Two engineers spend 9 years restoring the mainframe Flossie
On more than one occasion we spent a few minutes talking about the History of Technology and, within this exciting topic, we have stopped in the first large computers such as ENIAC , or mainframes first entered the business, as the IBM 701 or IBM 650 . These large computers began to revolutionize the media companies and universities world during the 60s but, in many cases, these models do not retain many functional units if not for the efforts of museums and some computer enthusiasts who spend a good number of hours to restore these computers legend. In the UK, two veteran engineers have devoted nine years to re-launch one of the few examples of computers made in UK that were still standing: the ICT 1301 mainframe also known as Flossie.
Flossie is one of the older computers that remain in the UK, a machine made in 1962 that was destined for the University of London when it was bought at auction in which paid £ 250,000 for the period, ie , about 4.2 million pounds today (about 5 million). Today, a computer as Flossie, from the point of view of functionality, we might seem very low compared with any device you have at hand but, 50 years ago, his 2 KB of memory and processing to 1 MHz were all a technological milestone consisting of more than 16,000 transistors that shaped 4000 logic gates that processed the data of 100,000 punch cards (which stored the equivalent of a third of capacity of any CD we use today consume power 13 KW).
The computer, which occupies almost a barn that has a 6-meter wingspan, has been restored by two senior engineers, Roger Holmes (a volunteer with the Society for the Conservation of Computers) and Rod Brown (an engineer who helped build this series of computers through the early 60). The challenge was not easy because after purchasing, for 200 pounds, the machine was found in very poor condition and that it might prove to work (as the restorers had around 1,000 breakdowns and malfunctions). However, 2,500 hours of hard work have enabled this made in UK computer working again so it can be accessed by enthusiasts the world of computing and history of technology.
It’s a huge beast. I wish that your next destination is a place where the conservasen to continue working. [...] If the store after an urn, people may not experience how computers worked in the 60s. [...] We have received offers from many people and talked with some associations and organizations, even we have been in contact with the Bletchley Park museum for his house it could within its facilities
For the general public, this computer is a fairly unique model because in addition to being part of the University of London (and have been responsible for processing the test scores), it is known that other units have participated “as a prop” in a Bond film in the series (The Man with the Golden Gun), in the film The Italian Job (the original with Michael Caine) and the odd episode of Doctor Who.
A very beautiful project that, hopefully, can be exhibited in a museum to enjoy it.