Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Picked up tape drives, read some old card decks for University of Michigan


My friend Marc is buying a mainframe printer, using a moving band of type. The IBM 3203 was a derivative of the 1403 printer, using similar cartridges with the chain of type. Dataproducts built a plug compatible version which is the actual printer that we are retrieving. It had an integrated controller and will connect to a mainframe via bus and tag channel cables. It also has a powered stacker. 

The printer was located a few hours away in Sacramento, which meant a minor road trip in a lift gate truck. When I got there, I decided to pick up two 9 track tape drives, Telex 8020 model 266 units. The first drive is in good condition and has the control unit built right in, while the second drive was damaged during shipment and has never been used. I suspect it can be restored to proper operation, but at worst case it serves as spare parts for the first drive.

One of the two tape drives I bought
My drives came with a tape tester, schematics, training manuals and other materials that will make it easier to restore them to operation. The one hiccup is that these drives require 3 phase power, which I don't have in my home. 


A researcher at the University of Michigan contacted the Computer History Museum concerning some decks of cards that represent experiments done in 1970. They asked if the museum could help read the decks and provide files of the content, allowing researchers to include those results in new research projects.

The best way to read them was with my Documation card reader and the adapter designed by Brian Knittel that reads the cards into PC files. I moved my setup to CHM yesterday and began reading decks. 

The files consist of six boxes each having several decks of cards, but initially one of the six boxes is missing. I opened box 2 and read all 9 decks. I emailed the files and some explanation to the UofM professor and grad students to be sure they are happy with the results. It took a bit more than a half hour to process a box, thus I can finish up the other boxes on Wednesday. 

Each card deck has a header card which has MTS punched as visible characters (you can see the letters holding the card up, with each letter taking several card columns to express). It also has some other data on the card which may be identifying information such as the punch file ID when this was punched by the Michigan TimeSharing System (MTS). The following cards seem to be four-column numbers packed across each card. 
Header card
Data card

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