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Power Drop Relatively Painless

By Dan McGuire
Associate News Editor

A brief power drop early yesterday afternoon made lights flicker and rebooted some Athena workstations but otherwise caused no major damage on campus.

The drop, which happened at 1:21 p.m. yesterday, lasted for only a second. It "was an outside problem with Commonwealth Electric," MIT's outside power supplier, said Stephen P. Miscowski, the Institute's electrical services manager. "A cable fault in the Putnam station" cut the voltage to zero, he said.

MIT's new cogeneration plant, which came online in September, was up and running at the time of the power disruption, and sustained MIT through the disturbance, Miscowski said.

A statement released by the Physical Plant operations center half an hour after the disruption said that "there were several power dips and at this time it is not clear if the electrical system is stable."

However, Miscowski said that in the hours following the disruption the system "was quite stable."

No serious problems resulted

Matthew H. Braun '98, who works for Network Services, said that the drop caused no major problems. "All our core routers, our backbone routers, are on battery power there was a brief dip, but it was barely noticed," he said.

But the power glitch did cause some problems in Athena computer clusters. "None of the servers got rebooted but some of the clients did," said Derek Atkins '93, a member of the Student Information Processing Board.

The newer Sun Microsystems machines, the Sparcstation 5s, seemed to be less susceptible to the loss of power, Atkins said. Most of the information lost as a result of the failure can be recovered by through backup files on cluster machines, he said.

The Institute's mainframe servers, however, were forced off-line for an hour. "We had to reboot the mainframe operating system," said David F. Lambert, manager for computer operations.

As a result, the time card system and payroll programs were brought down for an hour, Lambert said. Several peripherals, including disk controllers and two line printers, also went down. The development machine for student information services was not damaged, he said.

Ramy A. Arnaout contributed to the reporting of this story.