Computer history: background on CDC Cyber equipment at TNO Waalsdorp

Control Data Cyber equipment used at TNO

Below you find the specifications of some of the Control Data Corporation (CDC) computer systems and equipment which we used at the TBNO Waalsdorp between the seventies and nineties.

 

Type/Model Description
DISK CONTROLLERS
CDC 7054 / CDC 7154 Disk controller controls up to 8 disk storage drives, connects to one standard 6000 I/O channel. Two mass storage controllers were required for dual-access operation. The minimum configuration will have two disk storage units.

CDC 7155 disk (FMD) controller
CDC 7155 disk (FMD) controller
Disk controller controls up to 8 disk storage spindles (four drives) of 885 disk units. Two mass storage controllers were required for dual-access operation. The minimum configuration will have two disk storage units. Size (w x d x h): 0,74 m x 0,64 m x 1,68 m; weight: 159 kg. (photo courtesy Fredy Ferrari, Fides, CH)
DISK SUBSYSTEMS
CDC 854 Removable pack disk drive. 8.2 M 6-bit characters per pack 30 to 165 ms positioning time; sectors of 256 characters. Used as CDC 3200 system disk.
CDC 844-21 Removable pack disk drive. 110 M 6-bit characters per pack; 644 characters per sector and 24 sectors per track; 404 tracks; 10 to 55 ms positioning time; average access of 38.2 ms; 3600 rpm; nominal transfer rate of 921,600 chars/sec or 6.8 Mbps. Not all disk controllers could handle this transfer rate, so in the early dates 1:2 sector interleaving was used. Required 881 disk packs with 19 data and one (pre-formatted) servo surface. Size (w x d x h): 0,56 m x 1,14 m x 1,00 m; weight: 318 kg.

We almost never removed any of these packs, even during “system time” (testing). Only for system maintenance and test time for system programmers, another disk set was mounted.

When a disk crash occurred, spectacular noises arose from the spindle combined with brown ‘smoke’ (the magnetic layer).

844-41 disk unit
844-41 disk unit
Removable pack disk drive. 237 M 6-bit characters per pack or 1422 Mbits; average access of 38.2 ms; nominal transfer rate of 921,600 chars/sec; 6300 rpm. A double-density version of the 844-21. Size (w x d x h): 0,56 m x 1,14 m x 1,00 m; weight: 318 kg.

CDC 885-12 disk unit
CDC 885-12 disk unit
Cyber 170 sectored capacity of 4152 million bits or 692 million six bit characters per spindle, for a total of 1.384 billion characters per disk unit. Positioning time is 10 to 50 ms, 25 ms average. 9.58 million bits per second burst transfer rate. 3600 rpm. Size (w x d x h): 1,07 m x 0,85 m x 1,13 m; weight: 490 kg.

CDC 895 disk unit
CDC 895 disk unit
895 disk unit (opened)
895 disk unit fully opened

Winchester disk unit containing four independent spindles with non-removable head-disk assemblies (hda). A total capacity of 2.444 Mbyte (8 bits). Burst transfer rate 24 Mbps. Positioning time is 16 ms average. Unit size (w x d x h): 1,42 m x 0,81 m x 1,56 m; weight: 635 kg.

9730 - CYBER 930 integrated tape/disk subsystem is the left cabinet
9730 – CYBER 930 integrated tape/disk subsystem is the left cabinet
CYBER 930 integrated tape/disk subsystem: 414 MB/disk; 960 tracks; 15 kbits/inch; 12 data surfaces/7 platters; 47 sectors/track; 24 tracks/cylinder; 700 cylinders; 14.5 Mbps burst data rate; 20 ms average positioning time; 3600 rpm.
Tape deck: 25 ips start/stop mode; 75 ips streaming mode; 1600 and 6250 cpi; max. 468 kB/s transfer rate.
TAPE SUBSYSTEMS
CDC 7021 Magnetic Tape controller.
Single channel connection to one control. Permits read/write on any one of eight CDC Model 667 and 669 (intermixed) Tape Units. Contains a programmable processor. Will read/write 556/800 characters per inch NRZI recording and 1600 characters per inch Phase Encoded. Will read 200 characters per inch NRZI.
Size (w x d x h): 0,74 m x 0,64 m x 1,68 m; weight: 159 kg. Controlware had to be loaded first (cold start) using the card reader. A deadstart panel program dumped the bits from the card images directly into the tape controller’s firmware memory.
CDC 667-2 A single-capstan unit, 7-track, 556 CPI and 800 CPI NRZI Recording. Transfer rates of 55.6K and 80K 6-bit characters per second. Tape speed 100 inches per second. Forward and reverse read. Rewind time of a full 2400ft reel is 60 seconds.
CDC 669-2 A single-capstan unit, 9-track, 800 CPI NRZI Recording and 1600 cpi Phase-encoded recording. Transfer rates of 80K and 160K 6-bit characters per second. Tape speed 100 inches per second. Forward and reverse read. Rewind time is 60 seconds. One had to thread the end of the tape to the fixed reel. Then, the 66x-series units loaded – by means of underpressure – the tape into the loop boxes after pushing Start buttons.

679 magnetic tape unit
CDC 679-200 magnetic tape unit
9-track tape drive. 200 ips at 800, 1600 or 6250 chars/inch. The units were very fast, but initially very sensitive to the correct adjustment of the loop columns sensors. Each unit had a large size ‘vacuum cleaner’ motor that delivered the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the tape in the loop columns. This allowed fast movement of the tape across the head while the reels could start or stop much slower. The 67x-series units automatically loaded and threaded the tape after pushing the Close Window and Start buttons. It automatically opened the tape enclosure. Size (w x d x h): 0,77 m x 0,76 m x 1,61 m; weight: 408 kg.
UNIT RECORD
CDC 6681 Data Channel Converter, which permitted 3000 series peripheral equipment to be attached to 6000-series channel.

CDC 405 card reader
CDC 405 card reader
Famous from many “computer room” movie shots in the nineteen-sixties and early seventies. The card reader was attached to a mainframe channel via a 6681 Data channel converter. The card reader could read 1200 cards/minute for 80 column cards and 1600 cards/minute for 51 column cards (after flipping an end stop). Actually, the fastest card reader in the industry; IBM’s fastest card reader was 16% slower. It had a 4000 card hopper capacity, 4000 card stacker capacity, 240 cards secondary stacking capacity for limited sorting or projecting.
The flatbed hopper and stacker allowed a large number of cards to be fed in a continuous stream. It was fabulous to see the cards fast turn around the array of light detectors in front of the projector lamp and the optics.
CDC 501 Drum printer, printed 1000 lines per minute using 48 characters only, 800 lpm using all 64 characters, skips 25 inches per second, 6 lines per inch, 136 columns, modified standard gothic font. A manual switch allows printing at half speed.
Special punched tape was required to signal “channel” jump, e.g. channel 1 jump was top-of-page (ref. Fortran first character output codes). Reasonably good quality output.

CDC 580-1200 line printer
CDC 580-1200 line printer
Chain-style line printer attached to a mainframe channel. 800 lines/minute with 48 character train, 136 columns with 6 or 8 lines per inch spacing. Paper advance single line 11 ms (6 line per inch/lpi) or 10 ms (8 lpi). Included a powered stacker for the printed sheets of paper, train image storage. Skip rate: 70 inch/sec. Required a train cartridge, either 64 character set or 94 character ASCII set. Reasonably good quality output. Size (w x d x h): 1,57 m x 1,17 m x 1,32 m; weight: 680 kg.
 
The printer train consisted of specially arranged slugs with three characters each; the set was optimised for the English use of characters (alike the Morse code) and the length of the line to be printed. Israeli colleagues complained about the slowness of the printer as compared with its specs: the printer control software and the use of the slugs were not optimised for right to left printing.

Channel control papertape for page skip control
Channel control papertape for page skip control

 
The channel control papertape was used to skip paper to the top of form (channel 1), bottom page and any other channel. These paper tapes were hand punched and then glued as a ring. An optical reader read the skip channel punch holes as the paper tape was moving in parallel with the printer page. Later printers only read the channel tape once when powering up and stored the tape image in a memory.
 

Papertape punch device specific for punching the control tape
Papertape punch device specific for punching the control tape

At the bottom of the last page, two full lines were printed to signal the end of the print job. The next job started with a so-called banner page with the five character username printed in large characters across 12 (or more?) lines. At the bottom page, two full lines signalled the start of the print job.
To please our operators in separating the outputs of the users, we tricked the printer. Using special settings in the control tape and a modified printer driver, we skipped in both instances to bottom page, changed the standard 6 lines/inch setting to 8 lpi and printed four lines. That resulted in a printed line across the fold but still before the top of page mark. As both the end (top of the banner page) and its bottom had a printed line across the banner page, one could always spot the banner page from the back (outside fold) side of a set of printed sheets.
td>

585-200 printer
585-200 printer
The 585-printer was attached to a CDCnet device interface. In our case to a MDI using a Centronics interface. Peak performance: 2000 lines/minute, 132 columns with 6 or 8 lines per inch spacing, 2.5 m/s page skip speed. Size (w x d x h): 1,10 m x 0,90 m x 1,25 m; weight: 325 kg.
COMMUNICATION
CDC 2551 Communications processor. Design was based upon a CYBER 18 minicomputer (System 17 successor) equipped with large size communication line adapter boards. PP code 1ND drove this system. To compile data communication software, one had to compile seven hundred pages of PASCAL 1 code, run a microcode assembler program, cross-link System 17 code on the Cyber, map the 16 bits code into the Cyber 6 bits bytes and map that to the PP 12-bits data channel format; a very lengthy process taking a couple of hours Cyber processor time.
CDC’s hardware description for the 2551 was: “Entry level communication processor with limited line termination capacity for computer front end or remote processor applications. Includes 32k words of 16 bit MOS memory (expandable to 128k words), cabinet, loop multiplexer and capacity to house up to 16 CLA’s (not included), power supply, maintenance panel, cassette tape controller, cassette tape drive and cyclic redundancy check sum module. Required console, plus channel coupler (2558-3 or 2558-4 or 10344-1) for front-end applications or autostart module cassette (2580-4) for remote applications.” Each 2560-1 CLA provided two modem connections to EIA RS232C lines at speeds up to 9,600 bits per second. The 2561-1 provided connection to EIA RS232C or CCITT V.24 interface standards.
CDCNET

A CDCNet xDI box
A CDCNet xDI box
Standard boxes that could be configured as one liked using large and small cards:

  • MDI: the Mainframe Device Interface (MDI) using a mainframe channel interface card (2621-211).
  • NDI: the Network Device Interface (NDI) delivering gateway services, e.g. the TCP/IP to/from (native) XNS and (later) OSI conversion services.
  • TDI: Terminal Device Interface, having a number of Line Interface Modules (LIMs) to hook up asynchronous, synchronous and Unit Record Equipment (URI) lines (e.g. printer, card reader, plotter). (type 2622-201 equipment)

Unit size without functional cards (w x d x h): 0,43 m x 0,46 m x 0,35 m; weight: 16kg.

TERMINALS
CDC 711 synchronous terminal *no picture*
SYSTEMS
CDC 3200

CDC 3200 system
CDC 3200 system
CDC 3200 systeem: 24-bit, cost: $200,000, 800 kHz (1.25µs cycle), 96 kilobytes (32767 x 24 bits), 0.800 MIPS (see; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CDC_3000_series)
CDC 6414

The Control Data CDC 6400 (64 KWords) in the back, console in the front
The Control Data CDC 6400 (64 KWords) in the left back; console in the front
CDC 6400 CENTRAL COMPUTER.
Sixty-bit word size, 65,536 words of magnetic core storage with a minor clock cycle of 100 nanoseconds and a major cycle of 1000 nanoseconds; 10 peripheral and control processors each with 4,096 12-bit words of independent magnetic core storage working at a speed of 1000 nanoseconds, twelve 12-bit data channels at a speed of one 12-bit word per 1000 nanoseconds, floating-point hardware, 8 operand, 8 addressing and 8 increment registers, central processor interrupt through exchange jump option, includes logic coupler for addition of extended core storage and required power and cooling equipment (water cooled). The 6612 desk console with dual crt, 10 x 10 inch display area, includes typewriter keyboard and associated controller.
Link to the configurator (1966).
CDC 7418

CYBER 74 installation: three of the four bays visible; the Christmas tree to attach the interbay connections is not yet installed
CYBER 74 installation: three of the four bays visible; the Christmas tree to attach the interbay connections is not yet installed
CDC CYBER 74: Sixty-bit word size, one multi-function central processor with 131,072 words of central memory, 10 peripheral and control processors each with 4,096 12-bit words of independent magnetic core storage, twelve 12-bit data channels. Floating-point hardware, 8 operand, 8 addressing and 8 increment registers, central processor interrupt through exchange jump logic, includes two adapters for 3000 series data channels, system console, 64-bit interlock register and required power and cooling equipment (water cooled).
CDC CYBER 180-835

CDC 180-835
CDC 180-835
The CDC CYBER 180-835 computer had a sixty-bit word size, 524,288 (up to 2M) words of semi-conductor storage with error correction code. Ten (fifteen or twenty) peripheral processors, each with 4096 12-bit (plus one parity bit) words of storage. The processor includes 2048 words of cache memory, floating point hardware, eight addressing, eight operand and eight increment registers. Central processor interrupts through an exchange jump. Twelve (or 24) 12-bit (plus one parity bit) data channels. Includes system console and required cooling equipment; chilled water required. Included a 18001-1 data channel converter (conversion 170 channel to 3000 channel). Includes dual-state mode. 250 microsecond minor cycle.
CDC 840A

CYBER 840A CPU chips clipped onto the cooling system
CYBER 840A CPU chips clipped onto the cooling system
Single processor, a cache of 2048 words; 16 Mbyte memory (up to 128 Mbyte); 10-15 or 20 PPs, 12 or 24 Cyber 170 I/O channels. The CPU dissipated 1182 W, the memory 406 W and the IOU 797 W; the remainder of the heat (24660 W) was transferred to the chiller unit. CPU size (w x d x h): 1,32 m x 0,71 m x 1,93 m; Memory unit size (w x d x h): 0,73 m x 0,76 m x 1,93 m; IOU size (w x d x h): 1,09 m x 0,76 m x 1,93 m;
CDC 930-11

CDC 930 system
9710 is top left cabinet
CDC CYBER 930-11 system: single processor, 64 bits, virtual state only, 40 registers, 32 MB (could be 64 MB), 80 MB/sec memory transfer rate, PPs 16Kword 16 bits, 5 or 10 I/O processors, 3 (6) ICI and 3 (6) IPI channels
ETA10-P

ETA10-P
ETA10-P
ETA10-P system: single, pipelined vector-based CPU chip with 400 connects on a 44 layer CPU board with 20,000 1.5 mil drill holes; clock speed 24 nanosec. Peak: 146 MFlops. CPU memory: 4 Mwords* 64 bits shared memory. This memory interacted with the main or common memory of 8 MWords* 64 bits.