Friday, December 9, 2022

Redditor discovers extremely rare 1956 computer in grandparents’ basement

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In context: During the 1950s and 1960s, computers were almost exclusively reserved for high-end businesses and government usage. Very few ordinary citizens had computers in their homes at the time. So imagine a Redditor’s surprise when they find out their grandfather had one of the rarest computers just sitting in a basement.

Someone posted an extremely rare find on Monday to the r/vintagecomputing subreddit. Reddit user “c-wizz” shared photos of two vintage computers discovered in his grandparents’ basement. One was a PDP-8/e (masthead left), but what really drew the attention of both c-wizz and other Redditors was the second computer, the LGP-30.

The LGP-30 began production in 1956 and sold for approximately $47,000. After adjusting for inflation, the LGP-30 would cost nearly $513,000 in today’s money. The computer was comparatively small for its time, as other computers in the mid-1950s were still taking up entire rooms. The LGP-30 is by no means “light,” weighing about 800 pounds (363 kilograms).

The LGP-30 was no slouch when it came to specifications for its time either, with the computer including 113 vacuum tubes, 1,450 semiconductor diodes, and magnetic drum memory. The memory was able to store up to 4,069 31-bit words, equivalent to around 15.8 kilobytes in today’s terms. The minuscule 15.8 kilobytes might sound laughable, but considering the computing capacity at the time, that was a fair amount.

Another Redditor noted that only 45 LGP-30s were ever produced, likely due to the high price and lack of consumer demand. The status of almost all of the 45 computers is unknown, so to find one sitting idly in a basement is an astounding discovery.

According to c-wizz, his grandfather used the computer for “civil engineering calculations in the 60s”. He was likely one of the only people in Germany who privately owned a computer. After all, this was before IBM and Apple released their personal computers in the 1970s.

Unfortunately, c-wizz confirmed that the LGP-30 is not in working order. He does appear to be interested in getting the unit fixed, saying, “I found a museum in Germany (where I’m from) that apparently has a working LGP-30. I think I’ll reach out to them.” We certainly hope c-wizz can get that ancient computer functioning again.

Numisteamone

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