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Info about the Burroughs L7000

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  • Bill Degnan
    Re printed from vintage-computer.com/vcforum/ Dear billdeg, MikeS has just replied to a thread you have subscribed to entitled - Burrpoghs L7000 - in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3 7:14 AM
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      Re"printed" from vintage-computer.com/vcforum/

      Dear billdeg,

      MikeS has just replied to a thread you have subscribed to entitled -
      Burrpoghs
      L7000 - in the Minis and Mainframes forum of The Vintage Computer Forums.

      This thread is located at:
      http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showthread.php?t=16743&goto=newpost



      Here is the message that has just been posted:
      ***************

      ------
      Well, although mini-computer is kinda stretching it, "Accounting machine"
      is
      selling them short; although they are certainly descended from the
      electro-mechanical and hybrid adding machines on steroids that are usually

      called accounting machines, they are certainly true computers in their own

      right, although certainly configured differently from what we think of
      today as
      "computers".

      They're an interesting almost completely forgotten and ignored branch of
      computing with very little info or even interest out there, illustrated by
      the
      fact that even knowledegeable vintage hackers like Bill and Evan don't
      really
      know what they actually are.

      Although Olivetti, NCR, Monroe and others were also major players,
      Burroughs was
      for a long time the leader in accounting machines, found in every bank
      branch
      and the offices of most medium sized businesses. While IBM was focussed on

      punched card batch processing machines Burroughs et al were providing
      equipment
      to do the same sort of thing in real time with direct operator input.

      Originally the machines were completely mechanical except for an electric
      motor
      to drive and turn the hundreds of wheels, cams and levers that did the
      calculation and printing on ledger cards and journal rolls; this was the
      Burrough 'F' series, programmed with metal pins of different lengths and
      locations in exchangeable "program panels."

      As solid state technology became available some of those wheels, cams and
      levers
      were replaced with transistors and core memory, and then integrated
      circuits;
      this was the Burroughs 'E' series, programmed with metal pins and wired
      patch
      board programming panels.

      Then Burroughs brought out the 'L' series, programmed in 'SL3' and 'SL5'
      assembler (System Languages), which ranged from the original L2000 to the
      L9000
      before the ledger cards were finally abandoned and the B80 replaced them
      with
      disk-based systems programmed in high-level languages, mostly Cobol.

      About the only thing that the L series had in common other than appearance
      was
      the fact that they all had an integrated paper tape reader beside the
      keyboard
      for loading firmware and application and utility programs. Up to the L5000
      the
      system memory was actually a small fixed disk while from the L6000 onward
      it
      consisted of 2KB memory cards; also the keyboard and PPT reader were
      mechanical
      through the 5000 and electronic after that. Although not all models did,
      they
      were mainly intended to use ledger cards and had split platen printers with
      a
      separate ledger card feeder so that the printer was actually three separate

      printers in a way, using a Selectric-style golf ball until the L9000
      finally
      went to a dot-matrix printer (and sacrificed the red/black dual color
      capability). The ledger cards could have magnetic stripes on the back which

      stored account names etc. and account balances and allowed for automatic
      insertion and alignment (although the mechanical machines could also align
      the
      cards by punching little notches).

      A full-blown L could have magnetic stripe ledger I/O on the console with or

      without an optional auto-feeder/stacker, and a free-standing separate
      auto-reader that could process a stack (probably what Bill is thinking of),
      up
      to four digital cassette drives, a paper tape and edge-punched card reader
      and
      punch, an 80 or 96 column card reader and punch, and even datacomm and a
      video
      display on the latest models. No workstations plugged into an L, it *was*
      the
      workstation, although some models could connect to a 'real' mini or
      mainframe.
      I have a picture here of an L with all the bells and whistles; I'll try to
      find
      time to scan it.

      Unfortunately there is almost no firmware or software around except for
      what is
      sometimes found in the back of the machine with the print set, or the
      unfortunately rare DC300 cartridge that can still be read. Ironically the
      older
      hard-disk based units are more likely to be operational while the
      solid-state
      based units are of course huge bricks without the firmware to boot them up.


      There are a few others out there that I know of, although AFAIK the only
      one
      that actually works (or did at one time) is a restored L5000 at Bletchley
      Park.

      The odds are against it, but I'll certainly cross my fingers for ya that
      you get
      it going when you get it. The most crucial part is that DC300 if there is
      one;
      if the band hasn't rotted, the oxide crumbled or stuck together etc. and if
      the
      L actually did completely and successfully dump a memory image to it the
      last
      time it was shut down, then you just might be in business. If there
      actually is
      one, then remove the cart and inspect/repair/clean it as much as possible
      before
      you turn on the machine; on power-up it will automatically try to read that

      cartridge and could quite possibly destroy it if it's in bad shape.

      Good luck!
      ***************
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