Compuserve wayback machine
ethan.dicks at gmail.com
Thu Jan 11 21:43:42 CST 2007
On 1/11/07, David Barnes <davebarnes at adelphia.net> wrote:
> Great stuff...
> Didn't Compuserve run entirely on 'clone' DECsystem 10's and/or
> 20's? This was what I heard years ago... is it a fable?
The history link I posted earlier today describes the history of
CompuServ(e) up to 1988, using various models of genuine DEC PDP-10s.
Right around that time, DEC stopped making new models of PDP-10
(badged by marketing as DECsystem 20s by then). There are various
stories about vendors (like Foonly) that attempted to step into the
void, but most sites weren't interested and turned to 32-bit-based
computing. CompuServe was so entrenched in the 36-bit world that by
1994, they were starting to replace real DEC machines with System
Concepts SC-25s and, IIRC, SC-30s. Later they went with other models
like the SC-40. By 2003, ISTR they were phasing out SC-25s or had
just finished doing so, but there were still plenty of SC-40s running,
and were still running in October (which is as recent as my one source
can report, due to layoffs last year). AOL is _still_ running _some_
quantity and form of 36-bit machines in Columbus at the former
CompuServ(e) headquarters (built in 1973), but I can no longer report
what models are in service.
As for "run entirely" on 36-bit machines, in the mid-1990, there was a
push to migrate some of the tasks off of 36-bit DEC hardware onto
32-bit Intel-based hardware running some flavor of UNIX (*BSD, I
_think_). I have a few of those servers at home - the ones called
"Silver Bullets". They are rack length (30"-36"?), approx 12"x12"
cross-section, and their enclosures were sheathed in chromed steel,
long, thin, and shiny silver - thus the nickname. I don't know
precisely what was under the hood in 1994, but the ones that have
ended up in my hands (c. 2001) have EISA motherboards with some flavor
of socketed Pentium chip (200Mhz? 133MHz?), SCSI interfaces, and 2GB
(wiped) Seagate Barracuda disks. They were stored on flat shelves,
two-wide, in extra wide, not 19", racks. I don't have one of the
silver bullet racks, but there are plenty of those racks floating
around the garages of ex-CompuServants in the Columbus area from when
they pitched all the machines out around 2000-2001. Strangely enough,
36-bit computing has long outlasted the first attempts to migrate The
Service to 32 bits. These days, I don't know what's running the web
servers you hit when you go to cs.com, but it's going to be a mix of
whatever sorts of servers you see at most large sites these days
(Solaris, HP/UX, and AIX, I'd wager). I think somone recently
reported that some site that tracks such things was saying cs.com was
served by Solaris boxes. That's entirely believable. These web
servers, though, have *nothing* to do with the traditional CIS
"Service", which was and has always been (except for whatever the
silver bullets did) 36 bits.
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