Archive for July, 2014

Yet another LONG overdue post

July 17, 2014

Greetings to all,

With as long as it has been since I’ve posted here, many might think that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve also not posted much on the Old Calculator Museum website, which may further add to such speculation. This posting is to say I’m still around, and have been preoccupied by a lot of other stuff in my life that has consumed the vast majority of my time.

I am getting along OK. A lot has gone down over the past couple of years, some of which is not all that great, but it is what it is, and I’m working through the challenges. But, I’m not going to bore my readers with that stuff. The important stuff is old calculators. And, there has been some stuff going on there that is exciting.

The coolest thing is that just two days ago, the museum took delivery of an amazing new addition to the museum. I have been searching for one of these machines for many, many years, and finally, one now makes its home here. The machine is a Wyle Laboratories WS-02 Scientific. I’m extremely excited about this addition, as this is a very uncommon, and also somewhat historical machine due to what its development spawned.

For those that aren’t aware of the story, there is an essay on the Old Calculator Museum website entitled The History of Compucorp that goes into a lot of detail of how Computer Design Corporation was spawned from Wyle Laboratories.

The Wyle WS-02 is the second (and last) generation of Wyle Labs’ calculators. Functionally, the earlier WS-01 is identical to the WS-02, with the difference being the medium used to store the working registers of the calculator. The WS-01 uses a small fixed-head magnetic disk, not unlike the disk drives in computers today, but storing on a tiny fraction of the amount of data that today’s disk drives (or even disk drives of computers in the 1960’s) hold. The disk drive proved to be rather temperamental which led to a lot of problems with WS-01 calculators sold to customers. As a result of the difficulties, the calculator engineering team did some redesign of the WS-01 to utilize a magnetostrictive delay line (a loop of special wire through with torque pulses representing ones and zeroes travel through the wire at sonic speeds resulting in a time delay, or storing of the bits in the wire as they circulate through) to replace the disk drive. The resulting machine was the WS-02.

The museum received the WS-02 calculator in amazingly good physical condition. The main issue is oxidation of the plastic keycaps on the keyboard, which makes a white film over the keycap that makes reading the legends on the keys somewhat difficult. It is expected that this will be able to be remedied, but care must be exercised to make sure that the legends aren’t damaged or the structure of the keycaps is not compromised in the process. Also included in the acquisition was the model PC-01 punched card reader, that plugs into the WS-02 calculator to provide keystroke programming, via codes punched into special cards. The card reader appears to be in good condition physically. Along with the calculator and punched card reader, two original manuals for the machine were included, which is amazing, as documentation is usually lost with time.

The machine was originally purchased sometime in the mid-1960’s by a company that was involved in land development, surveying, and construction. The calculator was used to perform surveying and construction calculations. It is not entirely clear, but the WS-02 and PC-01 may have been part of what is called a WSS-5 or WSS-10 system. The WSS stood for Wyle Scientific System, which was a small desk, with a compartment with electronics in it that the calculator and punched card connected to that provided additional storage registers (8, 16, or 24 registers) and patch boards that could be wired with program steps. If the WSS-5 or WSS-10 was part of the system, it was not retained. The company used the machine as part of its operations until sometime in the early 1970’s, at which time the company suffered tough times, and ended up closing. When the offices were being cleaned out, one of the employees saw the calculator sitting out on a table (which may have been the WSS-5/WSS-10), waiting to be thrown out. He asked his management if he could take the machine, as he thought that it was kind of cool. His manager said that it was fine to take it, and he took it home, and stored it away in his basement. The machine was in full operating condition when it was put away in the basement. The machine remained there all these years.

In early May of this year, I received an EMail from the owner of the machine, saying that he had pulled the calculator out of his basement, and did an Internet search on it, and found the Old Calculator Museum’s WANTED  page for the Wyle WS-01/WS-02 calculators. The EMail asked if the museum would be interested in acquiring his machine, as it was unlikely that he would be doing anything with it, and felt that it should go to a place where it would be preserved and documented. Over the following weeks, and agreement was made, and in early July, the machine was packed up and shipped from Rhode Island. The machine arrived at the museum on July 15th, in an amazing custom-built crate that the owner crafted to assure safe transit for the machine.

The machine made the trip with no problems at all. The packing was incredible, and essentially the crate could have likely survived a drop off the back of a truck with no ill effect to the calculator.

Now begins a slow and methodical process of checking out the electronics in the machine to assure that things like power supply capacitors, edge connector sockets, and wiring harnesses are all in good condition, and if any faults are found, properly repaired. It will likely be some time before the machine will be ready to attempt to power up, but it is hoped that it will be able to be made fully operational.

Of course, a detailed exhibit for the calculator will be created for inclusion in the Old Calculator Museum website.

On other calculator-related topics:

– The Monroe EPIC-3000 calculator that was written about in old postings here has been restored to full operation. It is in the process of being documented for its exhibit in the museum. It is quite exciting to have this calculator working fully, as it is very much a hybrid of electromechanical and electronic technology, and the mechanical aspects of machines like this can be quite difficult to diagnose and repair.

– The museum received a donation of a huge amount of old Friden parts and documentation. Included in the lot was a large number of copies of Friden’s internal magazine, Friden News, which I’ve only begun browsing through and have discovered a lot of very interesting historical information, including introduction dates of Friden calculators, as well as stories about the development and early sales of Friden’s first electronic calculator, the EC-130. There is also a lot of information about Friden’s other products, including the Computypers (small-office billing machines/computers), Flexowriters, Punched tape equipment, Postage Equipment, and in later editions, information about Friden’s computer system, the System 10.

– A number of calculator donations and acquisitions have come in: Addo-X 9958 (essentially a Sharp Compet 32 in beautiful condition), Bohn Omnitrex 12, a Master H-2, a Wang 370 Programmer (fully operational after minor repair work), a Monroe EPIC-2000 (needs some work), and an Wang 360SE that needs some power-supply work. It is just a matter of time until I can get these documented and up on the museum website.

I wish all those who read this posting the best of everything.