Ramo-Wooldridge 530

The RW-530 computer cabinet on left with two I/O cabinets on right.

This machine sat unused in the corner of the basement EE lab. Michael Maslied brought it back to life by sacrificing the two useless I/O cabinets for spare parts to fix the remaining CPU cabinet. I wrote software for Michael's hardware.

RW 530 Debug Monitor I wrote a teletype based control program similar to those burned into roms of early microprocessor systems.

RW 530 Floating Point cast as a library for basic arithmetic in a format of my own design.

RW 530 Graphics which would display points on a lab oscilloscope. I made it display Michael's name.

Michael was an excellent scavenger. We were told that we could do as we pleased with the machine as long as it didn't cost any money. When I suggested that he repair the burned out console register lamps he actually thought through how he would do it. After a minute or so he announced that it wouldn't be worth the trouble and that he would rather just buy replacements with his own money.

The machine was designed with non-inverting diode logic gates which would be followed as needed by transistorized "command amplifiers" that restored logic levels. Michael built a UART out of surplus cards. This took only one rack row, far fewer than the Flexowriter parallel interface that he scavenged for the cards.

The back door to the CPU rack held the dc power supplies. Whenever instructions started failing I'd walk around the cabinet, check the voltages, and tweak them back to specification.

When Michael and I got busy elsewhere the machine again fell into disuse. Before I left the university some friends told me that it had been moved to the building loading dock to be shipped out as junk. I heard that some young EE's had scored some power supply parts. I didn't feel any need to say goodbye.

Aside: Ramo and Wooldridge founded their company when Ramo left Hughes Aircraft where he had built rockets and computers. Eisenhower tapped the the company to build the first ICBM before the Soviets, a project so secret he didn't tell congress. Ramo died in 2016, age 103. post