[TUHS] Non-US Unix Activities

tfb at tfeb.org tfb at tfeb.org
Fri Apr 7 23:55:20 AEST 2017

On 7 Apr 2017, at 13:25, jsteve at superglobalmegacorp.com wrote:
> That’s too bad all the old Sun kit was lost, without even imaging it.  I’ve been playing with TME, and going through some motions on getting SunOS 2.0 running.  SunOS 1.0 would have been interesting as well, and or anything from the SUN-100 days.

I don't think we had anything that old left: we had only 4.x (and probably only 4.1.x).  I assumed (perhaps wrongly) that there were just lots of copied of that stuff. Anything older was QIC tapes.

In fact there's a sad story about that, too: most of this stuff lived in the machine room shared by AI, CSTR & AIAI at 80 South Bridge, Edinburgh (there was another AI machine room in Forest Hill but I always worked in departments based at South Bridge).

That building had been a department store and had a lift shaft which which had been filled with RS232 and, later, ethernet cable.  I used to worry that the lift shaft was a fire risk as it was a great vertical hole in the building full of probably-flammable insulation on the cables.  And the whole building sat on top of a club and several other structures going down to the Cowgate (the machine room was significantly noisy at night, when I used to spend too much time in it playing with an orphaned Symbolics 3670).  There was a tape store which probably had interesting things in it.  Access to the machine room was insanely hard: everything that went in there was carried down stairs by strong people.

Sometime after I had left (I was there from 1989 to 1999 on and off), on 7th December 2002, the building burned down due I think to a fire which started in the club below it.  I am not sure if the fire spread up the lift shaft (which didn't go down below the machine room level).

I don't know what was still in the machine room & tape store -- certainly most of the tapes & a bunch of interesting but mostly dead machines, all of which were lost of course.

The thing which was lost which *actually* mattered was the AI library, which had a lot of completely irreplaceable early history of AI in it: the AI department at Edinburgh was very early and most have originally been populated by a lot of ex-Bletchley Park people, including Donald Michie, who was fascinating to talk to.

I believe (this may not be true and if it is not then I apologise in case anyone who was involved reads it) that the AI department was making backups but *not* taking them off-site (SB ones to FH & the other way around) at the time of the fire.  They *were* putting them in the fire safe though.  The fire safe (which wasn't in the machine room as it was absurdly heavy so it sat in the back entranceway of the building) fell through the floor, *but survived intact*.  So they were lucky.

But a lot of history must have been lost in that fire.

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