Operating ROBBAS

ROBBAS was the Retail Online Branch Banking Alarm System which State Bank Victoria used.  It supported approx. 550 bank branches in Victoria.

It ran on an old Perkin-Elmer system.  The storage system was a pair of removable hard-disk packs.  The system operators would tell stories of using rubber mallets to remove the packs from the spindles.

The branches had an ADEMCO alarm panel which spoke to the ROBBAS system.
The main link back to ROBBAS from the branches was via the bank’s private X.25 network.

The backup link?  Well there’s a story in itself.

In the metropoliation area, it was via Telstra Securitel network.
In the country, it was via a dial-up modem.

Problems, in no particular order:

  • when the X25 network fell over, the Securitel network would be flooded by “heartbeat” messages from the branches.  Telstra would disconnect our Securitel link after 10 minutes as we were flooding their network.
  • the dial-up modems were prone to having their phone lines disconnected.  The reason?  Country branches had to phone for the phone charges, and if a dialler went rogue, it would dial the ROBBAS system every 30 seconds.  Resulting in expensive phone bills.
  • Operators were required to test the backup network once a week.  They were SUPPOSED to verify the messages going back into ROBBAS matched the requests were sent out. 
    ie.  if branch 400 was told to call using the backup link, the operators would never check that it actually did.  The assumption was that the “check backup” command was doing this check.
    It wasn’t, as I found out the first time that I ran it.  About 30 branches didn’t have a backup alarm connection.  I think most of these were country branches (see point above for why).

Other memories.

  • The “HOOT ON” command was always good for waking sleeping computer operators up at 3am.

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