Apr 10, 2006
Computing at CERN in the 1970s
Following last issue's article "CNL celebrates 40th birthday", we will continue to delve into the archive to bring you curiosities from the early years of computing at CERN. Last issue we reprinted stories and photographs from the 1960s, and this issue we will turn the spotlight on the 1970s.
Ferranti EP140 microfilm plotter
"For the first time as far as we know, the EP140 at CERN has been used to make a motion film. A description is given in a paper by P Lapostolle and R Le Bail, entitled 'Two-dimensional computer simulation of high intensity proton beams', which was presented at the First European Conference on Computational Physics, Geneva, 10-14 April 1972." (May 1972)
Who uses the computer time?
"With the intention of matching some real numbers against people's guesses as to who uses the time on central computers, the attached figure [not reproduced] shows the CP time used by each division of CERN in 1974 up to 1st December… 80% of the used time goes to the physics divisions, NP (46%) and TC (33%)…
"The CP time attributable to the computing 'divisions' of CERN… amounts to some 11% of which a fair fraction should be considered strictly as systems overhead, and a further fraction is work performed for physics groups. Accelerator divisions have used a combined total of ∼7%… The Theory division have used only 1.8%. Clearly the theorists are thinking rather than computing." (December 1974)
Archiving and rationing of tapes
"At present over 100,000 reels of magnetic tape (60,000 in active storage, 10,000 in closed shop, 15,000 in 17O traffic slots and 17,000 in archive) are stored for users by DD in the 513 computer centre building. All available storage space is presently full, and it is only through the good will and cooperation of a few users, who have large numbers of tapes, that we have been able to survive over the past year and a half and still allocate tapes and corresponding slot numbers (VIDs) on request... The computer Users Advisory Committee agreed in 1975 that space in our 513 vault should be rationed to an approximate limit of 50 000 slots for active tapes. We are well above this limit and a tape archiving exercise… will be performed in two steps." (May 1976)
For messy programmers
"The first reaction of someone who is presented with a 'finished' or 'working' program is normally complete amazement that such a frightful lash-up could ever succeed. So why not make all your source code look as if it really was designed that way by making it as legible as possible? A new facility, INDENT, is now available on all CDC machines which automatically indents DO-loops by 5 columns, so that in nested DOs the statements begin in columns 7, 12, 17… depending on the depth of nesting." (April 1978)
Online Computer Newsletter (OCNL)
"This is a new CERN DD publication which will contain articles and news items of interest to users of the various mini- and midi-computers in use at experiments around CERN. The intention is that it should fulfil the same function for such smaller computers as the CNL does for the large central CERN IBM and CDC computers." (January 1979)
NAG program library now available at CERN
"The NAG (Numerical Algorithms Group) Program Library has now been installed on the CDC 7600 and on the IBM system at CERN. This library is a large and coherent collection of high-quality subroutines for numerical and statistical analysis. It is the fruit of many years' work by nearly all the British universities, and is widely distributed (commercially) around the world." (May 1979)