The best laid plans of mice and Slor…

February 3, 2008

You know how some things tend to snowball?  Well, let’s just say my last week has been rapidly rolling downhill, getting larger and larger as it’s moved on.  If you recall, I stated in my last entry that I would be posting photos of the machines I’ve been working on the next day.  That was just over a week ago.  Here’s a summary of events that have taken place between then and now:

– I decide it’s time to take some photos to post here.
– In order to be able to take decent photos, I figure I’ll need to finishing cleaning up the computer room.
– Just after I’ve started cleaning again, I’m notified that someone in the area is looking to part with a VAX system cheap.  As is my tradition when I’m not sure if I should buy something, I offer the guy half of what he what he’s asking for the system.  He says “yes”, so that’s another half trunk full of stuff I need to find room for.  It’ll have to stay in the trunk until either my room or the garage has some space freed up.
– As I get back to the cleaning, I figure it would be stupid of me to get everything all packed up and put away again without taking out, photographing, and settin aside the multitude of “stuff” that I have been meaning to get rid of for a while now.  This, of course, means making the mess worse before it gets better.  The VAX stuff makes itself comfortable in my trunk while I tear up the computer room and garage some more.
– Each time I start to clean up again, I run across a piece of hardware that I can’t put away in good conscience without installing whatever upgrade has been sitting around for it. There are a couple late nights gone.
– After a good chunk of time upgrading, photographing, and setting aside items to sell (more on that later :)), I am finally able to make some progress putting things away.
– Today, I am finally able to walk through the room again, take some photos, and write this blog entry.

As you’ve probably already noticed, the RetroChallenge ended 3 days ago, so that pretty much means I made ZERO progress in finding something “interesting” to do with the machines I spent the previous days getting up and running.  Am I disappointed by that?  Yeah, a little, but my disappointment is greatly overshadowed by my happiness that those machines are now working, I have organized a bunch of stuff to get rid of, my work area is nearly a work area again, I eventually found a nice spot to put the VAX(guess what my next restoration project will be), and it’s only been a couple weeks.  I’ll credit the RetroChallenge for getting me on gear on a lot of that, and perhaps I’ll enter myself for the “Most Untimely Yet Productive U-Turn in a RetroChallenge” prize.  At the very least, I’ll be ready when the next one comes along!

For what it’s worth, here are some photos of the machines I worked with for this challenge.  In the next few days (no, really), I will do another post or two to detail all the machines currently in this room that is nearing museum level and shoot more pics of the everything in sight.  Anyway, thanks to the RetroChallenge for some motivation, and on to the photos:

P2030045 The Amiga 3000 and DEC 3000

P2030046 The HP 9000

P2030047 The TT030 with Spectre

P2030048 The next project…


Amiga 3000 – I win, at least for now

January 26, 2008

I received the Amiga OS 3.1 install floppies I had been waiting for yesterday, and needless to say I was itching to give them a shot.  The I stuck the first disk in, turned the machine on, and finally saw its first sign of bootable life since its original system disk was destroyed.  Straight to the disk utilities I went to get the hard drive set up, but wait – no hard drive was found by the Amiga.  Uh-oh.  Knowing that I sometimes have SCSI hardware just plain configured wrong, I took a shot at changing the jumper settings just a bit.  After a little bit of work, finally the Amiga could see my hard drive.  Unfortunately during the process, though, I found that the machine had trouble reading some areas of both the Install and Workbench disks, which of course did NOT bode well for getting the OS put on the hard drive.  With a little cleaning, the Install disk seemed to get past its issues, but there were 4 blocks still on the Workbench disk that could not be read.  As I expected, this prevented the Workbench from being installed on the hard drive.

After wallowing for a bit, I thought perhaps I should give the emulation idea one more go.  Since I had changed the drive configuration and managed to get it formatted in the actual Amiga, perhaps WinUAE would have more success using the disk.  Lo and behold, and few minutes later, I could see the drive in my emulated Amiga.  All I needed now was a good set of disk images to use for the install, so I went back to my disk supplier (who I now REALLY owe) and asked if I could possibly get him to email me a set of disk images to give this a shot.  By the time I got a reply with the images that might do it for me, I was already falling asleep in my chair and way too tired to give it a go.  That turned out for the best, because later this morning I received a followup email stating something like “Ignore that last email – THESE are the images you want.”  It was tough to actually go to work today knowing I was so close to getting this machine working, but willpower won out.

When I got home tonight, the moment of truth was near.  I fired up my emulation host, got WinUAE configured as closely to the configuration of my physical Amiga 3000 as possible, and booted with the 3.1 install image.  The install did its thing (and did it fast at 8x floppy I/O), and I soon had a hard drive ready to run.  There was nothing left to do but move the drive back to the Amiga, turn it on, and cross my fingers.  Could this actually be my victory?  Well, if the thing hadn’t booted up from the hard drive, you can bet you bottom dollar I would still be working on it instead of writing this blog entry!

Part I: Revive all the non-functional machines lying around in the retro graveyard – CHECK.

Tomorrow will be photo day – I’ll get some shots of all the machines involved in this project and possibly some others relating to my retro collection.  I now have 5 days to get them all doing something “useful”.  Will that require putting the Amiga 3000’s hard drive back on my PC in order to get the appropriate networking utilities installed?  I certainly hope not, but that has yet to be determined…

Amiga 3000 – patience is not my favorite virtue

January 21, 2008

The Amiga is my last machine to get up and running, and it’s definitely testing my patience.  Unlike most computers I own, there are not too many ways to get a completely raw Amiga up and running without having actual Amiga-formatted floppy install media, and there is apparently no way to create an Amiga-formatted floppy on typical modern PC.  Of course, I was not aware of that tiny detail until after I had stolen the the machine’s hard drive a while back for use in another, more pressing project.  The only idea I have seen that circumvents this process is to put your hard drive in a PC, use the WinUAE emulator to boot and load an OS onto the drive, and then move the drive back to the Amiga.  I gave that a number of tries, but I have thus far been unsuccessful in getting the emulated Amiga to find the SCSI device and allow me to load the software.

The better news is that I recently had someone contact me (yes, in response to a newsgroup post) and offer to send the necessary boot media for only the cost of shipping.  I jumped at that, and I’m now playing the waiting game to see how long it takes to get here.  Being the big spender I am, I have offered to pay for priority shipping, so I hope to see the disks soon.  Until then, I’m using my time to further improve the machines I’ve already rebuilt and clean up the computer room (no small task).

I have some ideas for making all these computers “useful” as a group, but I have not yet settled on a formal goal.  With 10 days left in the month, though, I should have PLENTY of time. 🙂

Revival of the fittest…

January 16, 2008

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve taken on the task of gathering up a number of classic machines that have been sitting around my house in non-running condition and bringing them back to life.  All of them are in pretty good shape hardware-wise (some needing new hard drives) but without any installed software to run them, which always makes me appreciate my 8-bit machines that need nothing more than OS ROMs to get them booted.  So, this will be a journal, I HOPE, of the journey back to functionality for 3 1/2 machines that are currently collecting dust:

* DEC 3000-M600 (circa 1994) – This machine sports a 175 MHz Alpha AXP 21064 processor with 64 MB RAM and a 1 GB SCSI hard drive.  I picked it up this summer at the Vintage Computer Festival Midwest for the grand sum of $30 (including 17″ Digital monitor, keyboard, and mouse).  It was running a Purdue University installation of OpenVMS 6.1 and, of course, did not include any re-installation media or current license for the software.

* Amiga 3000 (circa 1990) – This machine has been upgraded to a 25 MHz 68040 processor and 80 MB FastRAM.  It also includes ethernet, CV-64 3D graphics, and Sunrize Studio16 cards.  I picked it up this spring, along with a keyboard and mouse, with the transportation help of fellow classic computing folks.  I don’t remember what OS was installed when I received the machine, and it also came without re-installation media.

* Spectre GCR (circa 1989) – This is where the 1/2 comes in.  The Spectre is an add-on device for Atari ST/TT computers that provides Macintosh hardware emulation using installed OS ROMs from a Mac Plus or similar 128K machine.  I acquired the Spectre just last month on eBay, complete with installed ROMs, docs, and software.  I will be working with it attached to my Atari TT030.

* HP 9000 712/60 (circa 1994) – This is a late addition to the list for this project.  It needs to be rebuilt as well, so I might as well take care of them all!  The 9000 boasts a 60 MHz PA7100LC RISC processor and 32 MB RAM.  I brought this home from the office over a year ago after it sat in storage at the office for about 6 years.  Prior to that, I had actually used it for work purposes, and I believe it had HP-UX 10 on it.  You guessed it – no re-installation media could be found.

So, those are the machines I plan to bring back to life, and my end goal for this project is to get them all networked and particating in some common task.  I haven’t yet figured out what that task will be.  I also hope to post pictures any anything else interesting as I go.

3 1/2 neglected classic machines: This is their story…