HP3000 computer, still functioning

These photographs were made in the previous year.  I had just prepared them for publication on this website a few days before the fire at my institute, but I hadn’t actually posted them by the time of the fire.  The ‘main hero’ didn’t suffer from the fire itself, but was heavily flooded with foam, and I decided not to post the photos until it was recovered.  Now it’s finally at work again, so I publish the pictures and the text without changes 🙂

In an odd moment, I had a good opportunity to see and to photograph our main computer.  Here it is—HP 3000 Series 70, produced in 1985, and still at work:

HP3000 Series 70

Magnetic tape spools and a read/write device for them

HP3000 Series 70

Back view

HP3000 Series 70

HP3000 Series 70

Hard disk drives

HP3000 Series 70

HP3000 Series 70

HP3000 family included several series of computers, compatible with each other, but with different processing power.  For those times, all of them were classified as minicomputers, although Series 70 was almost as powerful as a mainframe.  Now it doesn’t look so powerful, of course,—only 128 megabytes of memory, 256 megabytes hard disk drives; even smart phones are faster.  Series 52 machines, as it can be seen in the picture below, are much more compact and even on wheels.  At our institute, they now try to make one reserve computer of two machines like that in case that something goes wrong with the main one.

HP3000 Series 52

HP3000 Series 52

HP3000 Series 52

One more HP3000, also a low-powerful one, is now used simply as a table for a printer.  On the main computer, the electronic catalogue of our library is working.  Previously they printed paper cards using a native laser printer, but after the toner for it was over and could never more be bought anywhere, they had to set up a modern PC as a terminal and connect a modern ink jet printer to it:

Magnetic tape is used even now for making backups (on servers), but the tape of the format which was used in HP3000 is not produced any more.  So it’s the tape that causes the most of concern.  There are spare parts for the computer itself at the institute, but if something goes wrong with the rest of the tape, it can turn to be fatal:

The HP3000 computer appeared at our institute in 1985 or 1986.  Unlike its predecessor, it was bought legally because export restrictions in the USA were already not so strict by that time.  The Soviet industry produced computers of comparable power, but HP machines were much more reliable in operation.  Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and the money ran out.  The computer went on working.  Its operating system is incompatible with modern hardware and the database engine that is used on it was written at our institute and is incompatible with modern operating systems.  An ordinary server should be enough for a task like this now, but the new software is required (and library software is not a cheap thing), and the database must be ported to that new software.  The price should be actually not so high—about a million dollars and two or three years of hard work for two or three programmers.  But the state still haven’t got any extra million dollars.  The Crimea is of more importance…

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