[TUHS] Reaction to the 3B2 at Bell Labs

Mary Ann Horton mah at mhorton.net
Wed Nov 30 12:50:14 AEST 2022

You asked for the reaction of people in Bell Labs. I've seen reaction 
from Research, but there was also the Development part of the labs.

I was in Columbus with a lot of OSS projects. Ours (Medis) was typical 
in our reaction.

The 3B20 Duplex was designed for Telco central offices. It ran on 48V 
and had Delco car batteries as a UPS. That was fine for the telcos.

The 3B20 Simplex was a less fault tolerant version, intended to compete 
with the Vax 11/780. Nobody wanted it.

The 3B15 was chest freezer size, cheaper, to compete with the Vax 
11/750. Nobody wanted it.

The 3B2 in its various sizes was a desktop micro, intended to compete 
with a Sun server. It had possibilities. It had Datakit, and later 
TCP/IP. You could connect a Blit to it, and later the 5620. We were told 
to use it. "Eat your own dog food."  None of us liked it, but we made do.

I was delighted when I transferred to the computer center and got to 
order Suns for desktop use. We still ordered 3B2s for our "att" email 

Incidently, I won a 3B1 in a raffle in 1986. That was a different beast, 
68K based, the UNIX PC built by Convergent. I used it for Stargate and 
the UUCP Zone. It had a GUI but the screen and resolution were too small 
to really be useful. I still have one in my garage.


/Mary Ann Horton/ (she/her/ma'am)
maryannhorton.com <https://maryannhorton.com>

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On 11/26/22 10:46, Seth Morabito wrote:
> Hello all,
> I'm giving a presentation on the AT&T 3B2 at a local makerspace next month, and while I've been preparing the talk I became curious about an aspect that I don't know has been discussed elsewhere.
> I'm well aware that the 3B2 was something of a market failure with not much penetration into the wider commercial UNIX space, but I'm very curious to know more about what the reaction was at Bell Labs. When AT&T entered the computer hardware market after the 1984 breakup, I get the impression that there wasn't very much interest in any of it at Bell Labs, is that true?
> Can anyone recall what the general mood was regarding the 3B2 (and the 7300 and the 6300, I suppose!)
> -Seth
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