The R2 Computer, with a little bonus

I employed my special “pull things off the shelves randomly” research technique the other day and once again it proved effective. I believe that machine is part of the R2 computer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of it before, but it’s the right era–this must be early 70s–and I can’t think of what else it could be.

I know much, much less about the R2 than the R1 and I would really welcome any help on understanding more about it.

As I kept flipping through the photos, though, I was delighted to discover that the kid with the wavy hair in the R2 picture had convinced a pretty girl to have lunch with him.

Bonus: This was an accident, but I like it.

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20 Responses to The R2 Computer, with a little bonus

  1. Richard A. Schafer says:

    That “kid with the wavy hair” is John Doerr, venture capitalist extraordinaire. Wish I could remember who the girl is; she looks familiar, but the name escapes me. I spent at least part of one summer soldering in some of those circuits John is checking. Unfortunately, however, we used the wrong kind of solder at least part of the time, causing early corrosion of some of the circuitry. Plus I learned to be very careful which end of the soldering iron to pick up.

  2. Grungy says:

    I left you a huge box of drawings once, when your office was in Duncan, that included a lot of R2 stuff.

  3. Don Johnson says:

    Bart Sinclair will know for sure, but I believe the woman is the future Ann Doerr. And John Doerr did work on the R2. Check out the Rice Engineering promo movie I know you have.

  4. Scott K. Warren says:

    Yes, the girl is Ann.

  5. C Kelly says:

    Maybe you can find some photos of John Doerr spinnin’ some wax at KTRU back in the day.

  6. almadenmike says:

    John was also the on-site engineer for some of KTRU’s round-the-clock broadcasts of Apollo moon missions, which were aired live from the Manned Spacecraft Center, long before there were any all-news stations. (I was the science reporter for KTRU’s coverage of Apollo 14, 15 & 16; my first introduction to science writing as a profession.)

  7. I was told that John Doerr built an interface to allow the PDP-11 to access various contiguous chunks of the R2 memory, a window into it. This was, of course, dubbed the Doerr Window.

  8. Michael Donegan says:

    I have a reel-reel recording of John on KTRU. I need to digitize it before it dies.

  9. Rob Meyer says:

    Have you found anything on the R2D2 circa 1977? Sorry for that….

  10. Grungy says:

    There’s a 3.5′ memory platter in the Woodson, that used to be in AbLab.
    Can anyone recall what this monstrous thing was from?
    The mounting hardware is different, but it looks something like this platter:

    • Yes, it was from the Stretch Computer in Los Alamos – I had one that my folks threw out when I was somewhere other than Houston. There were quite a few available at the time and someone just asked us who wanted one. I figured they would be invaluable from an historical perspective because you could see the individual track marks from the read / write heads. Sigh. I only worked on the R2 during two summers because of my NSF summer intern status.Rod Bolhman was getting his PhD at that time and around the lab around a lot then. Doerr would come in from time to time primarily soldering.

  11. Grungry, sounds like you are referring to a hard disk from the R1 or R2 era, at least that was the lore I know of.. There were several of these floating around ECE the last couple of decades but it seems like we got down to one. I want to say Michael Dye gave it to Melissa Kean at some point. J.D. Wise, Sidney, Bart & Don likely know the history as well as anyone.

  12. Michael Donegan says:

    Some of the hardware appears to have been stripped around the center but the platter could be one of the platters from the R1 disk drive. That drive was given to Rice because it had been in a room that got spray painted and the platters had paint on them. They restored the platters at Rice and interfaced the drive to the R1. It had a 300 lb hydraulic mechanism for moving the disk heads across the surface. We had a tape that we could run that would move the arms back and forth to shake the machine. Sometimes when the disk interface was not working, we could use this program to jiggle the wires. That kept us from having to go downstairs and do it manually. I can’t remember, but if the disk held a megabyte I would be surprised.

    • Edward Feustel says:

      In fact, the “drum” had been working on the R1. Then someone spray painted a room in the back of Abercrombie and we had a painted drum that had to be cleaned.

  13. Grungy says:

    Other references to the “memory drums” from the ILLIACs say “64KB”, but there’s no telling if any part of that labeling is correct.

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