Day 249, Shustek, real estate

Thursday, 8/8/2019

I headed out to Shustek for a day of cataloging. Steve and I cataloged a NeXT system that was supposed to be “fully functional” according to the donation record. So of course after cataloging the pieces (system unit, monitor, keyboard, mouse) we hooked them all together and powered it up. We could hear fans spinning, and the monitor showed a very dim raster. In which I could read messages about system test complete, booting from SCSI drive 1, waiting for drive to come online… and that was it. The internal drive never came up. Unfortunately this unit was intended for the “study collection” meaning it was meant to be actually used in education classes, could be touched, and so forth. But without some work it isn’t going to fulfill that role.

After lunch we unwrapped something completely different.

IMG_3859

It’s basically a tape cassette, kind of like an audio cassette but blown up to the size of a boom-box, and loaded with tape more than an inch wide. It’s made by IBM, with a big IBM logo on one end. What in the heck could it be? We would have been wondering still, except that volunteer Alan, whose mind is a wonderland of computer trivia, said, “Wait wait wait. Wait a minute. Look up ‘Harvest’.” A quick trip to Wikipedia and we found the IBM 7950 “Harvest” system, once a top-secret addition to the early “Stretch” supercomputer, which from 1962 to 1975 did cryptanalysis for the NSA. A major feature of it was a special tape subsystem called “Tractor” which managed a library of these tape cassettes. And here was one of the cassettes! No doubt it has never been erased, and that reel of wide mag tape probably contains all sorts of once-classified data. Which nobody on earth has the equipment to read now.

While this was going on I was exchanging texts with Chuck. An issue hanging on from last month is the foundation inspection that Lawyer Lady had done on one of her last visits. We have been trying to get some info on what this inspection revealed, apparently there were some small(?) issues, although not enough to bother L.L. Chuck suddenly thinks we should get them fixed and have a new inspection done. He spoke to the previous inspector but stopped short of asking for a copy of the report because, he says, if we have it, we must show it to buyers, and if it is “phrased negatively” it could harm the sale. So he is apparently in a delicate dance to get some details and a recommendation of a contractor suitable to do a repair, without actually obtaining a paper that we would be required to disclose.

I am all for doing this repair, which I expect to be in the low thousands, but I am very reluctant to hold off the open house to do it. I asked Chuck to please expedite contacting a contractor and getting an estimate. We’ll see. I can imagine this pushing the open house date back weeks, grrrr.

Came home to do laundry.

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