View Full Version : Univac Computer Room Rescue Johns Hopkins APL to MARCH museum

January 24th, 2010, 05:54 PM
I participated in the recovery of suite of mid-1960's Univac computers and peripherals. These items were sent to the Mid Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyist museum housed within the InfoAge Science Center pf Wall, New Jersey. I am V.P of this club.

Upon seeing the room full of Univac equipment I was shocked at the sheer
size and quantity of the computer systems. It was like being in a
Doctor No movie. Tape drives, lights, etc. Everything you'd expect from an early 60's bad-guy headquarters.

2 1219-B's
2 1540 Tape Units
3 1532 I/O Console with Teletype (not 33's, something larger)
1 MK-75 Targeting Computer
Another I/O station whose name I forget.
spare parts galore, hundreds of flip chips and components cables, connectors, etc.
misc other items.

After going through the truck rental process I drove to Johns Hopkins
APL in Clarksville, MD. I went through the whole security screening thing. Imagine some guy pulling up to a government installation in a giant rental truck...When I got there, and eventually got the first item up on the fork lift, we realized I needed I larger truck.

My estimate for the truck size requirement was based on this photo
...but it turned out that the 1219-B's are larger than the 1219's, or
the woman in the photo is an Amazon. Each unit was closer to 7' tall.

Fortunately the good people of Penske were able to swap me a new truck
for only an additional $50. I left APL, returned the truck, drove back
to APL, repeated the security process, and finally we could start loading things into the 2nd truck. The night before I spent sick as a dog with a stomach flu, and I was feeling absolutely miserable. But, these items were to be destroyed for scrap on Monday (tomorrow), so I had no choice, push forward. Somehow I made it through the day, I think it was the adrenaline generated by such an opportunity to save these systems that kept me going..

Anyway, we filled the truck. If it were not for the team at Johns Hopkins APL, this would not have been possible. With me feebly assisting, 6 guys and one lady worked from 9AM until 3PM disassembling these items, loading onto dollies, then onto a fork lift, and then into the truck one by one. Once loaded in the truck the items were moved to the back of the truck using the dolly and tied down to the walls. The disassembled units were then re-assembled in the truck. The disassembly was needed due to the sheer weight of the items.

I finally got the truck loaded (even the front of the cab was loaded
with items) and drove it to Newark Delaware with Evan and Jeff Grady to
take the truck the rest of the way. What happened after that Evan and Jeff will have to finish the story.

Thanks Jeff Jonas for the tip about these, if not for him, this whole
thing would not have been possible.

I was able to secure a bunch of plotter paper rolls, and pens that have
nothing to do with the Univac system, should these be needed for other
plotter projects.

January 24th, 2010, 08:58 PM
Good work! I can't wait to see pictures :D

I suspect that this is really unique! How come it has been saved for so long?

January 25th, 2010, 02:16 PM
That's awesome so hear and good work preserving the system and history! Did you take any pictures of the party or was it more of a "don't burn your time being a wide-eyed tourist and just get it before they figure out how heavy it is" event?

January 25th, 2010, 04:44 PM
You are too be congratulated for this effort. You must have been exhausted after that day.

January 26th, 2010, 01:00 AM
Yes, good one Bill,

Saving these old dinosaurs is hard work and can actually COST a fair bit of money. They are not like laptops you can just sequester at the back of a cupboard.

Kudos to you and the club for saving a vintage piece of gear for posterity.

Like baythrin, I also wanna see pics!


January 26th, 2010, 06:33 PM
The people at Johns Hopkins U. Applied Physics Lab (where the computer came from) are sending us pics they took. We'll take some of our own .... one of these days.

Unloading the gear at our museum involved a forklift, pallet jack, and an army of nerds!

Currently three parts are on display. The majority is in storage at our facility.

At least four of the parts weigh approximately 1,000 pounds each. Several other parts are a few hundred pounds.

We've rescued a few large minicomputers in the past -- IBM System/3, IBM System/38, Burroughs B-80 (x2), Burroughs L-7000, all sorts of DEC racks, etc. -- but this rescue blew away all the others.

Amazingly, Bill nor I damaged any people/property while driving the 24-foot box truck!

According the people who donated it, "these computers were for a ship-borne radar. The radar antenna itself, and possibly more of the RF gear, went to the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum (Maryland)."

We hope to have more (if not all) of the hardware from this rescue on display in time for the next VCF East. (Date to be determined.)