in the archives of CERN, this image is beautiful! but what IBM
>> system is this.
>> https://cds.cern.ch/record/1847692
> I don't believe you're looking at a single system.  Note the banks of 
> CDC 844 disk drives in the foreground (you can even make out the 
> "Control Data" logo.
> I suspect that the cross and 3/4 cross CPUs are CDC CYBER 170s (or 180s).
> So, not really IBM at all
> <<<<
> A bit of Google-fu suggests that this is part(!) of an installation that includes 
> a Siemens 7890
> An IBM 3090E (those crosses right of centre)
> A Cray X/MP (don't think it is in photo)
> A substantial VAXcluster (part of which is just visible at the back on the right)
> That machine room (hanger?) has very different contents now (and is on Google street view)
> Oh, and the processing power of that 1990 (approx) installation is similar to that of a current top-end desktop PC 

More photos linked from the source page:

The reference names indicate (or imply) the photos are from 1985, things are a little different than what they would have been in 1990.
As it happens, 1985 was the year I was working there.
Once I had oriented myself I went looking for something unique I recalled, the IBM 3850 mass storage device (tape cartridges in a honeycomb, accessed by a robotic arm). That should be it in the upper left corner of this photo:
the long narrow thing seen end-on.

Note there are much higher-res photos linked at the bottom of the pages, e.g.:
There you can make out all sorts of details, the "Siemens" logo, "7•890" actually, rather than 7890, a MODCOMP mini (lower left), "Control Data" name/logo, an ASCII-art Mona Lisa behind the windows of the 2nd floor mezzanine, a Gandalf terminal switch (mid-left).

In the high-res version of the OP photo:
one can see Chuck is quite right: "CYBER 170" is visible on the 'cross' machines.

As I recall, the Cray wasn't there that early (1985). I think it was also before they had clustered VAXen. I spent  the summer working on VAXes under both BSD4 and VMS. IIRC, the one in the photo was running VMS, the BSD machine was across the road in the DD division (computing services) office building.

The room was referred to as "the Cathedral" as I recall. The photos actually don't do it justice, it felt considerably more expansive than the photos suggest. One did feel some degree of awe stepping in there for the first time.

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