Kaur Collection Inventory

Adam Thornton athornton at gmail.com
Sat May 18 00:17:42 CDT 2019

Last Saturday I went out to the location where the collection mentioned by Kristina Kaur resides, to take photos, create an inventory to the best of my abilities, and help her solicit proposals for the various items.  

I’m going to lead off with one of my last sentences in this email: PLEASE DO NOT WRITE KRISTINA, OR ME, DIRECTLY WITH YOUR OFFERS.  Use the contact form in the Google Drive folder (see below) I’m pointing to and send your proposal to laura at rubinbernsteinlaw.com <mailto:laura at rubinbernsteinlaw.com> .  I have no power over the disposition of any of this—I am just the chronicler—and Kristina wants to route all proposals for acquiring these things through the family's lawyer.

The basic background is this: all of this stuff belongs to a man who has run a bulk-mailing business for many years, and who wrote a bunch of his own software for PDP-11 machines to do that bulk mailing.  He has continued to use the PDP-11s until, apparently, quite recently.

He also, unfortunately, has recently had a stroke, and although he is expected to recover, he is not going to be able to continue running the business, and particularly not from these machines.  So his daughter, Kristina, has decided to make the collection available to people who will do right by it (preferably in a public museum), rather than just send it to the scrapper, which is awfully nice of her.

I want to express my gratitude to Kristina for allowing me to go out there and root through the collection, and to Ruthann, who provided good company during the digging and invaluable service during the search.

There are three locations for all these items.  Computing equipment is either in a climate-controlled garage, and apparently has been running until quite recently, or it is in a warehouse, which I do not believe to be climate-controlled but is walled and roofed and kept dark, which are all good things in Tucson.  All the manuals were on a bookshelf in the home office, and were kept climate-controlled and relatively dust-free.  The manuals are in excellent shape considering their age, with no environmental damage, although some of them are clearly worn from use.

Let me get a couple things out of the way first: it was rumored there was an 11/40 here.  I didn’t see one, but I saw a mystery PDP-11 in the garage that I believe to be an 11/70.  As near as I can tell, there are two PDP-11 systems in the garage (the mystery 70 and an 11/45), which I believe to be in running or near-to-it shape.

There’s also a *lot* of stuff out in the warehouse, much of it apparently bought from the University of Arizona at auction over the years, largely shrinkwrapped (sometimes to pallets, sometimes not) or stored in plastic bags.  My guess would be that the things in the garage were in general never used after their acquisition, although some may well have been migrated out there after their useful lifespan was over. This is a GUESS.

I have no idea of the condition of any of it, or what was cannibalized as spares for other things; I can say that, in general, it’s been stored out of the weather and doesn’t seem to be water damaged or (for Tucson anyway) very dusty.

I (and the Kaur family, and everyone) make NO GUARANTEE AT ALL of the condition of any of this.  Everything here is sold WHERE IT IS and AS IT IS and it may or may not work or be restorable.  It is YOUR responsibility to pick it up, and if it can’t reasonably be restored, tough luck.  We don’t know, and the one man in the world who DID know is not in any condition at the moment to tell us.

As you might expect from a bulk-mailing business, this collection is super-heavy on printers and various paper-handling devices, as well as tape drives.  These are things I know almost nothing about: I have mostly collected 8-bit micros and videogame systems, and only recently have started acquiring and restoring DEC equipment.

There may well be pictures of things Kristina doesn’t want to include as part of this lot—all the more modern printers and paper-handling stuff is destined for people in the printing-and-mailing world in Tucson.  But there’s an awful lot of stuff here where “uh, it looks like a lineprinter to me, and maybe you connect it to a PDP-11?” or “that’s probably a disk drive?” or “it’s a controller for _something_.”

So among the things I’m asking you to do is to please help identify what I took pictures of.  I’ll call out the things I find particularly interesting and baffling.

I have already offered first pick of the manuals to Al Kossow and bitsavers.org <http://bitsavers.org/>, the Living Computer Museum and Labs, and Jason Scott at the Internet Archives, since that is likelier to get them scanned and preserved than if they just vanish into people’s private collections.  The LCML has indicated interest, and I have not heard back yet from the other two.  If there’s something from the manual collection you particularly want, and one of those three also wants it, you will probably have to work it out with them.  Most of the manuals seem to be for fairly major software, which I suspect (but have not looked to check) that bitsavers already has a copy of.

Kristina asks that you please put together a proposal for what you would like from the collection BY MAY 31, and please use the form on “Equipment Proposal v2.docx”  (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oJFVg8MsTie3e3fpdzmfoWmIuQo96aQP <https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oJFVg8MsTie3e3fpdzmfoWmIuQo96aQP>) to do that.  She and her family’s lawyers will evaluate the various received proposals and she will decide on a division of items.

The pictures I took—and many of them are terrible.  In many cases I don’t know what I was looking at, and in other cases, the items were not in convenient spots to photograph; sometimes both.  

All are in the folder at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kECm7hiYComNDTrLEwPPKIdIZ3MqKJ6y <https://drive.google.com/open?id=1kECm7hiYComNDTrLEwPPKIdIZ3MqKJ6y> .

My inventory of these things is in CSV form at https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Xv5aYu9tE3BUYZOicgJTTJhrDhy2ci89 <https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Xv5aYu9tE3BUYZOicgJTTJhrDhy2ci89> and in slightly-better-looking Numbers (a Mac spreadsheet) form at https://drive.google.com/open?id=15i1hEKjB108cq4g4B7c7gNpn-HDbgRIi <https://drive.google.com/open?id=15i1hEKjB108cq4g4B7c7gNpn-HDbgRIi> .

I make no representation as to its accuracy—it’s just the best I could do in the time I had available.  For most of the items, there is both a line number (some numbers are missing: this is intentional.  They correspond to which spreadsheet line it is, and there are some blank ones) and a reference to the picture of said item, which is the filename (i.e. “IMG_2xxx.JPG”) in the folder.  I didn’t bother to do image IDs for the manuals—they are mostly in order, and I figure everyone can read, so matching the title to the image is generally straightforward.

A few notes about the items.  It looks to me—and I could be wrong—that there are two PDP-11 systems in the garage.  One is obviously an 11/45, and judging from the structure of the panel, the other is some kind of 11/70, but I’ve never seen a front panel quite like this: https://drive.google.com/open?id=15i1hEKjB108cq4g4B7c7gNpn-HDbgRIi <https://drive.google.com/open?id=15i1hEKjB108cq4g4B7c7gNpn-HDbgRIi> .  Based on the fact that there are two Datasystem 570s out in the warehouse, I suspect it’s a Datasystem with a Frankensteined front panel, but I don’t know.  I think that basically it’s two two-cabinet systems, each with a CPU and a disk in one cabinet and a tape drive in the other cabinet, but again, I’m not sure.

I have no idea whether the pair of Datasystem 570s in the warehouse are intact or not.  There are also three VAXes out there, one 11/750 and two 11/730s.  One of the 11/730s clearly has an attached RL02, but I don’t know about the other two.  Most of the stuff out there, generally, looks like it’s in good shape in the sense that it was put in the warehouse, often in shrink-wrap, and not exposed to light or weather for a long time.  Sometimes a very long time.

I am quite curious about what the Sun Microsystems item (https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ZLpoP6ZoHfs3_dvdOFkv9uy68X29OSjV <https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ZLpoP6ZoHfs3_dvdOFkv9uy68X29OSjV>) is—I couldn’t really get to it, and it’s about the right size and shape for a 3/160, but it could also easily be something like a tape drive that Sun OEMed.  It has a plate on it identifying it as part of an “IRAF” system, and what I know about IRAF is that it’s astronomical software (I am helping design something that the LSST project hopes is a ubiquitous successor to it, sort of), and so I kinda suspect this came out of the astronomy department or Steward Observatory at UA.

There are no pictures of the 13-or-so Decwriters in the warehouse: they’re on a shelf about 10 feet up and you’re going to need either a forklift to get them down, or be extraordinarily brave.  The ADM-3A (well, I think.  It’s obviously an ADM terminal, and these match my mental image of 3As, but I could be wrong about the model) was obviously the terminal of choice here and there are a dozen or so.  Sorry about that, VT-xxx fans.

Again: PLEASE DO NOT WRITE KRISTINA OR ME directly with your offers.  Use the contact form and send your proposal to laura at rubinbernsteinlaw.com <mailto:laura at rubinbernsteinlaw.com> .

I hope this is useful to folks.


More information about the cctalk mailing list