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SNOWBALL MACHINE ON FIRE!

Remember the ROCC team that were trying to recreate one of the first ever online shopping blog__snowball_machine_on_fire.jpgsystems as used in 1984 by a Mrs Snowball of Gateshead? They’ve done it and it is now on show at The Centre for Computing History.

This is how they did it.

Over to Project Manager Alan Gould…..

The project team of Alan Gould, Richard Hibbs, Dave Bunting and Steve Perry completed the first phase of the installation at The Centre of Computing History in Cambridge at the end of October 2014.

Considering the age of all the equipment it has proved very reliable with only a few minor blow outs over the last three years. We started to assemble the kit full of optimism and everything seemed to be going to plan until after about half an hour running, SMOKE panic and system shutdown, Richard traced the problem to one of the power supplies.

We changed the power supply, started the BCG and happy days for about 30 minutes and then SMOKE another panic and system shut down, problem turned out to be the same power supply so this time we also changed a Disc Drive we suspected to be the course.

Third time lucky, we hope as this was our last spare power supply -no chance as soon as we turned the equipment on SMOKE panic system shutdown. Fortunately Jason Fitzpatrick who runs the museum and by this time fearing for the building turned up to see what was happening, after a quick explanation and because we had no more spare PSU’s Jason said to turn the BCG back on and see what happens, guess what - SMOKE panic system shutdown. Then he said to try again, by this time we’re working on the assumption that he is using us for an insurance fraud in the hope we would burn the building down! We try again with the same result but being used to this outcome we do not panic but after a few seconds there was a bang then we shut down the system. Jason told us to turn on the kit, but this time no smoke and the kit preforms as normal.

Apparently these power supplies have a capacitor that blows under certain conditions and in particular when they get older, these three PSU happen to be twenty plus years old, but will still operate after the capacitor has blown (and no I have no idea why it is in the PSU if it operates ok without it) but we are up and running again.

Dave arrived in the middle of the pyrotechnics but sensibly kept his distance until we had the kit running without any smoke.

After a long day we dropped Richard off at the station for his journey home and Alan retired to the hotel for a well-deserved beer, Dave eventually joined him after making up for lost time and getting in some extra programming.

Alan overheard a young boy ask his mother about the ROCC machines. Now he had an audience he went on to tell them about the ROCC display, they were genuinely fascinated, with the mother reminiscing about teletext images and the young boy fascinated with the old Rediffusion television and how slow the text took to refresh.

As Dave was finishing his testing Alan asked if they would like to help with the test, the interesting thing was that both mother and son found it all very fascinating for different reasons, there reaction was very satisfying for all the work everyone has put in to this project and we believe it will prove a successful display with visitors to the centre.

We left the main display working but and will be return with Steve, hopefully soon after Christmas to complete phase two installation of the Teleputer.

The Centre for Computing History is a not for profit facility that truly embraces technological innovations throughout the years.



Posted Monday, January 19th, 2015 by Luke Aldrich

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