ECN Equipment Through the Years


PDP 9: Picture from "A Century of Progress: The History of Electrical Engineering at Purdue (1888-1988)" by LA Geddes

All of the hardware available to the College of Engineering is owned by the Schools of Engineering. The role of ECN is to find the best equipment available within the budgets of the individual Schools of Engineering. ECN has always tried to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies, and here is a chronological timeline of major equipment acquisitions.

In 1976, during the early years of the EE Network, a single Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP 11/70 serviced EE computing needs. The EE Network began with user accounts, 10 terminals and 3 support staff. PDP 11 series computers were part of ECN until 1987. The 11/70 in Potter was decommissioned in January of 1987, nine years and one month after is debuted in December of 1977.

In 1977, Purdue became one of the first Universities to use intermachine communication. This link was established between EE PDP 11/70 and the PDP 11/45 in Professor Bass' laboratory. The Potter 11/70 was added in the summer of 1978 and by December 1979 there were two 11/70s and four 11/45s connected. ECN staff developed a "star" system using the 5 CPUs and 200 user accounts and terminals.

New Gould System

New Gould System

In 1987, ECN upgraded from VAX 11/780 to Gould PN-9080. Since ECN had been working with the Gould Corporation as a partner, Gould knew the ECN was shopping for new machinery. The Gould Corporation proposed that Purdue test their new machine in the academic computing environment with the thought that the Schools of Engineering might buy more. The second major timeshare machine ECN selected was the Gould PN 90/80 because of its quality as a machine and the deep discounts the company offered for Purdue's services as a test site.

Soon after, the price of computers began to plummet. In summer of 1988, the Gould PN 90/80's were upgraded to a Gould NP1's, and again, Gould offered deep discounts. The Schools of Engineering paid less money and got a significant increase in computing power through this deal. The configuration of the NP1 when it first arrived at Purdue was about 10 MIP CPUs, 64MB of main memory, and 4 474MB "eagle" disks. By the time ECN staff members were done with it, it ran about twice the speed of the old Gould 9080s and had sixteen times the memory.

The Gould machines were the last of the mainframes (super mini computers). After those machines became outdated, ECN became very Sun Workstation oriented, partially due to a grant from Sun Microsystems. Now, the Schools of Engineering had desktops supplemented by large sun servers. During the 1986/1987 school year, ECN installed and started supporting the SUN 3/50 Workstation featuring a 1024 by 800 pixel graphics display, 15 Mhz. 68020 CPU with 4 MB of memory.

9 Gig Drives from Sun

9 Gig Drives from Sun

Dean Henry Yang sponsored a desktop upgrade initiative that brought in 500 Mac workstations to the Engineering Computer Network in 1994. Dean Yang's million dollar effort allowed for older equipment to be retired.

Professor W. Kent Fuchs, who was the head of Electrical and Computer Engineering, worked with Intel to acquire a large grant from Intel that changed computing around the entire campus by introducing Windows technology. This grant was a turning point in ECN history. Up until Fall of 1997, ECN had supported UNIX machines (and a few Macintosh); now, the staff began supporting Microsoft Windows and Intel hardware. The Intel "Technology for Education 2000" Grant was worth approximately $6.2 million over a three year period.

Before the 2001-2002 school year, Wireless technology became a part of ECN once the technology stabilized and proved that it could be secure and effective for a network as large as Purdue Engineering Requires. Soon after wireless networking was implemented in Engineering, the rest of campus began adopting the technology as well. To provide a stable and consistent wireless environment, the ITaP began supporting the wireless system for all of campus soon after ECN brought it to Purdue.