Welcome to the Datatron 205 and 220 Blog

This blog is a companion to T J Sawyer's Web Page that outlines the history of the Burroughs Datatron 205 and Paul Kimpel's incredible 205 and 220 emulators. Please visit those sites and return here to post any comments.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Burroughs 205 Programming Languages

Bob Kubic's note below made me think that I should add a page to the Datatron site about the various languages that we used to program the 205. If anyone has suggested additions to this list, please add a comment to this post or e-mail me with them.

I'll be working on this over the next couple of weeks along with a page that features the package design so well-illustrated by Bob's photos.

205 programming languages that I am aware of include:
  • Machine Language
  • Shell Symbolic Assembly Program (Shell Oil)
  • The Burroughs Algebraic Compiler for the 205 (Don Knuth)
  • Datacode 1 (Saul Rosen)
  • Dumbo (Bob Kubic)
  • Machine Language Simulator (Tom Sawyer)
That last one was my own contribution, utilized at the University of Portland for student programs.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Babcock and Wilcox Datatron 205 Remembered

Update 12/13/08.
Bob shared photos of his B-register package and I posted these at the bottom of the post!

Another early 205 programmer, Bob Kubik, saw the Datatron site and e-mailed these memories:

Babcock and Wilcox in Lynchburg Virginia bought a 205 in 1954 for their Atomic Energy Division. I worked there as a programmer and wrote a compiler for it called "Dumbo". The Dumbo language was used by "open shop" programmers - in part to familiarize them with the computer, but also for another way to get something done when the professional programmers were busy. The machine came bare and even common subroutines like Bessel functions and square root were programmed in house. Lots of folks were doing their own programming languages at that time - before Fortran was available. The 205 was replaced with a Philco 2000 in 1962 or 63, but ran in parallel for a while as things were reprogrammed for the new machine.

The machine was used to design the Indian Point I nuclear power station, the nuclear merchant ship Savanna, The Liquid Fuel Reactor experiment, and various design studies that led to the next generation of reactors.

I still have a decade module from the B register...

(photo courtesy of Bob Kubic)

(photo courtesy of Bob Kubic)

(photo courtesy of Bob Kubic)

(photo courtesy of Bob Kubic)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Update to the Datatron 205 Page

After spending several summer afternoons at the University of Minnesota's Charles Babbage Institute, I collected enough information to add two more pages to my Datatron 205 website. The Babbage Institute has a fascinating collection of 93 boxes of computer product literature donated from many sources. If you are ever looking for sales brochures from an obscure manufacturer, this collection likely has what you want.

This search page, from the University's library system is the key to locating information in the Babbage Institute. Well, that and a fine staff member such as Stephanie Horowitz who seems to know everything about what they have and where things are located!

The photo above was cropped and extracted from a couple of pictures forwarded to me by N. W. Bell, one of the members of the original Datatron 205 development team. He visited both of the museum Datatron systems this summer and was kind enough to forward photos which I also added to the Datatron page. The system in the California museum seems to be in better condition than the one in Montana, although not nearly as complete.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Voices from the Past

I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors to the Datatron 205 web page. In the four months since the site has been up, there have been over fifty visitors. These include a few who have sent me e-mails including three programmers who worked on the machine and one person who was on the original design team.

Thanks for the correspondence and do consider sharing your own experiences here. I apologize for the fact that you will need either a Blogger ID or Google ID to post here but my experience with anonymous posting is not good.

I have been continuing my research on the Datatron history story via the papers residing at the University of Minnesota's Charles Babbage Institute. I'll be continuing to update the site and keep you posted on progress here.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Place for Burroughs 205 Tales From The Past

Well, I've finally done it!

For years, I have saved my old Burroughs 205 manuals, Cardatron coding forms and other memorabilia with the thought that I would someday publish a magazine article or possibly even a book about this marvelous old first generation computer. I collected references in books and magazines and even references on that new-fangled Internet thing.

So I finally got started on the book. But since the book deserves input from a lot more people, I thought I had better at least start with a web page that gives an overview of B205 history. So that is now out there to live forever in Cyberspace!

And, here is a blog for comments.

Do you have experience with the Burroughs 205? Or with Electrodata Corporation? Or maybe you just lived in the neighborhood of the facilities in Pasadena. Post comments here.