University Computer Club

mullet: n.

  1. any of various teleost food fishes belonging to the families Mugilidae (grey mullet) or Mullidae (red mullet).
[C15: via Old French from Latin mullus, from Greek mullos]


How and when machine obtained:

  • The machine was obtained in 1992 from the UWA Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering after information that the system was going to be disposed was leaked by an UCCan who worked for them, Keith Godfrey.

History prior to arrival at UCC:

  • Mullet (then called swanee) was purchased during the mid-1980's by UWA's Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering for a vast sum of money (six figures). It was used to provide pascal programming experience to first year students, and was available for higher-year students and staff for data analysis.
  • Needless to say, a machine with such vast amounts of power (1 VAX MIP) and disk space (800Mb) and RAM (4Mb) and 70 serial ports was heavily used. Primarily for games. Netnews. Unauthorised international email. Experiments with animated ascii files. Group story-writing. And this is all in the days before Australia had a live Internet connection (late '90 or early '91).
  • There are stories (confirmed by the author) of login timeouts simply due to the load on the machine. That is, it would take more than two minutes between typing your username and the system checking that your password was correct. At one stage students lobbied hard to have the login timeout extended to three or four minutes!

UCC history of machine:

  • When mullet was sourced, we used up many many enthusiastic first years getting it across James Oval (even then called James Lake) during a rainstorm.
  • We finally got it running (thanks to [JJQ] for the anal-retentive labelling of cables and bits) one dark and stormy night at Cameron Hall. In the corridor outside the clubroom. It was three washing machines long and high. For the first few hours it was named kgbvax. Mullet was properly named that night. We also realised how useful it was to have a 2kW heating source in such a cold building.
  • Power was always a problem. The 15A plug had to be hacked off. By [DAV] of course. And replaced with a 5A plug. Shudder. When Guild Media moved a photocopier up to Cameron Hall, it got put on the same circuit. We were on the verge of a catastophe. Opening our microwave oven door was the trigger. David Leib happily wanders up to the microwave, as people are shouting "Noooo noooo!" he opens the oven door. The light goes on. And the lights go off all over Cameron Hall.
  • Mullet was seldom turned off for the next two years. It was our stalwart Unix system. We played Empire til our fingers bled. We built MUDs (before they were boring) - anyone remember Paranoia? The members from that time developed great Unix skills, and their works go on and on (printf in LPMUD is only one example). We lost RAM chips on the memory boards, and [JPQ] successfully diagnosed the problem chips and desoldered and replaced them. And of course [SFX] kept bloody piping files to /dev/printer, not realising that it was the lpd control port and crashing the machine. Reboot. Again. Reboot. "Stop bloody doing that Sean!".
  • University Computing Services allowed us to connect to the UWA terminal server via a 'data-plinth' - an evil grey blob under our digital phone - and anyone who had an account on a UCS system could use tip or cu to login to their accounts elsewhere. The drawback was that only staff could officially have these accounts then.
  • A short while later, we convinced them that a SL/IP account was feasible and useful and not going to be used for naughty things. So [DAV] and [ECF] put on their thinking caps and came up with serial line drivers so that we could run 38.4kbps through the on-campus telephone cabling system to the UCS machine room. Every time there was a thunder storm, the little optocoupler chips got melted down, but mullet and our growing little ethernet was safe. We were on the net, well before the mundanes had ever heard of it.
  • As is always the way in Australia, summer was a killer. It killed mullet. The beautiful, slow, beige box would never run anything but diagnostics again. We lost the floating-paint unit (misspelled in the original disposals doc from EE), and there was no hope of replacing it.

Current machine tasks:

  • Machine is inoperative.

Current hardware configuration:

  • The machine is in parts in Shenton Park store, having been cannibalised.

Special notes:

  • This system was one of the defining things about the UCC for more than two years. The amount of effort, imagination and sheer exuberance that was poured into projects based around mullet was vast.


  • Special thanks go to Yianni Attikiouzel and the UWA Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering for allowing us to get it, gratis.
  • Keith Godfrey, without whom we'd never have gotten our greasy student hands on the beast.

Related sites:

  • If only.
Colour: #
Text Colour: #
Background Colour: #

© 1993-2015
[email protected]
University Computer Club
Guild of Undergraduates
The University of Western Australia