[TUHS] Names of famous, historical UNIX machines?

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Thu Feb 2 11:18:27 AEST 2017

The creator of that little gem was Dick Hustvedt, a brilliant engineer with
a wicked sense of humor. He was one of the inventors of VAXclusters, as
well as of the SD730 Solar Horologue Option - see end of this post.

When in the VMS SYSGEN utility, and you asked for a list of the parameters,
the list included the units. The TIMEPROMPTWAIT parameter was unusual in
that values in one range did one thing, while values in another range did
something else. Dick wanted to encourage users to go read the manual for
the full explanation, so he had the units listed as microfortnights, hoping
that puzzled readers would go search out the details.

Sadly, Dick suffered severe brain injury in a car accident many years ago,
and was unable to return to work.  The VMS team named a conference room in
his honor at the Nashua, NH facility where VMS engineering lives, and if
you visit it, you can see the prototype SD730, which was introduced as an
April Fools joke one year. Here's the text from the "Product Information
Sheet" for the SD730.


SD730 Fixed Head Solar Horologue


The SD730 is an option for the VAX-11/730(TM) that provides an inexpensive
solution to the problem of setting system time correctly following a power
failure. An astronomical reference is used to assure accuracy. Reliability
is assured by the simple, elegant design which employs well-proven


The SD730 is a gnomonic high noon detector that provides a simple, but
elegant solution to the problem of setting system time correctly following
a power failure. This option is particularly valuable for processors
lacking battery backup for their time-of-year (TOY) clock.


- Gnomonic interference high noon detector
- High accuracy assured by low-drift astronomical reference
- Connects to existing DR-11C port on VAX-11/730
- Proprietary high-moon rejection design
- Offline mode for standalone time measurement
- User installable and maintainable
- Reliability assured by minimal component count and proven technology
- Heavy duty construction resists solar wind
- Anti-corrosion coating prevents gnomonic plague


The SD730 provides a single bit of data via the DR-11C port of the
VAX-11/730 that encodes all of its sensory information. Decoding is
accomplished by measuring the on/off intervals of this sensor channel.
Derivation of the time and date is accomplished by the SD730 Shadow
Processing Support Software.

Accurate high-noon sensing is obtained by measuring the solar transit time
and computing the midpoint. This algorithm also corrects for variations in
gnomon width, latitude and season. In the event that a cloudless night
permits a high full moon to be seen, it will be differentiated from an
authentic high noon by comparing observed transit time against a reference
solar transit time.

Within 24 hours following power restoration, the SD730 driver software will
restore the correct system time.

Power outages in excess of 24 hours can be accomodated once a reference
year has been accumulated. Day length, solar transit time and their rates
of change are used to recognize the day within the year.


The SD730 is user installable and comes complete with an installation kit
consisting of a lensatic compass. All software is self-installing and
self-calibrating. The only requirement is that system time be set correctly
and that at least one clear day be allowed for self calibration.

The SD730 will not operate reliably when installed at latitudes greater
than 60 degrees.


While the SD730 is simple and reliable, some environments may necessitate
periodic cleaning of the gnomon and photo-detector. Although the gnomon
shields the photo-detector from debris, this may not be sufficient for
particularly hazardous locations subject to overflights by large flocks of
migratory birds. To assist in problem detection, error log entries will be
made for days without sunshine and weeks without a high noon.

Support Software

A driver and other support software are supplied with the SD730. All
software runs on VAX/VMS.

An optional package is available to produce a local almanac sprinkled
liberally with gnomic sayings and weather predictions, all derived from one
year's solar date.


For severe or hostile environments, a conversion kit consisting of a
fiber-optic cable and adapters is available to convert the SD730 to an


I/O Adapter

DR-11C Connector (single bit)

Power Requirements

9 volt battery (alkaline recommended)
Battery not included
Optional solar cells available

Physical Characteristics

Packaging Free Standing Unit
Weight 4.5kg (10 lbs)
Height 86cm (34 inches)
Width 32cm (12.5 inches)
Depth 32cm (12.5 inches)

Operating Environment

Temperature 5 to 32 degrees C (41 to 90 F)
Relative Humidity 0 to 90%
Maximum Altitude 4.5km (15000 ft)
Latitude 0 to 60 degrees North (*)


Long Term Accuracy 1 second per year
Operational Reliability Consult your local weather service

*NOTE For installation in the southern hemisphere, order model SL730-SL.

On Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 5:44 PM, William Pechter <pechter at gmail.com> wrote:

> One of the best things about DEC was the lack of taking itself too
> seriously.
> 11/730 product announcement for the Solar Horologue...
> See the above in Google and Slashdot.
> Wish I had a pdf to post.
> Bill
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com>
> To: Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com>
> Cc: TUHS main list <tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org>, Noel Chiappa <
> jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu>
> Sent: Wed, 01 Feb 2017 17:28
> Subject: Re: [TUHS] Names of famous, historical UNIX machines?
> On Wed, Feb 1, 2017 at 5:11 PM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:
> > I visited Portland and Santa Clara and I have never
> > seen a more grey cubicle farm in my life.
> >
> ​I don't remember which comic it was, but about 8-10 years ago one the late
> night comedy guys brought a film crew to SC and made that same exact
> observation.​
> While Intel does do many things well, this one is part of company culture
> and I'm not in a position to change it.  I wish I could.  I think the place
> would be a small bit happier if it did not take itself quite so seriously,
> but that's just my personal opinion.
> As the late Roger Gourd used to say: *"Bring me to a sacred cow, and I'll
> start up the sacred bbq." ;-) *
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