Harris H800 Computer

Zane Healy healyzh at aracnet.com
Wed Apr 20 23:46:48 CDT 2016

While I’d used several computers before the Harris H550 (I think that’s the right model, we called it “SNAP II” in the Navy), the Harris was the first that I worked on professionally.  Even though I was an Electrician at the time, I ended up as one of the people working on the Harris, and somewhere I should still have a printout of the “man pages” on its JCL.  It was running Vulcan OS, and I was able to get access to BASIC on it, and IIRC, that’s how I got access to the JCL interface.  I was also the only person onboard ship, and about the only person in the Navy apparently to use the 8” floppies, I used them to store Engineering documents written with the MUSE word processor (which at the time I thought was quite nice).  The system had quite a nice implementation of ZORK, and what I remember being a very cool Star Trek game, that wasn’t like the traditional Star Trek (which IIRC, it also had).

On the H550, the operators console was basically a normal terminal, with a printer.  We had a 9-track tape drive, paper-tape reader/punch, 2 or 3 pairs of 8” floppies around the ship, four 8” HD’s, which IIRC were 80MB each (but realistically likely smaller, we were really crunched for disk space).  There was also a punch card reader in the one office, but it could only read a single card at a time.  One interesting thing was, to copy one small file required typing a command string the length of a line on the terminal, it was a nightmare to use the floppies as a result.

All in all, I have good memories of working on the system, probably better than working on a Honeywell DPS-8 (or DPS-6) Mainframe running either GCOS-8 or GCOS-6.

BTW, VMS is pretty much my favorite OS, though sadly I’m not actively using it any more. :-(


> On Apr 20, 2016, at 8:33 PM, Mark J. Blair <nf6x at nf6x.net> wrote:
> Back when I spent a couple of years at UNLV in the late 80s, I had a class in which I was forced to use an account on a Harris H800 computer, if my memory serves me correctly. Being a BSD snob, I felt that was a terrible imposition, much like being forced to calculate compound interest on a stone-age abacus made from partially petrified dinosaur turds. *Without gloves.*
> Now, of course, I'm a lot more easy-going, and downright curious about things that might not have been my first choice for a computing environment. Even VMS!
> So, does anybody here know anything about that family of computers? I seem to recall getting a tour of the computer room once, and the two front panels of the machine were swung open to reveal two thick, mattress-like beds of twisted pair wires. That seemed nauseatingly primitive to me at the time, but now the memory seems fascinating.
> I also seem to remember an operator's console with two round CRTs on it, but I might have fabricated that memory from whole cloth.
> -- 
> Mark J. Blair, NF6X <nf6x at nf6x.net>
> http://www.nf6x.net/

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