OK, so what’s this one?

Trying to help someone with a project about the history of engineering the other day, I thought that a worthwhile place to begin might be the papers of Jim Sims ’41, the long serving Civil Engineering professor and administrator. That seemed to work out pretty well, but as a bonus I discovered several folders full of photos of things you don’t normally see photographed. For example, here’s the back side of the engineering annex, probably early to mid-60s:

There were several pretty intriguing interior shots as well. Is this a mimeo machine? (If it is, I have a very good story in which it plays a central role.)

But this is the one I really wonder about. I get that this is a computer, but the picture looks early. (None were dated, by the way). Also, I think this is in the Mech Lab but I’m not certain. So, anybody?

Bonus: Here’s a tragic story from my youth. My mom had one of those Corvairs when I was in high school and as I was getting close to my driver’s license I was licking my chops to drive it. Two weeks before I got my license she sold it and bought this:

It still hurts.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to OK, so what’s this one?

  1. Mike Loeb ('BSEE64) says:

    That’s an IBM 1620, the earliest digital computer that I remember on campus, except for the R1, of course. It was in the Mech Labs building. Because it did addition by table lookup rather than conventional “adder” circuitry, it was nicknamed CADET which wags said stood for Can’t Add, Doesn’t Even Try.

  2. Don Johnson says:

    I HAD a Corvair in high school. I was very happy when it got traded in for a Mustang during my college years!

    In the second photo, zooming in shows a Gestefax label. For a good time, look at this URL (put it all together on one line):

    Zooming in on the next picture shows that focus is centered on a console for an IBM computer. This might be a 1620; someone else will need to chime in who knows more. Also, you seem to be on a punchcard fetish: the object to the right of the console is a card reader.

    And I agree the location must be Mech Lab.

    • Pat Campbell says:

      Given the time I spent running programs learning Fortran on a1620, I have to agree that the machine is one of that tribe. Given the double-hung blackboards, I also believe it to be in the Mech Lab. I think I ran some of Doctor Kobayasi’s experimental data on that machine in the summer of 1968.

  3. Mike Loeb ('BSEE64) says:

    PS: the machine next to is a punched card reader for use with decks such as shown yesterday

  4. Mike Loeb ('BSEE64) says:

    PPS: For those interested, there is quite a detailed and extensive article about this machine on Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_1620

  5. James Medford says:

    That’s the first closeup photo I’ve seen of the engineering annex. In other photos it’s always a blurry presence in the distance, usually seen in aerial pics.

  6. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    Is the orange car an AMC Gremlin? I didn’t remember they had a station wagon model.

  7. Leoguy says:

    I haven’t seen a Hornet in years! What a POS. (No offense intended, except to AMC.) Was burnt orange a standard color or did your mother just get lucky? You can add this one to the obsolete technology list…

  8. Mark Williamson says:

    The 1620 was in Ryon Lab (in a room without the window shown) by fall of 1966, so the photo would have to be earlier than that.

  9. Mark Williamson says:

    Also, the unit behind (right of) the 1622 Punch Card Reader/Punch unit looks like the 1623 Core Storage Unit.

  10. Barney L. McCoy says:

    My entire stint at Rice my mother had a Corvair, which I drove when I was home. It was hard to empress members of the fairer sex when driving the subject of Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed”. With the money earned from two jobs, I bought a used 59 Thunderbird at the end of my junior year. I wish I still owned that Tbird. Incidently, that is a mimeograph machine. In that era of student activism, you could always tell a “bombthrower” by the green inkstains on his/her fingers from the mimeo machine.
    Barney L. McCoy

  11. David says:

    I remember a Gestefax that we used on the debate team in high school. When the stencil burned the stink lasted for hours

  12. almadenmike says:

    I believe mimeograph machine was different from the stencil machine that was pictured.

    IIRC, with a mimeograph, you typed or drew upon a dual-sheet original. Then you tore off the typed-upon top sheet to expose a blue/purple-inked copy that was put onto the roller (with a loose bottom end?). Turning on the roller (with a paper feed) produced blue-purple copies.

    A stencil original was “cut” with a typewriter (or stylus) through a plastic film. This was inserted into its roller, and ink pushed through the opening in the film to print onto paper.

    Mimeos were quicker and easier to make, but made fewer and generally lower-quality copies. Many more and sharper-looking copies could be made with a stencil. You could also repair/correct some errors in cutting the stencil with a correction fluid that sealed up the erroneous openings.( I used stencils to make the Baker Vitis newsletter when I was editor.)

  13. Grungy says:

    The Gestefax was used to scan an original to create the master used on a Gestetner printer.
    The Gestetner printer used actual ink, in a color of your choice, to print on regular paper.
    A much nicer process than the progressively-fainter Mimeograph, which used the dye in the “master” to print to the subject paper, with the solvent that we fondly remember doing the heavy lifting.
    And the typewriter-like keyboard next to the 1620 looks suspiciously similar to one that was in my archives, but was donated to some room in AbLab, roughly the same time that the Big Red Sign was returned.

  14. Mark Williamson says:

    That “typewriter-like keyboard next to the 1620” was the console typewriter, an integral part of the 1620.

  15. marmer01 says:

    Yes, I remember when typewriters had “stencil” mode. No ribbon and a harder strike.

Leave a Reply