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Scrap dealer finds Apollo-era NASA computers in dead engineer’s basement


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A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer’s basement in Pittsburgh, according to a NASA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA’s fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn.

The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines, the report concluded.

At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers—and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased’s electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled “NASA PROPERTY,” so the dealer called NASA to report the find.

“Please tell NASA these items were not stolen,” the engineer’s heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. “They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them.”

You can read the entire report; the engineer’s identity has been redacted.

“Please tell NASA these items were not stolen.”

NASA investigators picked up the 325 magnetic data tape reels on December 8, 2015. The cassettes measured 14 inches in diameter and were filled with half-inch magnetic tape. The tapes “were in poor condition and almost all were affected by moderate to severe mould.”

Most of the tapes were not labelled, but “of the tapes that were labelled, the content appeared to be space science related with missions including Pioneer and Helios and the inclusive date range was 1967-1974.”

NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business. “No, we do not need the computers,” NASA told the family of the deceased. “We have no use for [them].”

The report drily notes, “The computers were not removed from the residence due to their size and weight.”NASA Goddard Archives examined the mystery tapes, and the archivist’s report reads:https://longislandtechnologynews.com/2017/07/scrap-dealer-finds-apollo-era-nasa-computers-in-dead-engineers-basement/



bet alien voices on them

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On 15/7/2017 at 9:36 AM, dufus said:

The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines, the report concluded.


Funny... how this scientist took home those computers and installed them in his basement. Wonder if he ever could run them. Those computers needed special electric installation and air-conditioning at a controlled temperature, to work appropiately.

As for the condition of thos tapes, obviously thay were useless, just after 40 years! ok, content was useless data. But presume there are countless data tapes from same era or later, which had some useful data and that data is lost, too.

Just some years ago, between 1992 and 99 we made some studies for our local state-owned waterwork system; the cost of the contractc for BIWATER  was about 2 million USD. All the information was "backed up" on tapes. After about 6 years, in 2005, we needed some of this important informaton and no one around knew anything about those tapes. Finally, an ex-collaborator of the project, working at some other department  told us that probably ALL the information was lost. Looks that the tapes were still availabe but they couldn't read them; they had only one computer with a tape reader, a 386 model, but it didn't work because, for a start, it had no driver. The  original driver was for DOS. They had a system failure some years ago and no one ever cared about reinstalling the driver for the tape reader. We asked them if they could give us the computer and the tapes so maybe we could find some "computer genius" and the answer was NO! IMPOSSIBLE! Beacuse everyting is state owned property and all the information there is confidential!


Now, lets remember that books hand-written about 1000 or more years ago can be read;  some Sumerian stone and clay tabs about 6000 years old are still perfectly readable, of course if you know Sumerian! And "data" registerd by cavemen about 30.000 years ago still can be interpreted and you can even understand the anatomy of already extint species!


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