Pat Hilend of Pheonixville, PA stopped by the shop, and with appropriate “social distancing”, dropped off a papertape to be archived that he claims to have had been created using a Honeywell DDP-516 minicomputer containing a “data dump” from the 1969 American Apollo lunar landing taken from White Sands, New Mexico. Back then if a person wanted a portable copy of a computer file they would send their data to the papertape punch of a Teletype model ASR-33. Would this have been permitted or was this data smuggled out? Pictured below is such a system, scanned from the 1965 Honeywell product brochure. Pat brought the tape to Kennett Classic to see if we could read the tape and extract its secrets. Reading ancient data is part of our mission. Pat found the right place!
Lunar Landing (data) or Lunar Lander (the game)?
There are really no known-working DDP-516’s out there, or maybe just one but nothing in the USA. We are lucky to have only the a few bits and pieces from the DDP-516 that we do have, including the front panel (below) and some core memory. We also have a set of operations and product manuals for the Honeywell 300-500-700 systems.
Despite the fact that we have no working DDP-516, we can still attempt to extract the data and read the tape. 8-bit papertapes from the late 1960’s are more or less “universal” in that most tapes are punched in the American Standard Code for Information Interchange format, commonly known as “ASCII”. This format is still in use today, even if the Teletypes that they were originally created for are no longer in use. At Kennett Classic we can read converted Honeywell DDP system tapes using our in-house Teletype. If we can manage to capture the data stream from the Teletype into modern computer we can then save it into a format that a program called a “hardware emulator” can read. There is a pretty good Honeywell DDP-516 emulator that should do the trick. Using the emulator we can analyze the data and make sense of it. Not easy, but if we’re persistent we should be able to do recover what might be historic Apollo lunar landing data. Who knows what we’ll find!
Stay tuned, more to come! If you want to get into more technical details we will list them on vintagecomputer.net.