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    Oh my goodness this is not just any MIPS machine but an (emulated) Magnum. Guys, let me tell you about my first experience debugging hardware. Sort of.

    So the Magnums were released in 1990 and cca. 1992 or so, when I was still, literally, kindergarten material, the folks at my dad’s workplace got two of these bad boys. Now said workplace was a bloody military base so naturally I was fascinated with all the stuff going on there and I would constantly harass my dad about taking me with him to work, which he was obviously reluctant to do since that’s really no place for a kid to be. Nonetheless, he’d do it maybe once or twice a year, when circumstances allowed it, as in, he had nothing else to do and could keep me away from anything dangerous and near fascinating but harmless things, like computers and telephone switchgear and the like.

    So on that fateful summer of 1992 I got to see the Magnums, not that I had any idea what was so sensational about them since I was still at an age where counting to 100 was no small feat. Now, one of these, to the chagrin of the people who were using it, had a mysterious problem – presumably with the RTC? – and its date would sometimes reset. Sometimes, this would be caught at boot, but oftentimes it would be caught after generating some long reports which then someone had to go back and manually correct because the timestamps were all wrong. I think these were refurbished, too, so there was probably no warranty for them anyway.

    It was the middle of the summer, it was hot, there was a bottle of Coca-Cola next to one of these computers, I reached for it and promptly spilled it right onto the workstation that had probably cost like half the computer department’s budget for that year. It was not nice. Someone reached for the plug quickly enough that sparks did not fly out, then the room was very, very silent for a few seconds, then it was really not. I was really sad that I would probably never get to see the place again but I was also too terrified to cry.

    The computer was left to dry for 24 hours, then turned on again…

    …and the date was never reset afterwards, much to the satisfaction of the folks who never had to fix reports by hand.

    Sadly, I was denied much of the credit for this uncanny feat of engineering, which was given to that wonderful black, sugary liquid instead. This was all happening on the other side of the recently lifted Iron Curtain, so, Coca-Cola was also new. My dad’s colleagues quickly got over the fact that I fixed their stupid computer by spilling carefully pouring Coca-Cola onto it and kept joking about how, if this had been the local Coca-Cola clone from a few years ago, it would’ve probably corroded the mainboard and ruined the whole thing.

    (Edit:) The Magnum stations were really cool. These two workstations, in particular, were still in use around Y2K, the last time I saw them. They got retired afterwards but I was unfortunately unable to grab them. They’re pretty rare, they sometimes pop up on eBay but they sell for eye-watering prices. They’re a remarkable piece of computer history: MIPS Technologies, their manufacturer, was instrumental to the success of SGI, who based their most successful lines of workstations on MIPS CPUs after buying MIPS Technologies. If you ever got to use one, you’re very lucky!