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The End of an Era: R.I.P. FAFNER

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Decades of impeccable service and significance to the computer science community have sailed off into the sunset. After more than a decade of faithful and continuous service in her most recent role, FAFNER passed on 15 January to greener pastures in the great beyond, and will be fondly remembered in the hearts and minds of all who were touched by her...

It's not often that such sweet goodbyes are offered to a machine - for FAFNER is actually a VAX-7000 owned and operated by the one and only Dr. Bernd Ulmann, aka VAXMAN, to those who know him.

Dr. Ulmann, a 42 year old brilliant computer scientist and professor at the Fachhochschule für Ökonomie und Management in Frankfurt, Germany, is a computer archeologist who operates and maintains The Museum of Analog Computing as well as an operational home in his basement for some of the more colorful workhorse DEC PDP and VAX systems that once powered the world of business and governmental computing.  

FAFNER began life as a DEC PDP-11 which is still operational upon request when needed, and migrated through several incarnations of machinery, including that of a VAX-4000, and eventually, the famous FAFNER that this warm eulogy has been dedicated to. The complete story of her saga can be found HERE.

Dr. Ullman hass assured the community that FAFNER will never find herself on the scrapheap. In fact, most of the historic computers that Dr. Ullman has are completely operational and can be brought online for use by the community upon request.

This is not the end of the story, however, as FAFNER's successor has already been named and coronated - FASOLT, a DEC AlphaServer DS20, is already online and serving users. The torch has been passed, and FASOLT will continue to listen for people asking for FAFNER at her traditionally expected address.

At one time, sometime after Dr. Ullman was bitten by the historic computing bug, a friend of his noted that he actually had so little room in his home that he had no bed, save for the warm VAX that he slept on. But all of this was long ago, as he is now a married man and many of the publicly accessable online components of his computing center are now confined (mostly) to the basement in his home. I suspect his wife Rikka may have had something to do with this since girls really prefer sleeping in comfy, quilt-covered beds rather than on top of mainframe computers :)

Next time you plan a trip to Germany, make sure you take time to arrange a visit to Dr. Ullman's Museum of Analog Computing - now housed in a series of warehouses as his formidable collection of historic computers is  available to visit on request.

For more information and involvment in OpenVMS and the community make sure to visit

NorthTech wishes all the very best for our friend and computer archeologist Bernd Ullman and his family, including those members that now often sit mostly idle, like sentinels guarding the secrets of the universe, or at least, the almost forgotten secrets of history. His most generous contributions to the world of computing continue to show us the ways of the future, by understanding its past. Our past.