Thursday, December 21, 2006

World's Oldest Computer to Keep on Calculatin'

The FACOM 128B, first placed in service in 1959, has a new lease on life. Fujitsu plans to keep it running until 2019, when it will be 60 years old.

Relay-based, it does an 8-decimal-digit add or subtract in about 0.15 seconds, and a multiply in about 0.3 sec. I don't see anything mentioning storage capacity (primary or secondary) or even technology, but the article does say the machine covers 65 square meters, which is probably larger than the average Japanese apartment. The machine apparently has some fault-tolerance mechanisms including automatic reexecution of some faulty instructions. One of the articles says the machine is not a stored-program machine, but doesn't mention how you actually did program the thing -- plugs? switches?

The people who know how to maintain the thing are all retired, but have agreed to teach some youngsters how to do it. They also plan to digitize the circuit diagrams for it.

The article speaks somewhat in the future tense, "to be restored", but it also says the computer is actually still in use.

Numazu is south of Mount Fuji; it takes a little over an hour to get there from Tokyo Station via shinkansen and local train. Seeing this thing would be a fun field trip.

See the Daily Yomiuri article and IPSJ's online computer museum.

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