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Ambient Sound of Mainframe Computer Center

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    Ambient Sound of Mainframe Computer Center

    Hi

    Odd request this but does anyone know of a source of the background sounds of a typical 60/70/80's mainframe computer room. I was after something ambient I could have playing whilst running the simulated operator consoles of the couple of mainframe emulators I use (IBM 370 and ICL 1900). My first stop was Youtube videos such as the ones of the IBM 1401 that the Computer History Museum at Mountain View have, but there is always the poster talking over it. I could fabricate something (random air con units etc) but someone 'real' would be nice.

    Regards

    Neil

    #2
    Originally posted by interalia View Post
    Hi

    Odd request this but does anyone know of a source of the background sounds of a typical 60/70/80's mainframe computer room.
    100's of 5" Rotron fans.
    I have a notch in my hearing to prove it.

    there may be something you can use in the 7090 computer room in "Dr. Strangelove"

    Comment


      #3
      In a large CDC installation, it was the tape drives (vacuum pumps) that were the big irritants, unless someone opened the hood on one of the line printers. The tape drive noise could be classified as "white noise' but with 16 or 24 of the things, the result was high 80s dB levels, so after a few hours it ate into your nerves. After complaints, management made a big box of those yellow foam earplugs available, which helped tremendously. The CPUs themselves were pretty much noiseless, aside from a faint 400Hz whine (cooling was chilled water into a heat exchanger).
      Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

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        #4
        Yes, the overwhelming source of sound is all of the fans, both in equipment and in the air handlers. Then there were the randomly occurring alarm signals (beeps usually) that no one had noticed or bothered to track down because that piece of equipment hadn't yet failed.

        Comment


          #5
          The other thing of more interest, noise wise, was the robotic tape libraries doing their work. At one point at NCAR we had five StorageTek tape silos all running at the same time, with tapes being grabbed by the arms, swinging around to deposit them in the tape drives or pass-through ports to another silo. Then you got whirring and clunks.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by cruff View Post
            Yes, the overwhelming source of sound is all of the fans, both in equipment and in the air handlers. Then there were the randomly occurring alarm signals (beeps usually) that no one had noticed or bothered to track down because that piece of equipment hadn't yet failed.
            Data centers now have much more higher frequency noise from all of the 3" and smaller fans, The tiny high-volume ones in 1U boxes are especially annoying.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Al Kossow View Post
              I have a notch in my hearing to prove it.
              At 6 kHz like mine?

              Member of the Rhode Island Computer Museum
              http://www.ricomputermuseum.org

              Comment


                #8
                Don't forget the punch cards (mostly readers, but sometimes punches). While not continuous noise, it was arguable the most distinctive and recognizable. And (true) line printers still made plenty of noise with the cover fully on - just not the gun-range noises they made with it off/up. I know a state University that was still using their IBM 4341 - with primary/initial input on punch cards - into the 90's.
                - Doug

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                  #9
                  Yeah, the CDC 405 card reader sound was certainly distinctive, sort of a flapa-flapa machine-gun sound as the cards hit the bumper on the stacker side. The 415 card punch sounded more like a hive of angry wasps, but wasn't run that much. The 501 drum printers (I'm really dating myself now) again were more like machine gun sounds, but not as loud as the 512 train printers that would SCREAM at you if you left the top open.

                  That's not the agonized scream of the hapless programmer or operator who left a box of cards on top of an IBM 1403 line printer when it ran out of paper...
                  Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

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                    #10
                    Don't forget the sound of the raised floor tiles creaking as people walk on them.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Too loud to hear that. On the other hand, the shouted imprecation of the hapless I/O clerk pushing a cart loaded with trays of cards hitting a loose/raised separator strip in said floor was memorable.

                      The sound I remember best was--silence--when we had the occasional power failure. Darned eerie, it was.
                      Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        In our DP room, it used to be the Rosy printers on every error. So much so that you could tell if you had got a connection back by the distinctive clatter.

                        The printer room would really liven up on a reactor trip.

                        But all these sounds have gone with the replacement of mechanicals with solid state stuff.
                        Current fleet
                        TRS80 Model 4 - BBC B - Tatung Einstein - PCW9512 - PET 3032 - C64 - ZX81 - Spectrum 48K - Amiga A500 - Apple II europlus - Apple iMAC G3. Sharp MZ-80K. - IBM 5160 XT - Multibus 286/10 - Micro PDP 11/73 - Rainbow PC100A - MicroVax II - MicroVAX 3100, 3300, VAX 4000 VLC & 4000 Model 96 - AlphaStation 225 Apricot PC - Apple Performa 6200 - Apple Mac IIcx - Osborne 1 - ACT Sirius 1

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                          #13
                          Add in the harmony of a band printer lighting of and spewing out a 100 pages before you could blink.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Back in the 1604 days, some smart guys rigged up the line printers, tape drives and the speaker (there was a speaker attached to the high-order bits via a DAC of the accumulator) to play "Anchors Aweigh" for visiting Navy brass. The printers would furnish the percussion, while the tape drives sounded the bass line.
                            Last edited by Chuck(G); October 19, 2021, 09:48 AM.
                            Reach me: vcfblackhole _at_ protonmail dot com.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              For a while, we had a DecTalk device wired into the computer room speaker system that was programmed to "helpfully" let the operators know when one of the nodes went down on the home grown HyperChannel cross-bar network. I don't think that lasted more than a month or two. It was an audio alert equivalent to red boxes on the network status monitor displayed on some color terminals in the operations area and the system programmer's hallway.

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