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Author: Simon Hobson
To: dng
Old-Topics: Re: [DNG] savings from parallelism (Was: if2mac init.d service for persistent network interface names)
Subject: Re: [DNG] Apollo computers (Was: savings from parallelism)
Didier Kryn <kryn@???> wrote:

>     I remember these Apollos. They were shining and ran some brand of
> Unix if I remember well. We had a few in my lab but I never got a chance
> to touch one.

I knew "just about zero" about Unix back then so can't comment on how they compared with anything else. The OS was Domain/IX (or something similar) - ah, wonders of modern search engines, Domain/OS https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain/OS And now I read that, I also recall AEGIS being part of the name somehow.

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo/Domain
Brings back some details. We had the DN10000 as a number cruncher, and before it got locked down, I recall it was blazingly fast compared to our workstations - one of the "demo" programs around on the network did real-time calculations for a load of bouncy balls "tipped into the top of the screen" (so the dynamics of gravity, plus the dynamics of collisions between the balls and boundaries or other balls) and the DN10000 could do the maths (I guess, from memory) an order of magnitude or more faster judging by how much better the balls moved when the maths was done remotely. Reading the articles, I guess we probably had DN3000 workstations.

But the one outstanding feature of the system was it was designed to run a network. Every file on any system on the network was located under one tree. While we are used to "/..." starts at the root of our own box's file system, on the Apollo Domain system, they all came under "//..." with "//<your machine id"/ being the root of your local box. And running programs remotely, while they used your local display, was more or less automagic IIRC.

I recall the ATR (Apollo Token Ring) networking. Our network covered quite a large area - our office was a long way from the Naval Architects where everything was run from. As the second wikipedia article notes, there were switches (I recall a row of them on the wall upstairs) that could switch out a section of the ring to isolate a fault. Again, at the time I knew "not a lot" about networking either.

An interesting feature of the file system has also come back into mind. The node ID was a combination of time of creation, and network ID of the network interface. I know this because at one time something had to be replaced, and I recall the engineer had to run a time consuming program that reset the node ID of every node on the disk - I guess that either a disk was being moved or a network interface replaced. There were also warnings of dire consequences or setting the system clock backwards.

For our electrical/electronic design work we insisted on an A3 laser printer. Back then we only found 3 models in total - and the one we bought cost £13,000 in 1980s money. It also took two people to lift it.

And one morning, we found the cleaners had "helpfully" cleaned the 19" monitors with their wet cloths from buckets of water that after cleaning a few hundred desks was more like mud. Took us hours to get the dried on mud off the screens. We persuaded them that this was not to be done again.

My, how things have progressed in 3 decades ! or in some cases, regressed :-(