Uncle Miod's machineroom
miod > machineroom

What's in a machineroom?

I can't help but be fond of (old) Unix workstations and related machines: I won't say these have a soul, that would be so cliché... but they were designed by brilliant people, and this shows: these machines have a personality. They do not reek ``cheap commodity hardware'' like most PC computers do.

In addition to ``classical'' Unix workstations of various brands, I have a few other machines which were not intended to run a Unix-like operating system, but nevertheless can; and nowadays, I also have a few embedded systems boards, which can hardly be considered as workstations, yet run Unix-like systems...

The machineroom grew and grew over the years. Nowadays, there are about 150 systems in the machineroom and its attic. If you don't believe me, just peek at the inventory...

Why set up a machineroom?

My first forays into the Unix world were in the '90s, when a workstation would have SCSI disks, on-board 10Mbit/s Ethernet, and an at least one million pixel display (usually the `Sun' 1152x864 resolution).

I can honestly say I had a love affair with SunOS, before it went SystemV and became Solaris. To this day, I am still in awe of the rustic yet immensely powerful look and feel of this system.

In those days, I was an OS/2 power user (see? I was an elitist person already!). So I ended up using Unix systems during the day, and OS/2 at home in the evening. Eventually I wanted to have a Unix system at home, and I was not particularly happy with what could be installed on a PC vulgaris.

One day at work, my phone rang. A friend of mine telling me his lab was getting rid of a SPARCStation IPC, would I be interested? Of course I was. Thirty minutes later, the machine was safely in my trunk.

This is how my machineroom started: with a phone call. The rest, as they say, is history.

The machineroom over the years

After getting that first Sun system, I started looking for machines, on auction sites, on hobbyist mailing lists, etc. I had also the opportunity to get decommissioned machines from a former employer. Also, some of my friends knew I was interested in getting workstations, and mentioned a few bargains to me.

The collection grew and grew over the years. It did not take long for it to evolve from `half a dozen machines in the corner' to `a bunch of machines in a dedicated room', and then to `shelves up to the wall full of machines in a dedicated room' as I became acquainted, then skilled, in the art of setting up machines on a short surface, yet being able to remove a machine easily for maintainance.

Sour times

The hazards of real life did not spare me, and I had to relocate several times. Of course, relocating without the machineroom was simply not an option. So, over the years, I have also become skilled at packing and unpacking machines. It takes a lot of time.

My current rule of thumb is that packing 100 machines properly takes one week, full-time. And unpacking 100 machines takes at least six months... This is because I am unpacking and setting up the machineroom back, at my own pace, the most important machines being set up in a few days. Once the internet access is working again, who cares how much time setting up the machineroom takes? (-: