Fujitsu Has an Employee Who Keeps a 1959 Computer Running

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If you have at any time labored for a enterprise, you’re almost certainly aware that they tend to maintain pcs managing after they should’ve been changed with a little something newer, more rapidly, and/or significantly less buggy. Fujitsu Tokki Systems Ltd, on the other hand, can take that strategy farther than most. The enterprise nonetheless has a absolutely functional personal computer it installed again in 1959, the FACOM128B. Even much more spectacular, it nonetheless has an worker on staff whose position is to maintain the machine in doing work get.

The FACOM128B is derived from the FACOM100, described as “Japan’s initially sensible relay-based mostly computerized personal computer.” The 100, an intermediate predecessor acknowledged as the 128A, and the 128B had been categorized as electromechanical pcs based mostly on the similar variety of relays that had been normally utilized in phone switches. Technologically, the FACOM 128B was not notably chopping-edge even when made vacuum tube models had been presently turning out to be well-known by the mid-1950s. Most of the pcs that utilized electromechanical relays had been early efforts, like the Harvard Mark I (crafted in 1944), or a person-off machines alternatively than commercialized models.

Relay pcs did have rewards, on the other hand, even in the mid-to-late 1950s. Relay pcs had been not as quickly as vacuum-tube-powered machines, but they had been substantially much more dependable. Efficiency also appears to have ongoing to improve in these models as perfectly, however acquiring exact comparison figures for effectiveness on early pcs can be hard. Program, as we fully grasp the phrase currently, barely existed in the 1950s. Not all pcs had been capable of storing plans, and pcs had been frequently personalized-crafted for specific uses as special models, with important distinctions in primary parameters.

Wikipedia notes, on the other hand, that the Harvard Mark I was capable of “3 additions or subtractions in a 2nd. A multiplication took 6 seconds, a division took 15.3 seconds, and a logarithm or a trigonometric purpose took above a person moment.” The FACOM128B was more rapidly than this, with 5-10 additions or subtractions per 2nd. Division and multiplication had been also substantially more rapidly.


Image and data from the IPSJ Laptop Museum

The man dependable for sustaining the FACOM128B, Tadao Hamada, believes that the do the job he does to maintain the procedure managing is a very important element of shielding Japan’s computing heritage and generating sure potential pupils can see functional examples of the place we came from, not just collections of elements in a box. Hamada has pledged to keep the procedure permanently. A yr in the past, the FACOM128B was registered as “Essential Historical Products for Science and Technology” by the Japanese Nationwide Museum of Nature and Science. The objective of the museum, according to Fujitsu, is “to pick out and protect materials symbolizing essential final results in the progress of science and technological innovation, that are critical to go on to potential generations, and that have experienced a extraordinary affect on the shape of the Japanese overall economy, society, society, and the existence of its citizens.”

A movie of the FACOM128B in-motion can be witnessed underneath:

The FACOM128B was utilized to style and design digicam lenses and the YS-11, the initially and only publish-war airliner to be wholly made and produced in Japan until the Mitsubishi SpaceJet. Though the YS-11 plane was not commercially successful, this was not the consequence of weak personal computer modeling the FACOM128B was regarded to be a remarkably dependable personal computer. Fujitsu’s conclusion to maintain the machine in doing work get was itself element of a greater system, begun in 2006. The enterprise writes:

The Fujitsu Relay-style Laptop Technology Inheritance Undertaking started things to do in Oct 2006, with the objective of conveying the views and inner thoughts of the technological staff concerned in its progress and output to the future generation by continuing to work the relay-style personal computer. In this venture, the technological staff concerned in the style and design, output, upkeep, and operation of the personal computer labored with present technological staff to maintain each the FACOM128B, which is quickly approaching its 60th anniversary, and its sister machine, the FACOM138A, in an operational state.

Credit score: Fujitsu

Hamada has been doing work on the electromechanical personal computer considering that the starting of this system. He notes that in the starting, he experienced to learn how to translate the diagrams the machine’s authentic operators experienced utilized. Asked why he believes sustaining the machine is so critical, he said: “If the personal computer does not do the job, it will grow to be a mere ornament,” said Hamada. “What people today sense and what they see are distinctive among distinctive folks. The change are unable to be discovered except it is held operational.”

It is normally exciting to revisit what is been performed with older hardware or off-the-wall personal computer assignments, and I can essentially see Hamada’s issue. In some cases, searching at older or distinctive technological innovation is a window into how a unit capabilities. Other periods, it offers you perception into the minds of the people today that crafted the machine and the issues they had been attempting to solve.

One particular of my beloved off-the-wall assignments was the Megaprocessor again in 2016, a huge CPU you could essentially see, with each individual person block executed in no cost-standing panels. Being equipped to see data getting handed throughout a actual physical bus is an great way to visualize what is happening within a CPU main. Though sustaining the FACOM128B does not offer that variety of obtain, it does illustrate how pcs labored when we had been setting up them from incredibly distinctive materials and procedures than we use currently.

Update (5/18/2020): Considering the fact that we initially ran this tale, YouTuber CuriousMarc organized for a pay a visit to to Fujitsu and an considerable discussion of the machine. You can see his full movie underneath. It is a bit lengthy, but it dives into the history of the procedure and Hamada himself.

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