I thought I would visit your Group and tell you about some of the work I am doing with
early computers here in the UK.
I am an active member of the Bloodhound Missile Preservation Group and we are in the
early phases of bringing the computer elements of a Launch Control Post that we have
obtained back up to working condition. The objective is to be able to run the equipment in
its full in-service simulator mode. You can read more about us on www.BMPG.org.uk
The computer is a Ferranti Argus 700 that runs compiled Coral66; this particular machine
has not been turned on since 1990 so we are treating everything very gently. All of the
power supplies have been tested after replacing electrolytic capacitors although much to our
surprise the ones that did pop on the first two PSUs were RIFA paper capacitors; they have
all been replaced and they are all now serviceable. We were very cautious with the 5V units
as they are rated at 150A; clearly switched-mode.
We are now working on the tape drive and 10MB Winchester disc drive which we hope
contains the compiled code unless it was cleared when the Royal Air Force disposed of the
equipment. Fear not - we have managed to acquire source code files as well as tapes which
we believe will contain the Coral compiler which runs on the host Argus.
You will see here that despite the stringent military requirement the Argus 700 is indeed of
commercial pedigree. Design started around 1968/9 and the range was still in production in
the mid 1980s achieving international success for industrial and military applications.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferranti_Argus (Note the M700 is an entirely different
I am currently working on the computer terminal, an Ferranti FT81 which is close to being a
VT100 clone. This is Z80-based and has a fault that causes the video output to not be
refreshed. I have been fortunate to obtain the circuit diagrams but no source code, nor
checksums, for the five EPROMs - but as one has to be in these matters I am hopeful of a
So far there are only three of the us who are actively working on the project despite over
120 having expressed an interest (anyone recognize this situation??). So the challenge to
return the Bloodhound to exhibition standard, to enable the public to 'play' at being an
Engagement Controller is, to say the least, quite a daunting one but we WILL succeed!
On a personal front, this work with with the Z80 has rekindled my fond memories of the
Nascom2 computer that I constructed in 1980. Unfortunately I disposed of it when I
purchased my first PC; something I have much regretted since retiring from work. So, not
thinking I would have a chance, I placed a WANTED advert on our local Freecycle Group.
You can imagine my delight when a gentleman came back saying he had a Nascom2 that he
wants to get rid of and I can collect in a week or so (when he has sorted it all out for me)
PLUS he will give me a Tatung Einstein machine which uses 3inch floppy disk drives - yes
3inch not 3.5inch. Anyone heard of these before?
So who ever said retiring was supposed to be restful!!
I look forward to reading more about what you guys are up to across the pond. Anyone with
a Nascom .. or an Argus 700 - possibly not?
Best regards from Biggleswade in England