Last updated: Feb 12, 2006

Gee Daddy what did you do during the Computer wars.


One of the last jobs I did as an FE was up in Canada, The client had a lot of equity in a 370/168 that was being replaced by a new Amdahl something big. This was a clasic screwed up mess, with big bucks involved! The IBM CE shut the system down and certified it for de-install on friday afternoon thinking he was going to turn it over to the deinstallers and go home. And then we showed up, with the leasing agent, and a pile of paperwork, ready to ruin his weekend.

We had instructions to pull all but the case memory and the associated power supplies and cables off of a fully loaded system. We had 24 hours to strip the memory and put the machine back to basic system configuration for re-certification. This was to happen before anyone was going to be allowed to move the system.

The Amdahl install team was waiting in the hall with their new system on skids in the elevator when we arrived, they were demanding to know whem IBM was going to move the old system out of there so they could push their new CPU in and begin installing it. The IBM de-installers are waiting to pull the old system out and the owner of the system refused to sign off on the dinstilation. He was making it clear to all he could care less. The computer was not moving until we got the memory off. You must understand this was period in time when memory was selling for as much as $86k a meg installed. That works out to be about $83.00 per K or about a lot of money for a fully loaded 168. All I know is we had a lot of memory to recover and 24 hours to do it.
The IBM guys were screaming about it being a 40+ hour job that could not be rushed. They were sure it could not be done in the 24 hour window we were alloted. They than made it perfectly clear that they would not de-install the system if we tore the memory off. The system would have to be back running and certified before they would touch it ever again. Our fearless leader told them no-problem and showed them all to the door.

As planned I crawled into the power frame and started pulling wires and crosconnects. At 5'5" and about 130 lbs in those days, I fit folded into an interior space in the middle where the power frame attaches to the storage frame. A lot of the cables pass through that area and is a pain in the butt area to work on from the outside. Not a problem if you can fit inside
The other guys moved to their respective gates and started pulling power first and pass the cables to me sitting in the center of the frame. I played monkey in the middle as people around me passed wires and cables through to me. All of us had done the job before and knew what we were doing! Our first task was to get it back running as a base 2meg system as fast as possible, that way we could start re-certification test. The plan was to remove and pack the excess hardware, clean up and tuck the try-leads while the certification test were running on the system. If we had a problem to debug we wanted to know as soon as possible, we were on a tight clock.The extra wires and gate work could wait till the end.

Just before dawn I had the power frame done and climbed out of the system for teh last time. I remembering walking around the system as it was powering up for the first time. We were laughing, it did not look very good at all, there were tri-leads everywhere. Clumps of loose tri-leads were still attached to backplanes I had pulled the power from, earlier in the evening and had been disconnected at the other end. They just had not been removed from the frame yet. Power up went smoothly and I laid down on the floor between the power frame and the door and took a nap.

I was the first to be awaken sometime after 8 am by one of the Amdahl guys who came crashing in the room. This guy were wired, he demanded an update and wanted to know how we were going to be done in time if we were all sleeping!

I pointed out that the deadline was still many hours away, and I, did not fall asleep until after my work on the power frame was done!
And, if I was not mistaken the system did sound like it was running. As he was not waking me up with a real problem, nor did I work for him or his company, I was not a happy camper! While I attempted in vain to bums rush him back out of the computer room. The room began to quickly fill with more people as our guys began to wake up, and other sources of noise began to enter the room, was not going to quiet down soon, and I do not wake up well in that environment.
As the rest of the our crew began to wake up and compare notes, one of the Amdahl guys heard the word finished or done from someone and ran from the room yelling something. By then the other IBM CE's came in and demanded to see for themselves, how, we could not possibly be done! I did my best to shake them off as they followed several of us around to the other side of the system, There we found the boss passed out on the console. On the way around the room the IBM guy took one look at the open gates and tri-leads everywhere and started to make a lot of noise, about the system being powered up with wires everywhere. Rip got his name because he can sleep through most anything. But the noise was too great. He opened his eyes looked at the console and Yelled,  DONE, get this place cleaned up, were out of here, like he never fell asleep.
There it was on the screen, the test complete message, It was backed up by a lot of greenbar flowing out of the printer. The Head CE muttered something about what rev level tape we were using...Rip pointed at the tape drive drive where the CE had never unloaded his tape from the day before, and said yours it is a bit out of date but I figured it was ok,i have a later rev in my case if you want to do it again. And we had the greenbar to prove it.
The CE gasped looked at the greenbar muttered something about wasting paper and left the room. It took us several minutes to get everyone back out of the room so we could finish up. Minutes later the full IBM crew was back in the room in disbelief!

The Amdahl - IBM heckling went on for over an hour while we finished up and got out of there as fast as we could! It turns out that the Amdahl and IBM guys got into some serious betting over our success or failure in the hotel bar the night before. When we found this out several in our group were mad we were not allowed to get some of that action, but alas it was too late.

We officially gave them the system back with 8 hours to spare, and because we ran a full green bar, The CE did not feel the need to run the tests a second time and started pulling cabinets out as as fast as we could clear them and tucked them up a bit. Having all had a nice nap, we made short work of it. We packing the memory into the back of a very happy leasing agents car, left a silver bullet and headed out of town.

I have some fond memories of the good old days, now they are only the mutterings of an old geek :)

It was during this time that I got involved with the distruction of some big iron 360's The Big Iron Holocaust.
Exiting Back to the IBM-Collectables Gallery or returning to the IBM collectables Home page are still options.




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(c)2006 R.C.Bradlee all rights reserved
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