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Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The day AMOS died

From about the beginning of 1989 to the middle of 1990, I worked at a small title company (as in real estate titles). There were lots of typewriters there, an IBM XT (or was it AT? I still get those confused) which was highly revered, and an AMOS. The AMOS was a "mini" computer which ran on an operating system called Alpha Micro Operating System. Hence the name AMOS.

The best way to describe a mini would be to say it's something between a PC and a mainframe.

For a time, I was the title company's one-girl typing department. Guess which machine the typing department used? No, not the typewriter and not the IBM. Yep, AMOS. This wasn't exactly my first experience with computers, but it was the first time I had a computer all to myself at work. Needless to say, AMOS and I became well acquainted with each other.

The computer itself was about the size of a steamer trunk. And it was locked tight. There was no getting inside the box, at least that I could see. I suspect that AMOS's internal media were those large platters. There were no external disk drives. If you wanted to download something onto AMOS, you did it via videotape and a VCR cabled to the box. Try to imagine that. Also, I did a weekly backup onto videotape. Because the backup took about eight hours, I would start it just before I was leaving for the day and let it run through the night.

One morning I came in and the backup I had run the night before had stalled after about 15 minutes. My first thought, since the computer itself seemed to be working fine, was the videotape was old, so I ran out to the store and bought some new ones. Ran the backup again that night. Came in the next morning and same thing. No backup.

Shortly thereafter, things started happening. The most notable thing was, I'd send something to the printer, but it never printed. I ran what little diagnostics I knew how, but didn't learn anything. Finally, I told my boss that I suspected AMOS's internal media was full. He said, okay fine, go get some more media. Uh, okay. I called every computer place and person in town, but no one had ever heard of AMOS. I called an IBM mainframe person I knew from out of town and he told me I would have to go to the manufacturer of the computer. Unable to locate the manufacturer, I asked my boss where AMOS came from, but he didn't know. It became clear that this was a case of the original people who were there when AMOS was installed, were no longer there.

Finally, in a fit of generosity, my boss gave me a budget of $2,500 and the name of a computer place and told me to go out and buy a personal computer for the typing department. He wanted me to handle the decisions. He didn't want to have any involvement. Just do it. So I did. Woo! Actually, all I did was call a salesman at the computer place and told him to send over the best I could get for $2,500.00.

Later that afternoon, I got my new computer. It was an off brand, with an orange and black monochrome monitor, a clunky keyboard, MSDOS 3.3, and a 40 meg hard drive which the guy partitioned into two 20's. Why two 20's you ask? Well, back then DOS wouldn't support anything bigger than 20 megs of hard drive. Heh.

I just did a lookup for AMOS and found Alpha Micro Products - AMOS Server. Interesting.

Posted by Marie at September 18, 2002 10:52 PM