Friday, August 2, 2013

Vintage Computer 1958 Transistor Logic - Autonetics Recomp

 Recently I was working in our computer museum warehouse and brought out a computer made in 1958 with transistor logic. It is an Autonetics Recomp 501 digital computer. This looks like an attempt by Autonetics to make a commercial computer from the cards and designs used in the Minuteman 1 ICBM guidance computer. Not many of these computers were made and this one is serial number 003. I located one additional Recomp computer in a California museum.  These computers had a very limited success commercially  however it sure is an interesting piece of hardware - they called it a portable office computer.  You will enjoy the photos.
Update 10-26-14 I think the Recomp 501 was first then the Minuteman 1 computer.
This really brings back some old memories of my college days. I worked at Autonetics during the summer of 1959 testing the Minuteman 1 computer - it is a small world. This has to be about the first transistor logic digital computer. The transistor was invented in 1947 and first used commercially in about 1955 or 56. 
Paragraph below is  from Wikipedia  .
 Autonetics built a portable office computer and ranging radar for trainers and fighters and was responsible for the guidance and control system for the Boeing-built Minuteman missiles. The division ultimately produced the Monica family of microcomputers, the D-17B Minuteman I computer, and the D-37B [4] and D-37C Minuteman II computer, in which microminiaturization reduced weight by two-thirds. Autonetics also developed and tested flight programs for the D37D Minuteman III computer.

 I don't see much information about the Recomp and would like to hear from anyone who used one or has any stories to tell about this computer. Do you know where I could obtain a Minuteman 1 computer ?

These photo's are my computer - See additional  interesting views online with the link below these photo's.

  Photo 1
The LOGO name plate                  

                                      Photo 2
Right wing with transistor modules - these swing out and you can get at all the wiring from the back side - see photo 5 for wiring view.

Photo 3
Left wing with transistor modules - this also swings out for complete access.

Photo 4
Drum memory - looks like the all the registers as well as the data are on this form of memory - ie Accumulator - the instructions were executed serially so this is a very slow computer.

Photo 5
All the wiring in the connecting cables is white and soldered point to point. Very
labor intense to make in those days. Looks like trouble shooting this would be a challenge.

Photo 6
Here you can see a close up of the wiring to the card connectors. A cold solder joint could be a hard problem to find.

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Here are some really good photos on line of an Autonetics Recomp (CLICK) - when you go to the first photo click on the photo to see index of more views. This is nice. If you search around this site some you can also find PDF files of the manuals. Looks like complete documentation on line for this old computer.

Tomorrow morning I am going to the Roanoke Virginia Hamfest and sell some of my extra amateur radio equipment. I am trying to be less  of a hoarder of  radios from my 60 years as an amateur radio operator. Tomorrow afternoon my wife -Gaynell - & I are going to a big fish fry at a cousin's place on the James River.  Should be a fun weekend.
"By David Larsen" KK4WW Computer Collector / Historian

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