September 22, 2011 AT 12:00 am

Hard Drive Archaeology – 1970s Cray-1 hard drive imaged


Hard Drive Archaeology. Jason writes –

I was contacted earlier this week about a project to recover information off of an old Cray-1 supercomputer hard drive. Unlike, say, trying to get your old floppies to read or pulling an old mix tape off of a cassette, with something as old as a Cray-1 (a computer once called the “World’s Most Expensive Love Seat“), you don’t even have a place to really plug it in: functioning Cray-1 machines are rare as you can get, and even if you were to get the hard drives spinning up and read off of – where would you get the data off the Cray?

Researcher Chris Fenton has a thing about Cray supercomputers – he built a tiny homebrew version of one that used emulation to allow you to experience some aspect of Crays, from his desktop. So when he found himself with a 80 Megabyte CDC 9877 disk pack, which was quite a lot for the early 1970s, it wasn’t just a matter of hooking it up to USB. (Actually, we have a brochure for the behemoth you would put this disk pack into to read it.)  Here’s what a nearly-the-same CDC 9987 looks like…

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  1. Its huge! Looks like a kitchen appliance

  2. I started my mass spec years at HP while their upmost driving computers where HP1000 running RTE operating system. At this time, these computers where using HP7906 disk drives, as big as a washing machine, containing a fixed 10 Mb disk and a removable 10 Mb disk as bigg as an XXXL pizza!
    I also remember the threats of the service engineers who were maintaining these disks. You could see the drops of sweat on their face before resuming the power on the disk drives. And their were shaking like hell during the final tests.
    These were good times anyway!

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