Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Prime Computer story

Prime Computer (the name was often written as Pr1me in publications as shown on my copy of the Assembly Language Programmer's Guide right) was a manufacturer of minicomputers in the 1970s and 1980s.

The company was started in 1972 by seven founders and started off with the Prime 200 which was compatible with the Honeywell 316/516 (which had been discontinued). Prime continued to develop minicomputers throughout the decade culminating with the 750 which was known as a "VAX killer" (running at 1.0 MIPS) and this set off Prime into the big league.

By the mid-1980s it was the sixth largest minicomputer manufacturer with many customers in US banking and academia. Primes also had a major use as CAD systems.

In the early 1980s Prime was big enough to be rumoured to be interested in buying Apple (computing today could certainly be different if that had happened!) They also employed the then-Dr Who Tom Baker and Romana (Lalla Ward) for a series of TV adverts!

However like all the large computer manufacturer they hit turbulance in the late 1980s as customers began to turn away from mainframes and minicomputers and instead went for PCs, workstations and Unix based servers instead. Hardware was becoming a cheap commodity, the real money was in software. Prime bought a CAD software company called Computervision in 1989.

Prime stumbled into the 1990s, surviving hostile takeover attempts but declining revenues were resulting in a number of new system projects being curtailed. Although once Primes had been cutting edge, by the late 1980s they had fallen behind competing systems in terms of processing power. They also failed to join the PC revolution of the 1980s. A Prime PC was developed (or rather bought from another company) but was delayed and by the time it was finally released it was already obsolete.

In the late 1980s Prime tried to break into the lucrative workstation market but the debt mountain finally caused Prime to run out of time in the Summer of 1992. The company was restructured under the Computervision name with hardware projects and manufacturing ceased and most staff were laid off.

Although hardware sales had ended Computervision continued to develop the Prime operating system PRIMOS for a number of years. The last major version (Rev 24) was released in 1994 and the last known update was Rev 24.0.0.R51 released in March 1996. Computervision itself was bought by PTC in 1998.

Nowadays it is unlikely there are any Prime systems still in operation however a number did survive well after the demise of Prime (and indeed Computervision).

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Churches (14) : Church of St. Michael, Huyton

The Church of St. Michael on the edge of Liverpool is Huyton's parish church. A church has probably existed on this site since Saxon times and at least since the 12th century. The current church dates from at least the 14th century with the tower and chancel surviving from then. The church was built from local red sandstone, the exterior is mostly from more modern refacing.

The church was reported to be in a "ruinous condition" [1] in 1555 with parts of the church including the chancel being unusable. Work on improving the condition of the church does not appear to have happened for some time with the church reported as still being in a poor state in 1592. The chancel was repaired in the mid-16th century with further repairs and rebuilding take place in the early 19th century. The aisles and arcade date from then.

[1] "The parish of Huyton: Introduction, church and charities." A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Eds. William Farrer, and J Brownbill. London: Victoria County History, 1907. 151-157. British History Online. Web. 16 January 2018.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Martlet done

Project #080, a Grumman Martlet, has been completed.The end result isn't too bad though i did mess up the building a bit. It was supposed to have it's undercarriage down but oh well, it can join my small sub-fleet with wheels up. This doesn't finish the 2017 model building season as the railbus Project #076 is still waiting for the right paint so that can be completed. I need to get that sorted out...

Saturday, 13 January 2018


A much more modest rail adventure this week, just up the Cross City Line to Shenstone near Lichfield. This crosses off another station from the list of course and also i had a look at the rather interesting church that overlooks the village. As well as the rather nice church itself there is an isolated ruined bell tower 100m away, i believe this was the original much older church on the site. You can see my photos here.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Churches (13) : St. John the Baptist, Henley-in-Arden

The church of St. John the Baptist in Henley-in-Arden was built in the mid-1400s replacing an earlier church built just over one hundred years previously. The church is located next to the High Street and the Guildhall and indeed is connected to the latter [1]. The church is largely the same as built on the exterior though the interior has seen a number of changes and updates especially in recent times.

The church is in the English Gothic perpendicular style. The style being dominated by straight vertical lines and having a "single defining motif, applied with an unerring visual logic" [2].

[1] Nikolas Pevsner & Alexandra Wedgewood, The Building of England: Warwickshire (Penguin, 1966) p. 309
[2] John Cannon, Medieval Church Architecture (Shire, 2017) p. 61

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Stroudwater Navigation

The Stroudwater Navigation linked Stroud to the Severn estuary and joined the Thames and Severn Canal thus allowing a link between the two great rivers.

The canal was abandoned in 1954 though has been in the process of restoration in recent years, not all the canal is navigable with work ongoing in a number of areas along the stretch between Stonehouse and Stroud which i walked. You can see my photos here.

A visit to the land of my ancestors

Lets begin the 2018 season of travelling about then. I decided (pretty much at the last minute to be honest) to begin my travels down in Gloucestershire. I went to Stonehouse which is apparently where my great-grand mother lived for awhile. I then had a walk along the Stroudwater Navigation (see separate article) and walked to Stroud which is where my great-great-great-great grandmother Mary lived. Who knows maybe they also walked this canal back then?

You can see my railway photos here.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

The railway stations on the Monopoly board

Surely many games of Monopoly were played over Christmas? On the traditional London board the railway stations are Fenchurch Street, Marylebone, Liverpool Street and Kings Cross. This is quite an unusual selection, why not Euston and Waterloo for example? The answer may be when the British board game manufacturer Waddingtons bought the right to the game from a US company in 1935 they headed down from their headquarters in Leeds to London to look for suitable locations.

All four stations they chose are LNER stations which may be no coincidence. They would have arrived in London at Kings Cross and may have seen signs for the company's other stations (or just stuck with their local company!)

Liverpool Street

Kings Cross

Fenchurch Street