Computer history: The merger of the LEOK and Physics Laboratory – TNO-FEL


The merger of LEOK and the Physics Laboratory: TNO-FEL

The merger of the LEOK and the Physics Laboratory (PhL) took place on December 1, 1984. The new organisation of the new TNO Physics and Electronics Laboratory (TNO-FEL) impacted the organisation of computer operations as well. The Computer Group of the Physics Laboratory was split up and merged with its LEOK counterpart. The Computer & Instruments (C & I) group within the Business Technical Staff department became responsible for the day-to-day operations of the systems, network and data communications.
The system and application programmers at LEOK and PhL merged into the ‘Management and Support’ section of group 2.4 ‘Computer Architecture and Data Processing’ within the System Development and Information Technology division. Less than a year later, the system programming activities and a Software Service Desk (SSD) became an independent group: the ‘System Management and Support’ (SMS) group. 


A new computer room; end of the punch card era

In February 1984, we could move the systems to the new computer room in the new building part of TNO FEL (currently named TNO location The Hague Waalsdorp). Because we decided to get rid of the punch card processing, we put the punch card reader out of operation on 1 January 1984. The last user of the card reader was … the System Programming department. System programming had some hundred small card jobs for compiling, loading and installing new system software releases, something that took place two to three times a year. Pulling out and storing small decks of punch cards from a card box was much more convenient than storing them in many files on the system. To solve the storage and archival problem, the ‘Indirect Permanent File’ system software (IPF) developed by the University of Adelaide was installed (the attentive reader discovered the frequent use of public domain/open software on TNO-FEL was already common practice since the beginning of the seventies).

During the construction of the new part of the building, the construction site was a forbidden area. The design of the new computer room was only viewed on a construction map showing walls and doors only. A month before the move, a major problem was discovered at a late stage: no water cooling system was installed for the CYBER. In fact, there was an air cooling system installed that took into account a maximally filled computer room with two ‘hot’ CYBERs, a double amount of PDPs and VAXes, and a large set of peripheral equipment. Including a safety factor, there was a huge overcapacity of air cooling and circulation after applying water cooling by a factor of five. The advantage was that hardly any airflow could be felt in the computer room and that the office spaces were relatively cool in summer.
Another issue was that the builders had put concrete on the data communication room’s floor to level the floor with the raised computer floor. To route the cables, holes had to be drilled through the walls.