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Computers

I have used a wide variety of computers over the years. I'm a little too young to have spent much time on minicomputers, but I did manage to get a little taste, and that led to a life-long fascination with high-end and exotic hardware. (My one regret regarding my college years is that I didn't take advantage of the free accounts available on the CDC mainframe at nearby UMASS.) I have spent many years since then salvaging, restoring, and using high-end computer equipment after various universities, companies, and government agencies had thrown them out as "obsolete".

Going back to my childhood, the complete sequence of computers that I used significantly is as follows -

Mostly other people's computers:

Year Computer Operating System Notes
1978? TI-55 ? Programmable Scientific Calculator.
1979? PDP-11/?? RSX-11? RT-11? Entered BASIC programs from a DECwriter hardcopy terminal. Didn't really understand what was going on, but loved it anyways.
1979 - 1981 Apple-][ Apple DOS Much hacking of BASIC on the machines at school. Got a general grasp of how things worked.
1984 - 1986 Macintosh MacOS Was completely blown away by the original 128k Mac. Became an evangelical GUI proponent for a while. Started to learn C.
1986 VAX-11/750 VMS Went to college, learnt a bit about big computers. Good, but not great.
1986 - 1988 VAX-11/750 BSD4.3 End of the first semester, college got a second VAX and decided to run BSD on it. I was like a fish discovering water for the first time! Absolute heaven. Abandoned GUIs and became an evangelical CLI proponent.
1988 Many 3B2/400s SVR3 Worked as a Unix admin for AT&T briefly. Was root on a roomfull of machines. Mostly 3B2s, but also some weird 680x0 VME systems. Learnt a hell of a lot about Unix.

Home machines:

Year Computer Operating System Notes
1990 286 PC Coherent Aquired a 286 PC, ran Coherent on it, which made it feel like a PDP-11 running 7th Edition Unix. Processes were limited to 64k code + 64K data. Awesome.
1991 3B2/300 SVR3 Aquired my first "real" computer! Very excited to have a genuine Unix system all to myself. 2 meg of ram, 40 meg hard drive. So much power! Eventually upgraded to a 3B2/310 ("MAU" math coprocessor!) then a 3B2/400 (lotsa IO!).
1996 VAXstation-3100/30 Ultrix SCSI! Ethernet! BSD! Installed the OS from tape!
1998 RS/6000 Powerserver-930 AIX My first "high-end" machine. Big rack-mount beast, had to install a dedicated 240V circuit for it. Killer FP performance. 25 MHz first generation POWER processor. (The CPU is actually eight chips.)
2000 Sun Sparcstation-2 OpenBSD Nice to finally have a modern BSD running, and I love sbus.
2002? Sun Sparcstation-5 OpenBSD Faster.
2004 Sun Sparcserver-1000 Solaris WOAH. 8-way SMP! Massive IO! 25MB/sec fibre channel! Grudgingly install Solaris, eventually start to like it.
2004 SGI Origin-200 IRIX First SGI gear. First time I've had a dedicated "compute server". I like MIPS processors, but I'm not very impressed with the rest of the machine.
2006 Sun E3500 Solaris My first seriously enterprise class machine. Eventually hang a tape robot & four FC disk arrays off of it. It currently spans three racks. Did I mention that I love sbus? This is the end of the line for sbus. This is still my main server.
2009 Sun E4000 Solaris Fourteen CPUs!!!! FDDI to the E3500. Rock.
2010 SGI Origin-2000 IRIX Cool. Exotic. Small config (8 CPUs) and not as fast as my E4000, so not of much actual use. Hoping to upgrade it at some point.

The E3500, E4000, and Origin-2000 were all fast enough that they were subject to Supercomputer Export Control legislation when they were new! Ha ha ha. The E4000 has a theoretical peak of about 11 gigaflops, which puts it a little slower than a Cray C90. (Or... slower than a current mid-range laptop.) I frequently get better than 95% user CPU utilization across all fourteen CPUs for hours at a time on my large video rendering jobs.

Everything eventually winds up in the hands of hobbyists!

Snapshots - 2000, 2004, 2010: