Friday, November 13, 2009

My Oldest Piece of Computer Hardware

I've been home sick most of the week, so I figured I'd kill some time by writing a new blog entry. What I'm about to show you is the largest, most useless thing I own, and I'm quite proud to own one. I've come across many ancient pieces of computer history in my time which included cylinder hard drives and magnetic tapes galore, but this item is quite special...


It's a punched paper tape reader made by Decitek / OK Tool & Machine Corp. It measures 23" x 21" x 11" and weighs approximately one ton. This particular machine has 8 sensors for data reading, making it one of the more technologically advanced versions (HA HA HA). So, how the hell did I end up with this thing?

My previous workplace manufactured electronic circuit boards. They used this thing to control a wire wrap machine. Wire wrap went the way of the dodo back in the 1970s in favor of printed circuit boards. My workplace held onto this equipment because the boss didn't like to throw anything away. You should see the crap that collected in that place.

Not too long before I switched jobs, they did an extensive cleaning of the place. The paper tape reader along with a piece of the wire wrap machine were slated for the BFI bin. I happily threw the other piece of this machine into the dumpster, but I didn't have the heart to throw out the reader, so it ended up in the back of my truck (along with a few bags of pre-cut wire)

One of the reasons I didn't keep the entire machine is because it was incomplete, and the other piece of it was larger than the this thing. I also had no desire to keep a phenomenal amount of shit in my garage.

Here's the back of it. I believe that this is actually a rack mount reader put into a case along with a specially designed interface for the wire wrap application. To my dismay, the cables to connect this thing were nowhere to be found. When powered up, this thing makes a sound like nothing else I've ever heard. It sounds like.... well, like a computer lab from the 1970s.

When I peek through the vents on the top, I see a 25 pin male connector. I'm led to believe that it's an RS232 port, but without a paper tape (nor the desire to take this thing apart), I cannot prove this. It would be nice to have a paper tape to try the thing out, but they cost a small fortune on Ebay. Perhaps I'll run across some one day when I least expect it.

It's too bad I don't have the punching machine because I have a BASIC computer program in one of my old computer books that will write text on the tape:

Could you imagine installing Windows off paper tape? It would take months to do it, and probably hundreds of rolls of tape!

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