Easycoder survivors
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Raymond Morris

Australia

#1 Jun 8, 2012
Are there any other surviving Honeywell Easycoder programmers out there? I can tell some good stories about my personal experience during the Poseidon boom at the Sydney Stock Exchange 42 years ago.
Rob S

UK

#2 Jan 2, 2013
Surviving and thriving my friend. I started writing Easycoder in 1966 but to use it now I'm going to have to build a Honeywell 200. Read about my Honey Pi Project on the Vintage Computers forum here - http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/showt...
I'm just putting together a website www.honeypi.org.uk to document the project properly but it's not up yet. I worked for an old life assurance company originally set up in London early in the nineteenth century by Quakers, so installing a computer in 1966 was the beginning of a new era. I monitor that thread on Vintage Computers if you want to catch me there and I'm keen to find anyone with recollections of the series 200 machines.
Doug

Lewistown, PA

#3 Feb 14, 2013
wm30 25 43 43 46
Hello
I programmed in Easycoder at EUR Datacenter from 1978 to 1989 and know a batch of colleagues around Mechanicsburg PA who did also.
Doug

Lewistown, PA

#4 Feb 14, 2013
EUR was a service bureau in Mechanicsburg (near Harrisburg) PA that catered mainly to telephone companies, processing untold millions of toll calls provided to us on punched card, paper tape, and mag tape media. We had a stable of H200/2200/3200s (peaking at at least 7 or 8 machines) from the 1970s to at least Y2K, believe it or not. I don't know but I supposed that they were the last working specimens anywhere; we kept them going by cannibalizing seemingly everybody else's machines as they were decomissioned and sold to us for a song. Of course, last I knew, there were still steam locomotives being used for freight operations in several outposts around the world, so who knows...
By age 32 I was an 11-year veteran Easycoder programmer, torn away only as EUR gradually transitioned to Unisys mainframes. I still have some souvenirs such as red Halt and green Run buttons, my manuals, and I think an H200 nameplate, along with memories of tape IO errors, parity lights, chaining instructions, and altering memory via furious button punching!
I'd be interested to hear some of the stories you guys have. Regards,
Doug
wm24 46 64 27
Rob S

UK

#5 Feb 15, 2013
I'm amazed that the series 200 etc. machines were still being used in year 2000. If EUR acquired all the available computers and parts then it explains why nobody appears to have any now. What happened to them eventually? We really are attempting to build a replica model 200 and are eager to acquire any parts still around. We don't even have enough buttons for the control panel and will have to improvise more, but the biggest problem is that we have only enough backplane sockets for 200 logic boards while we have over 1000 boards in our stock.

Although our company stayed using Honeywell machines for many years we quickly moved over to writing COBOL, so I only wrote Easycoder for around three years. Nevertheless COBOL wasn't a good language for doing complex calculations, so when I had to write an actuarial valuation system I used COBOL to handle the files but embedded an Easycoder module inside it to do all the calculations. By then we had Easycoder D and I was able to use the macro library preprocessor to put together a collection of parameterised routines which generated the final code. Unfortunately I went into hospital soon after completing the system and when a colleague tried to work on it in my absence he didn't realise that it was generated code and spent ages trying to understand the final code instead of reading the parameterised library calls. As a result he was mystified and left the work for me to do when I returned. I was actually sent on a FORTRAN course before writing the system as management thought that that would be the right language to use but there was no easy way for a FORTRAN programme to process large files created by COBOL programmes then, so I adopted the Easycoder solution. It hadn't occurred to anyone else on the team that Easycoder was suitable for such complicated calculations, but in fact using it made the programme much faster than a high level language could have achieved, especially as I used small calculation modules running in ADMODE two within the much larger programme. My colleague working with me on building the replica now keeps pushing for us to include 8k of memory rather than just 4k, but as he has no experience of H200 programming he doesn't understand that stepping up from ADMODE two to three has inefficiency overheads as well as benefits. Anyway, wiring up all the extra logic needed for indexed and indirect addressing isn't something that I want to rush into. Just getting ADMODE two to work will be enough of a challenge.

Regarding using ADMODE two, I used to have an assembly listing of the Easycoder A assembler itself, but I think I must have thrown it away sometime long ago. It would be nice to have the original assembler to run on our replica if anyone still has the code. It was a very long listing but I can remember the very last line which cryptically read, "UND WENN SIE NICHT GESTORBEN SIND DANN LEBEN SIE HEUTE NOCH." which admittedly doesn't tell us much at all, being the traditional last line of a German fairy tale, the equivalent of "and they all lived happily ever after." If only the H200 had lived happily ever after I wouldn't have all this work to do now.
Rob
Rob S

UK

#6 Mar 17, 2013
I've found someone else who's contemplating doing a bit more than just reminiscing about Easycoder. Check out this link, if it works.

https://plus.google.com/117062486976045682927...

Regards,
Rob
Doug

Rheems, PA

#7 Apr 3, 2013
Rob S wrote:
I'm amazed that the series 200 etc. machines were still being used in year 2000. If EUR acquired all the available computers and parts then it explains why nobody appears to have any now. What happened to them eventually? We really are attempting to build a replica model 200 and are eager to acquire any parts still around. We don't even have enough buttons for the control panel and will have to improvise more, but the biggest problem is that we have only enough backplane sockets for 200 logic boards while we have over 1000 boards in our stock...Rob
Rob, EUR's inventory of H200 parts was mostly scrapped, but some backplanes and circuit cards have been retained. For further information, please contact Mr. Lidle at cdslidle@comcast.net.
Rob S

UK

#8 Apr 4, 2013
Thanks Doug. You're a star. I've emailed him.
Regards,
Rob
Rob S

UK

#9 May 1, 2013
I made contact with Mr. Lidle and he has what we need, many times what we need in fact, but plans to sell it all as scrap, which is understandable in a way but a shame for us. I'm hoping that he may relent, but thanks Doug for trying anyway. Our project will go on regardless, especially now that we know that our collection is becoming even rarer and this really may be the last chance for the H200 to survive as a working machine.

Regards,
Rob
Rob S

UK

#10 Jun 12, 2013
All's well. A backplane is now on its way to England. The shipment has been arranged by the daughter of the late Dr. William L. Gordon, who was the head of the team at Honeywell that designed the H200 originally. Also she has been in touch with Chris Lidle and plans to visit him to collect some mementos of her father's work. Even Dr. Gordon himself wasn't aware that any H200 equipment was still in use up until 2000 and his daughter lives not that far away in New Jersey.

Thanks again Doug. You've done us a good turn.

Regards,
Rob
Doug

Lancaster, PA

#11 Jun 15, 2013
Hey, that makes my day. Glad to be of some assistance. How much difference will one backplane make?
I wish you continued good luck with the project!
Rob S

UK

#12 Jun 15, 2013
100% difference as we only had one already plus a small quarter size auxiliary one. The original model 201 central processor had four, but that allowed space for up to 32k memory and we'll only use 8k at most because we don't have enough driver logic for any more. Also the original 201 was transistorised and we have 1960s Honeywell ICs which will make the CPU itself more compact so overall hopefully the machine will be half the size,i.e.two backplanes. At the moment I'm busy stripping all the old wiring off so that we start with a clear backplane. The logic on just one backplane consumes a heck of a lot of power, so we have to think small to be successful. Anyone who thinks they could scratch build a massive machine is just deluding themselves. What we're doing is reasonably feasible though.

Thanks again for the introduction.
Rob
David

Concord, CA

#13 Jul 5, 2013
So, you want to build a 110?(SSI version of 201). It seems easier to write an emulator in C, might as well be a 2070 with 512K like I moved to a new building at the IRS in 1989. About the size of two fridges and a freezer without peripherals.
Rob S

UK

#14 Jul 6, 2013
The memory unit of our machine will use original 2nd generation components from a 201 but the CPU will have to be built using SSI. I am not acquainted with the 110 and would welcome information about it as I am interested to know where the transition from 2nd to 3rd generation took place in the 200 series. Yes, writing an emulator in C was a breeze, but then writing any task in a modern programming language would be easier than using Easycoder. Nevertheless this thread is about the survival of Easycoder, so the survival of its native environment is also relevant. Sometimes it's easier just to use our brains instead of a computer, so recollections of the H200 are the easiest solution of all, but what I am doing is indulging in a challenging hobby. Tomorrow I will be visiting Bletchley Park, the renowned Station X of WWII, with a colleague on the project. The people there chose to attempt the difficult, even apparently impossible, thing; maybe it's an English trait. I think we will continue with our task as long as it appears to be feasible and so far it does as a result of the help given by other people.

To look at it another way, I feel that the magic has gone out of films now that we know that so much is done using CGI and I think that the magic, and lightning response, has gone out of computers now that so much is done by multitasking software instead of parallel hardware. I am currently working on two hobbies. One, the HoneyPi Project, involves real physical components and real people making real contributions for their own real reasons. The other is the writing of a fantasy novel in which fictional people have impossible experiences and witness fantastic events that no CGI could adequately depict. However, both have one thing in common, a connection between the past and the future. There is no ultimate purpose to either hobby as I don't expect the computer to be any more than a curiosity and don't expect to earn any money by publishing the novel, but in both cases a few other people may be entertained along the way, so be it.

The success of our project, or at least its entertainment value, depends on the contributions that other people make, so if as seems possible you have anything to contribute I would welcome hearing from you again. Thanks for getting in touch, David.

Regards,
Rob
Warwick

Sydney, Australia

#15 Sep 9, 2013
Yep - I taught myself Easycoder while on eve/night shift at the Honeywell Data Centre in Brentford (UK)- In those days I worked on a H200 a H1200 and the H3200.

Now I have forgotten most of my stuff like
Boot 40
Halt 17001
Run
Halt 17002
etc and puting Wordmark 23 into 202 to do a backwards search on the tape etc.

But I can't remember the code we used to enter to clear memory to "stop" (wordmark 40 ??) Can anyone help ?

Since: Sep 13

Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

#16 Sep 10, 2013
Hi Warwick, I worked at EEB in Ipswich in 1969/1970. I operated a H200 and looking up my "little black book" I have the following for Clear memory

Stop
Initialise
Contents: 0 (enter)
Address: 6 (enter)
Control: 10

Contents: 0 (enter)
Address: 7 (enter)
Control: 14

Contents: W 15 (enter)
Address: 0 (enter)
Control: 17

Contents: W 15 (enter)
Address: 1
Control: 17

Adress Mode 3
RUN

Not sure if that was standard or something that EEB wrote
Rob S

UK

#17 Sep 10, 2013
That's similar to the procedure we used, so probably straight from Honeywell. It's an LCA instruction with overlapping fields, so it never stops because it keeps moving the end of its own input field. It was a real disaster if such an instruction ever occurred in a running programme, instant suicide in fact. However, it can't be used to set wordmarks because a wordmark would stop the instruction immediately. By the way, STOP or rather HALT is 45, not 40 which is NOP, so far as I remember.
Warwick

Kellyville, Australia

#18 Sep 10, 2013
Ahh yes thanks to both of you... It was an instruction to copy itself by overlapping addresses and yes an op code of 40 was quite possibly a NOP .... But it has been 42 years since I used it last :)

I worked at the Brentford Data Centre from 1970 - 1972 and if any of you guys worked for people like Mars or FNFC etc I'm sure during that time we may have met if you used the facilities there (we provided backup in case of problems -sort of DR site)

Warwick
Rob S

UK

#19 Oct 4, 2013
David wrote:
So, you want to build a 110?(SSI version of 201). It seems easier to write an emulator in C, might as well be a 2070 with 512K like I moved to a new building at the IRS in 1989. About the size of two fridges and a freezer without peripherals.
I've just discovered that the 110 was slower than the 200 as it had double the memory cycle time, so I don't want to build a 110 as such but a machine that runs at exactly the speed of a 200. The SSI chips will make it easier to build but won't change the execution time for programmes if we get it right. I'd appreciate any information on the 110, which was marketed in 1968, though as it proves that our machine will be 1960s Honeywell technology even if not entirely model 200 technology.
Joe

Reading, UK

#20 Feb 5, 2014
Hi There. I was also at Honeywell Data Centre from 1965 to 69 and then still worked on H200/H2000 series Mod 2 MSR Operating system and OS2000 Operating system etc. I stayed with the company for 38 years. I can still remember all the machine op codes, and write machine code PDT and PCB instructions in my head!. I can remember writing progs using the Interupt button on the panel to swop the sequence counter (reg 17) to enable multi processing.
I taught COBOL D at Brentford and Slough for years. Also worked on H400/H800 at most of the big UK installations.
I have an Easycoder Assemble print of the OS2000 Operating system as to apply patches we had to re assemble the whole operating system then!.
I think W15 was an MCW (Load chts to A field wm) W10 was Extended Cht Move ECM and needed a Varient cht to define how to stop, I think.
Wm40 is a NOP wm45 is Halt.
Joe

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