Old NASA computers and space probe data tapes found in dead engineer's basement


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/07/21/old-nasa-computers-and-space-p.html


Colonel Mustard in the basement with a deck of punch cards?


and what of the tapes? If the data is of interest, can they still be read by the equipment NASA has kept?


space junk even here on earth.


From the post it seems that a good number of the tapes suffered damage from mold. What a shame though, i’m sure the data in those would still be of use.


I reckon there’s a lot of equipment of this nature moldering in government basements simply because it’s too expensive to haul away. My question is if the scrap dealer will manage to sell these off as-is for their historical value. On the one hand, it might be cool to say “hay lookit I have a computer that used to be at NASA”, but on the other hand they’re clearly inconvenient to move around.

I doubt the NASA people would have let them go if the data was not first backed up one way or another, presumably tagged with useful metadata in the process. If it’s digital data (i.e. miscellaneous streams of numbers as opposed to video footage), then considering the age, I’m thinking it would probably be difficult to make any clear sense of what the data was intended to represent as-is, even if they were completely readable.


And in the basement yet. Those house repairs must have been expensive.


I know, “dead engineer” makes it sound so sordid, like “headless body in topless bar.”


There have been instances where only partial data was used, or in the case of imaging data, low resolution images were used… or with modern processing techniques better quality data/images can be obtained. But it seems that these tapes might be too far gone.


Control Data, as in Control Data Institute?

Can a phone call change your life? This one quite possibly could.


Lets fire it up and see what the old codger was doing down there.


I’m guessing either porn or cat videos from the Net.

Or he was running the original Doom on it.


<scratches head> I don’t think you’ve ever worked with NASA, have you?

Oh, definitely not.

I kid, but really NASA collects a lot of data. In the 1960s we didn’t have terabyte thumb drives, so anything that didn’t have direct applications to killing people had to be evaluated to see if it was worth storing. Those punchcard decks and 800 bpi PERTEC tapes took up a tremendous amount of expensive space.

Now that storage is cheap and small, we wish we’d saved all that data.

Good news, no matter how moldy the tape, if it’s under 1600 bpi you can read it with a sight glass. Not that you’d want to do that to your eyes, but it is possible.

Edit: the nebulous references to “we” in the above test was not meant to imply I am currently employed by NASA. Although some other Happy Mutants are!


Oh Jorpho you’re the eternal optimist. NASA has a long, storied past of losing desperately important artifacts - some of them mind-bogglingly important:


There’s been some previous NASA threads that i’ve mentioned this, but they are notorious for losing and/or disposing of data, tapes, hardware, etc. some of this has happened pretty recently even, so it’s an ongoing problem for the agency.


This is how Wintermute/Neuromancer will finally discover another AI in the Centauri system


Seems like one would fully expect that, being as the head attaches to the top and all. :stuck_out_tongue:


The Clintons getting the blame for this mans death in 5, 4, 3, 2…


Well duh, where did you think the email backups were all this time?


It’s all falling into place