|A typical Tandem Nonstop machine
|The wonders of DynaBus
But it wasn't just the technology that made Tandem different. The ethos of the company was different. It was a Silicon valley startup, in the days when such things were novel. The company had a beer bust every Friday afternoon. This meant that the fridge full of beer was opened and the staff could get plastered on the company. It was a chance for staff to unwind. Customers were invited along as well. For people like me who worked on the technology, we had the satisfaction of knowing that we were working on the very best systems in the world. As Tandem was a far younger company than IBM or ICL, the people who worked on the technology were a generation younger than the IBM and ICL experts.
I was especially lucky to work for SPL, who installed systems across the world. Every week teams were being despatched to places such as Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, New York and Brussels. Many of us had cheap weekends away, visiting workmates who were staying in such places. The best place to work in SPL was deemed to be BeNeLux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). You got great expenses and a fun environment. It didn't last, nothing does. SPL were bought by Systems Designers in late 1984 and the whole culture changed. SPL were a 'Tandem Shop' where as at SD, Tandem was a sideshow. We were told that they would be setting up an "IBM division" in our office. I was told that as I didn't have a degree I'd have to be regraded as admin staff. I told them to sod off. It was their policy to have 100% graduates as technicians. Although I stayed for another 18 months and oversaw the office move from Windmill St in W1 to Victoria, it was never really the same.
Despite the march of technology, Tandem computers are still in use. The vast majority of global ATM systems use Tandem technology as do POS systems. The UK rail reservation system runs on Tandems. At BITUG, we saw a demonstration the game Minecraft running on Nonstop server as HP now designates Tandems, but the main customers are large corporates dealing with the exponential growth of their core systems backbone networks. It is a testament to the technology that companies still use it for the systems that matter most to them.