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back to article Bletchley Park fires up Big Green-Eyed Monster

The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) has announced the revitalisation of two PDP11-based radar stations which, as part of the IRIS investigative radar recording system, for 25 years helped control the UK's airspace from "without a single incident ever being attributed to an Air Traffic Control failing". TNMOC Trustee and …

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Excellent stuff

Everyone involved in Bletchley deserves a huge amount of thanks, and not just because of the IT angle of their work, but because they do so much to record the historical significance of computing and technology - much of it unrewarding and beyond the call of duty.

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Joke

"without a single incident"

"ROFL imagine if it was run on Windows - airliners would be falling out of the sky in flames! LOL!!!!1"

"Well if it was Open Source, they would have to spend four weeks searching for dependencies before they could get OpenPlaneLandSafely v.021 running properly"

"They should have bought a Mac. That way they could connect an AirPort to it..."

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I'm sorry?

So, two machines that had done sterling service for 25 years have a "retro appearance"?

It'd be a damned sight more "remarkable" if they *didn't*........

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Linux

Replace?

"The final trick was to replace some wiring that had become faulty" ... with a mini-itx PC and screen????

If all it's doing is playing back recordings, surely it just needed a DVD player in a retro case?

I know that's not the point, but it seems feasible

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Well...

...at least they're in working order, just in case ATC need 'em back in a hurry. Not that I'm suggesting that they WOULD of course, I'm just saying...

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Paris Hilton

Stress riser

"They can now be enjoyed "replaying historical recordings of flights in and out of London's Heathrow Airport""

I picture air traffic control enthusiasts and former air traffic controllers gathered around the machines, waxing lyrical about The Great Scare of 10 February 1982, or that day in March 1990 when the tracks of Heathrow's traffic briefly spelled the word WOPR. Like chess enthusiasts or indeed enthusiasts of any arcane art.

Alternatively, this is a great starting point for a disaster novel. Suppose the machine is accidentally plugged into the internet, and starts feeding historical flight recordings into its realtime equivalent? I'm sure it couldn't happen in real life, but then again this isn't real life, is it? And yet it's happening.

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Can they patch the software?

If so, there would seem to be an opportunity to put it back into service tracking satellites.

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Unhappy

sad reminder

"replaying historical recordings of flights in and out of London's Heathrow Airport"

"What's a Concorde, Daddy?" :(

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Happy

Woo hoo!

Thanks for that! I was the architect & project manager of the RARE (Radar Recording Equipment) delivered to LATCC in 1990 to replace the old analogue tape system. I didn't know it had lasted so long! (Pity it's not in their pic)

<sigh> memory lane </sigh>

@ AC "Replace?" - Ho ho. It was never quote that simple - one of the things the system had to to do was to allow people to see what hadn't been seen but might have been seen if the equipment had been used differently... in fact the NERC spec was so complex the whole NERC project was in danger of turning into a data recording centre with an ATC function hanging off the side. But I wasn't responsible for that project - bizarrely the recording contract went to a US co. with no specialist expertise, no experience in the field - AND A HIGHER PRICE. Go figure.

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At least they worked

I had an annoucement on a flight recently from a pissed-off sounding pilot.

"Ladies and gentlemen sorry for the delay, Britain used to have an old and obsolete air traffic control system that worked perfectly well for 25years - we now have a new super advanced computerised system. And for the 3rd time this week it has delayed us taking off for an hour"

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Paris Hilton

Are we sure?

Hopefully they're only replaying recordings...

Otherwise someone's just done the sneakiest outsourcing deal of the century.

Paris, come fly with me...

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Anonymous Coward

Setting things straight

[quote]"ROFL imagine if it was run on Windows - airliners would be falling out of the sky in flames! LOL!!!!1"[/quote]

It does, despite many objections from the engineers involved. Both Radar and Comms in the Terminal control room of Swanwick run on Windows. :)

[quote]"Ladies and gentlemen sorry for the delay, Britain used to have an old and obsolete air traffic control system that worked perfectly well for 25years - we now have a new super advanced computerised system. And for the 3rd time this week it has delayed us taking off for an hour"[/quote]

That's not true it's only had one issue this week and that was human error.

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Anonymous Coward

shame

I worked with PDP11s in another radar application and I checked the date code on the chips inside and they'd been operational for nigh on 25 years too. And I dare say the electronics would have gone on for many more years, but alas, the 20MB disk platters were hard to get hold of, and the card edge connectors were becoming worn and unreliable.

So whilst the TTL logic chips may have lasted for a lot longer, spares and mechanical parts mean they systems have to be replaced.

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JB
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Retro look

I do like the wood trim and formica of these cabinets. Now if they could bring out a wood-trim Eee PC... :)

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Retro look

I like the brown vinyl finish applied to PDP-11 cabinets. Maybe this should make a comeback. Flock-wallpapered thin-client, anyone?

(Sadly no LLB icon)

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