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The period 1983 - 1986:
Computerised Laboratory Administration

SYRC-10

In 1982, the Laboratory started a first project to computerise its Laboratory administration. Up till then, Philips magnetic cards were used to record the financial administration. A new group at the Laboratory (RG 10) made the choice to use Pascal as the programming language for the administrative applications. That the lab's administrators required the figures to be put neatly in columns was seen by the technical programmers as something annoying: "the computer can count well, so why putting the figures in columns?". At the end, one had to develop a package smart routines that allowed the column-wise printing.

In order to profile themselves, RG 10 made the laboratory administration as their most important visible project. In mid 1983, RG 10 decided to build their own computer for the lab's administration. Their excuses were that you could buy INTEL microprocessor boards, which were clocked a couple of times faster than the CYBER 835 CPU. A 19 inch rack and a backplane were bought, also a CPU-board, a co-processor board and memory boards. Additionally, sixteen Tillegraaf (baseband) modems, designed by Jaap van Till (AKZO), were acquired. More information about the Tillegraaf can be found here.

The TNO Board of Directors received an impressive demonstration about the parallel system: a closed 19" rack with a large number of blinking LEDs and further ... nothing in the rack at all! The administrative application that was shown still ran on the CYBER system! In November, another demonstration was given in which the administrative computer, the SYRC-10/1, (note the serial number 1), was shown (powerless) in a meeting of the heads of administration of the TNO institutes. The SYRC-10 system was rack-mounted together with the modems. The excuse was: "the disk has not been installed yet".

According to the planning, the laboratory administration would start using the new system on December 1, 1983. All information would be copied from the CYBER to the SYRC-10/1. A month of parallel administration was planned for. One week before December 1st, RG 10 complained to the Director about the electro-technical maintenance department. The terminal lines between the computer room and the administration office rooms were not installed yet. The electro-technical maintenance department was very busy, and had planned the installation a couple of days later. In order to satisfy the complaining RG10 people, some action was required. Eight meters of telephone wire were cut into ten pieces.
A tile of the raised floor in the central computer room near the planned location of the SYRC-10 was lifted. The ten ends of wire that came out of the hole gave the impression that the total wiring had been completed. Everybody was satisfied within 5 minutes..

As December 1st was the Laboratory's 'birthday', a day that we normally had more informal meetings and activities for the work force. Thus, on November 30, the Computer Group was informed that the SYRC-10 would be installed on the computer floor on December 2. Then, it became very quiet. A member of the Computer Group inquired the RG10 manager when the 'CYBER-killers' would take over the computer room.

Insiders told us later that the code running on INTEL CPU-boards never was able to reach any of the other boards in the 19" rack. The CYBER-killer benchmark, thus never took place and serial number 1 never saw more "serials" around it. Soon, the SYRC-10/1 moved to the basement after useful parts were stripped off. When the basement was cleared several years later, memories of that system were lost for our museum with exception of this story.

For a long period, the Laboratory administration continued to work at the CYBER based upon the Pascal-programs. At the end of 1985, it was decided to move to a relational database system by ORC (later ORACLE) which was running on a new VAX 11/750.



7/12/1999

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