[TUHS] A Talk on Early Unix

Lyndon Nerenberg lyndon at orthanc.ca
Fri Jul 1 13:48:39 AEST 2016

> On Jun 30, 2016, at 5:53 AM, Ronald Natalie <ron at ronnatalie.com> wrote:
> Ah yes, the 3B’s.   Running the state university computer department (in NJ) we got a lot of 3B’s (3B2, 3B5, 3B20).

We had the misfortune of being donated a 3B4000.  

> The 3B20 was definitely a piece of telephone equipment.

The 3B4000 had a 3B20 inside that acted as the bootstrap controller (ala the micro-pdp inside the larger Vaxen doing similar duty).  Most impressively, said 3B20, with the CPU and IO power of a match stick, was also the Ethernet portal for the entire 3B4000.  It couldn't even come close to keeping up with its 10 mbit/s NIC.

AT&T flogged this abomination to us as the core of our "distributed network environment."  Actually, they flogged it to us as a "1 million dollar donation in kind" because they knew nobody would buy that piece of shit, but this way they got the tax write off, and our beloved University president got to grin madly at a press conference.

When they replaced it with a half-dozen 3B2-xxx servers (about a year later) we at least got a marginal improvement in network throughput.  But they cancelled that out with RFS.

Basically, the 3B2s (and the 3B4K by extension) were designed to hang off the side of the 4ESS and collect toll call records for billing purposes.  Anyone remember Tuxedo?

> The 3B5 was an interesting machine.   We found out how rugged it was when a drain pipe broke over the top of it (the Rutgers main computer center was underground under a court yard between the twin towers of the Hill Center).   The thing survived a deluge of water being dumped into it.

I don't think we ever landed one of those in the shop.  It seemed like an intriguing bit of gear back when I looked at it.  Decades ago, now.


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